Sunday, November 8, 2009

Once a Runner

I started running in the 7th grade when I was 12 years old. That was 24 years ago.

I went out for the track team because one of my best friends said it would be fun. Unfortunately, my BFF quit after a week and I was left on the team shy and alone, unable to run even one lap around the track without walking.

At less than 5 feet tall and somewhere in the 70 pound range, I was nearly blown off the track by the Oklahoma winds. I ran the entire season in navy blue Keds and bobby socks, finishing last place every race. My parents, loyal and impervious to shame, came to each meet, enduring the comments from nearby spectators:

Look at that poor girl. She's so slow. And her legs are like twigs. Oh look, she's waving at people in the stands...and smiling...while racing. How old is she?

I can't tell you why I stayed with it. As a puny and awkward non-athlete, running was hard for me. But quitting was even harder...and so I stayed on the track.

I'm glad I did. I became part of a team. I became "a runner." And when you're in 7th grade, identity is everything.

My track coach encouraged me to run the next fall. Thankfully cross-country proved to be better than track. With a field of 50-150 participants, I was no longer dead last in every race.

As the seasons rolled by, I kept running. By my sophomore year I was actually decent, though hardly a standout on my 5A state championship team. I proudly wore a letter jacket with track and cross-country badges. My parents sacrificed so I could get a team state championship ring...which now fits my pinky. And at 36, I still wear my silver necklace with the runner pendant I got when I was 16.

Because once a runner, always a runner...if only in spirit.

I owe a lot to running. Running taught me discipline, exemplified by thrice-weekly 5 a.m. runs as a high-schooler. Endurance as I ran barefoot with my teammates for over an hour in the sand bars of the Arkansas River. Dedication. Determination. Focus. Perseverance. I could use a little more of those virtues now. As a mom of young kids, every day feels like a marathon.

Running gave me life-long friendships {reconnected through the magic of Facebook} and opportunities for leadership. It gave me a place to belong during those tenuous teenage and college years. It was and still is part of who I am.

Best of all, running gave me my husband of 14 years. I met him when we were 18 on our college cross-country team. That was 18 years ago and he is still handsome and fast.

Since then I've endured injuries, pregnancies, surgery, physical therapy, and apathy. I've run half-marathons and not run for years at a time.

Today I'm a runner, thanks once again to a friend's invitation. Months ago she said to me, Let's run. You've been saying you want to get back out there. Let's do it together. After a 5-year hiatus, I felt much like I did in 7th grade: insecure, puny, and awkward.

Three to four mornings a week I'm out the door before light. I don't do a lot of mileage and I haven't raced in years. These days, I'm content to simply run. It feels good to lace up my sneakers {I traded in my Keds for Nikes years ago}, sweat, watch the sun come up, and chat through labored breathing with my faithful running partner. In the midst of this crazy season of my life, running is the calm, the thing I do that's just for me.

Seemingly random events can set our course. I owe a lot to that 7th-grade invitation, inconsequential though it seemed...a gift granted 24 years ago that keeps on giving.


{Title of this post is also the title of a book by John Parker . Wanted to give credit where credit is due.}


  1. Great post, dear one! I'm so thrilled for you in your rejoining of the running cadre . . . and I was always proud of you when you ran as a 7th grader. Yes, I chuckled when you waved to us in the bleachers, but I was still proud. There is so much to be said for simply "not quitting."

    Love you forever,

  2. Scooper,
    Way to go! Keep on running, you'll never regret it. I love the comment from your mom. What an encourager she is.
    love ya!

  3. I am so impressed that a) we both made it through xc in high school, and b) that you went on to run in college! You're an inspiration . . . in more ways than one!

  4. Love this, Scooper. That photo is priceless. You make me want to be a runner. Almost.

  5. That's me! I'm a runner! Well, was a runner. Am a runner, again, maybe soon?'ve given me some food for thought.

  6. I love your photo! I was never a runner, but was a skinny twig in high school.

  7. I love the image of the 7th grade you, and your parents dedication and support through it all. That's awesome. This was a great story. Glad to find it.

  8. I found running after my fifth baby and haven't looked back ( 11 years ). I don't worry about the ups and downs of the distance or consistency, but I know I won't quit.
    This was a great story, you are such an inspiration.

  9. I have to say, I love the picture of you in your keds! Priceless. :) Just reading your post makes me want to put on my running shoes and get out there- I love running, but would never say I was any good at it. Hate how life gets "too busy" for it- but I guess I should take a page from your book and get out there! Thanks for sharing!

  10. I found running as an adult. I'm not the most dedicated runner, but I love the fact that even when I get a little lazy, I can come back to it and recapture it. I'm training for my second half-marathon now. I only wish I had found it earlier in my life. PS: love the pic! and the fact that your husband is "still fast", lol.

  11. So cute. You really do look the same. A little more stylish and a big dose of flair, but that is all. You spring chicken.
    I've decided there are some things in life one must not do:
    1. No cheap trash bags
    2. No cheap toilet paper
    3. No cheap paper towels
    4. No chance to ever have a stinky boy's room clean
    5. No chance to ever keep a 5 year old girl from talking 1,000,000 words a day.

  12. I took up running as an adult, and it has saved me in so many ways. My sanity mostly:) Enjoy it!

  13. I am so glad you took up running or I wouldn't have you as a daughter in law. How blessed we have been a what joy it has been to watch you and your hubby run. I may never be a runner, but I have joined the walking group. Walked 2 miles today. Luv, Deb

  14. Oh, Scooper, I love this post. That photo of you is priceless.

    Isn't it amazing how God gives us little gifts which can seem rather inconsequential at the time--but that turn out to be hugely consequential in our lives?

    Glad to read one of your posts again. I always eagerly await your words. And I am never disappointed.

  15. What an amazing runner you are! How cool for me that I have been in the stands for many of those miles cheering you on. I still am!
    A very proud Dad - then and now!!!

  16. I can definitely identify. Although i used to HATE running in high school, but took it up seriously in med school. It took me a long time before I felt like I could call myself "a runner." Now that I've had to hang up the shoes for a while (running at 20 weeks pregnant just hurt too much) I really miss it. I think my dog does, too. And it's just not the same being on the elliptical machine at the gym. But there's a season for everything - and right now i'm highly enjoying the little kicks I'm feeling. :)


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