People are obsessed about all matters of sports in my Ohio hometown. For God’s sakes, we are the site of the Pro-Football Hall of Fame and possess the biggest astroturf-laden high school outdoor arena in all the world. Tennis, basketball, football, golf…someone was always rabidly cheering for a gifted athlete in my youth. Me, I never got into the spirit. I’d just sit and read books in my dark closet or teach math to my classroom of dolls. Until, one day, well into my 20′s I saw “Without Limits” the Steve Prefontaine story. For those of you who don’t know Pre, he’s only the greatest American runner that ever lived and the enduring pride of the University of Oregon track team. One fan has said “It’s very odd, but when anyone talks about Pre the room is dead silent. No matter if it’s in a small group of 10 or a huge group of 1,000 people no one there would dare interrupt the speaker. All eyes fall upon the speaker as if he is preaching. Steve Prefontaine is a man who will be remembered forever.” Rest assured I will.
After I peeked at Pre’s life story depicted on screen, his equline-like muscles dancing in motion, there was only one thing to do: Strap on a pair of Nikes myself and start fartleking. Building up a marathon endurance has not been easy, especially given my nerdish, sedintary former existence. I’ve endured more than my share of giggles from friends and loved ones along the way. “My daughter, an althlete?” (Cue the uncontrollable laughter) You want running shoes more than a new purse? Are you su-re? Wait, let me get this straight, you just fell jogging on a cement sidewalk and poked a crater in your knee and you’re going to keep at it? Uh, Yep, as soon as the 10 layers of skin heal over and my ankle air cast comes off.
During my journey to the eight minute mile, I’ve discovered a community of obsessed fellow enthusiasts (who knew there were so many other people willing to rise at 5:30 AM to run 45 minutes in 90 degree heat) and learned the secret rules of running authenticity, like: 1) water bottle belts are only for neophytes, sissies and those in a marathon training program who can’t even run two miles; 2) one NEVER wears the shirt of the race you are running in but instead shows off by donning shirts from the cool races you’ve run in the past. Althelete as showhorse..hee..hee..and 3) Runners are loyal and unwavering about the brand of shoes they will don. Nike is Nike and Saucony is Saucony and nere the two shall meet. Although I confess to recently making the surprising transition from New Balance to ASICS, an unlikely swap which is only the result of losing my NB’s in an airport luggage mix-up. I won’t tell if you won’t. I mean who wants to lose my corporate sponsorship?
I’m convinced runners are the ham radio geeks of the sports world: so excited to find a fellow journeyman and perfectly happy discussing mutual interests of the best shoes, socks, wicking material and early morning running routes for hours on end. It unites people from all walks of life. Running has transformed me, physically and emotionally. Not only did I grow breasts, but my entire anatomical shape changed and I sprouted mini-muscles on my arms and legs. Mentally, I am stronger having broken a barrier I never thought I could, scuplting my body into an athletic machine and graduating from atrophied geekdom to be one of “them”, the swift in speed and spirit who gladly get up at 6AM on Saturday to run the charity race.
Pre once said that to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift. Thanks Steve for inspiring me to realize I had a gift to give to myself. :cheer:
TLRRG (That Little Redheaded Running Girl)