Wednesday, May 21

Runner's Build

In the seventh grade I heard an announcement over the PA. "Any students expressing interest in cross country running should attend an informational meeting with their parents, tonight at 7:30 in the cafeteria". So I went home and begged and pleaded for Mom to come. She said it was too much. I said it was just an info meeting. Reluctantly, she came.

You see, sports meant uniforms, new shoes, team dues and rides for practices and meets. Mom was in nursing school, we were on food stamps, and the church's Mercy Ministry took care of most everything else. Because of this I always had a sinking feeling whenever I asked for things that were extras. I'd think to myself, "OK, if I deal with the shoes I already have, if I skip the Homecoming Dance, is I borrow the CD I want instead of buying it.. that should make up for a sport shouldn't it?" Even though I really wanted to do all these things, I'd never done a sport before-- so it was worth it.

I didn't have to give these things up though. Coach Rowland talked to me and Mom at the meeting about a scholarship. He asked me why I wanted to run on the team and I told him that it was a challenge, that I wanted to see if I could do. I told him I'd run extra at home and I'd do whatever it took. He said he'd cover the dues for me for awhile to see if it worked out and if it did, he'd give me the scholarship for the whole season.I never really got a chance to thank him, but I did ask him why he did so much to give me those chances. He told me that I had more than just a runner's build - but I had a drive towards success and excellence, a striving to do better than my best, that he had never seen in a rookie.

He was wrong about though. The drive in me was not necessarily towards success or excellence, though those may have indirectly been achieved. It wasn't towards anything really. Rather it was a running away from everything. My troubles specifically. Not avoiding them, mind you, but just escaping them -- three times a week. For however long it took me to run those seven miles each practice, I didn't think. Grades, boy drama, and insecurities became rocks and roots and trees in my path. Wondering why Dad had stopped coming to see us... that was just a tricky uphill curve. I wasn't carrying my burdens. I dropped them at the mouth of the path and all I did was run.And nothing, and no one could touch me.

My body can't run anymore because it's always tired and weighted down. My mind is still running though. When it all gets to be too much I just check out and stop thinking. I see this trail and there are all these other runners, but I just ignore them all. They're nothing but distractions. people, drama, reality, disappointments, they don't matter. So long as I'm running, they won't be able to stop me. If they can't catch up I can keep running forever and not have to deal with the heartache of it all.

Maybe if I can just go one extra mile the problems will time out and I can be where and who I want to be. For as long as I want to be that person in those places, I can. Just let me run for 7 more minutes. 7 minutes to freedom from all this weight. 1 more mile and I'll be free from the pain and the disappointment that's chasing me down this trail that's too short. 1 more mile till I hit that runner's high and all the feel good endorphins eliminate the sick, heavy feeling in my chest.

Just 1 more mile.