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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Running for Women

This is how women in their Third Thirds do the Alaska Run for Women:

They visit the Port-a-Potties. A lot.

No matter how many times they’ve peed at home, they have to visit the Port-a-Potties as soon as they get to the starting area. If that one visit isn’t enough, they might claim that they’re just reviewing the interiors of the decorated Port-a-Potties, but don’t believe them. They’re peeing.
And when they’re not peeing, they’re talking about how worried they are about having to pee.

One of us woke up at 3:30 in the morning to pee, hoping that would start the urinary cycle early so she wouldn’t have to pee that much later on, once the run began.

This is how women in their Third Thirds do the Alaska Run for Women:

With names of friends, sisters, mothers, aunts, and co-workers on their backs. Or pink breast cancer survivor caps on their heads.

I used to do the Run for Women in memory of Mrs. Goodhartz, the neighbor growing up who taught me how to crochet, the good friend of my mother’s. But now, in my Third Thirds, the women I honor on my back are my contemporaries. I have to stack up the cards because there are many of them, but at least they’re “honor” cards and not “in memory” cards.

Still, as I run along, I watch all the cards in front of me, to the side of me. I think of it as a moving, living Vietnam Memorial – the names of the victims etched on our backs. We are a living, breathing, donating wall trying to save lives.

This is how women in their Third Thirds do the Alaska Run for Women:

They’re hot and sweaty. But then again, they’re always hot.

This is how women in their Third Thirds do the Alaska Run for Women:

More of them walk. Sometimes it’s because of knees, sometimes it’s hips. Sometimes inertia. This means that the ones who run find themselves moving up in the age group rankings. At this rate, I will eventually break into a top ten. I have become an Athlete-with-a-capital-A by default in my Third Third!
A runner friend – hot, red-faced, and sweaty – says all this racing is difficult and unpleasant. She uses stronger language. Then three friends cross the finish line, chatting, smiling, enjoying themselves. They walked. They had a great time.

I wonder what it’s like to decide to move from the running to the strolling category: Do you do it because of injury? Do you do it with nostalgia for a more active self? Do you do it with relief because now the experience is less competitive?

Somehow that decision seems monumental to me, a recognition that physical decline has taken place. But then I remember what it was like to do the first runs with my daughter. She wanted to stop at all the water stations, was astonished you could throw the cup down on the ground. We went slower, we talked, we had a good time. I had simply changed the way I participated; it was new and different but pleasurable. Maybe that’s how transitions happen.

I watch a woman cartwheeling towards the finish line. How on earth does she have the energy for cartwheels after five miles?!? While I never did cartwheels, I realize I have, in fact, made a transition: I am not trying to do cartwheels in the finish chute. I have no aspirations for doing cartwheels nor a sense of loss that cartwheels are relegated to my past. I am healthy enough where I am.
This is how women in their Third Thirds do the Alaska Run for Women:

Afterwards, they have a delightful brunch at a friend’s house where they encounter women they haven’t seen in twenty years and we all have to repeat each other’s names and remind ourselves how we knew each other. Someone makes a comment about name tags.

This is how women in their Third Thirds do the Alaska Run for Women:
With a sense of gratitude that so many good friends are still alive, that we are still kicking (if not cartwheeling), that a community cares.

3 comments:

  1. THANK YOU for honoring me and all the others. I am SO glad to be here 21 years later.

    ReplyDelete

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