I was recently asked why I #rally despite everything going on in the world right now. How much time do you have?
In all seriousness, anyone who knows me knows that I have a hard time being brief… and that if there is a story, I don’t want to miss a detail. And anyone who knows me will also tell you that I love to run. And for anyone who asks why I love it so much, I simply say this, “running saved my life, and it still does, every single day, with every single mile.”
I have a difficult time writing those words without getting this big lump in my throat and tearing up… but again, anyone who knows me will tell you that too. I feel things – that’s what people say about me. I ugly cry. I laugh big. I squeal in excitement, and I rage when I am angry. I am a hugger, a high-fiver, a person who will never leave you wondering just how much you mean to me and how grateful I am for you.
So when all of this social distancing became mandate, in a matter of hours, my life, and the lives of all of those people in my world changed too… my three children, my students, my family, my friends… and then there are all of the people I don’t even know, separated by six degrees or more… but community nonetheless. Suddenly, these new norms, which are anything but normal, were forced upon us. We had to adapt, and we had to adapt quickly. In a flash, everything we knew to be routine was dismantled, and in place of that, we had to establish home offices, home schools, and new home routines… staff meetings and happy hours and classes, all bound to a chair, sitting behind a screen. Or, we found ourselves on the front lines, in personal protective equipment, risking our lives so we could continue our lives as we had been living them. But, there were no more hugs, no more high fives… only masks and six feet of distance, best case, and phones or computers otherwise.
Everything was spinning out of control, and the only thing left that it seemed I could control was running, but now I had to go it alone. And you know that running, it gives you time to think… a lot of time to think. And we all know the dangers of thinking too much… Those first few runs, they were difficult. (Don’t get me wrong – I run solo a lot, but it’s my choice. With all of this distancing, running solo was no longer a choice for me. I knew it was what I needed to do, and that this, too, shall pass. At least that is what I kept telling myself.)
I had nothing but time to think and trail to travel, when it hit me. A friend in our running community had written one day in chalk along a trail where I run, “you can do hard things.” And I got to thinking… seeing those words, well, they inspired me. So my next run, I grabbed some chalk from a bucket in the garage and started adding to the trail. At first, I would just leave a message or two along my route, with the #rallycolumbus beneath it. Yet, as this quarantine has gone on, I have left more messages – I have even taken my children out with me to add their own messages to some of my routes. A friend of mine who lives across town asked me one day if it was me leaving messages – said she recognized the handwriting. I told her it was… and I told her I missed her… and that there was something about knowing that even though we can’t be together right now, running along the same routes in a day, albeit at different times, kinda made it feel like we weren’t so far apart during all of this.
And so I continue to rally. I rally for big moments like that – or like hitting a “run the year” milestone with my running partner, and piecing together our milestone mile marker pictures virtually and sharing them with the world. I rally for the little moments that often go unnoticed in the rush of our daily lives as we used to know them – a sidewalk stretched before me carpeted in pretty pink petals, the reflection of a heron landing on the little sunlit lake nestled along the Towers trail, dodging puddles and worms after the spring rain, leaving for a run with two big pieces of chalk and coming back empty-handed…
And I also rally for all of the in-between moments as well. My moments, as I try to make sense of all of this, when really, so much of it doesn’t make sense. So I run, and then I come home and write about it, and share it with others… thinking maybe together, we can make sense of some of it, and feel a little less alone.
I am getting ready to head out on a run now. The rain has stopped temporarily, and today will make 46 days. I have never run 46 days in a row before in my life. But I don’t plan to stop now, even though there are moments where my legs are SO tired, and my heart is SO heavy. I keep going, because in rallying and in sharing my stories with each run, I feel less alone. I feel more human. I feel stronger, and I feel supported. And it is my hope and my prayer that in some way, I am helping others to feel a little less alone and a little more supported and a lot stronger during all of this… and that in all of this, the silver linings are there, and together, we can seek them out, share them and celebrate them.
I only started running five years ago, to get through my divorce. I had no idea what I was doing – just a pair of hand-me-down shoes and a need to move forward, somehow. It wasn’t until I started running that I really started learning how to live and how to love in ways that I somehow had been missing up until that point in my life. It wasn’t until I started running that I started to feel more alive. I started to see things in ways I had never before. It has brought all kinds of amazing souls into my life… has humbled me, lifted me up, grown me, strengthened me, pushed and challenged me… changed me. Saved me. And still does. Every single day. I rally in gratitude for that… and to keep going. Especially right now. One mile at a time.