Almost a decade ago, maybe the fifth or sixth time I tried to quit smoking, I started running.
Since I was a girl, I would sometimes just take off running around the block because I didn’t really have friends or anything else really to do besides read. And getting my heart rate going was my favorite thing.
I could feel the wind on my face. I loved the sheen of sweat on my arms and legs. I felt powerful, like the master of my own fate.
One weird thing about me, though, is that I don’t have a good sense of distance. A childhood friend would be so mad at me when I would guesstimate how far a walk from, say, the Fordham train station was to the Botanical Gardens. To me, especially because there was a big part of it that was downhill, it almost didn’t matter. “Maybe six blocks,” was a standard answer for distance of all lengths, all kinds, anywhere.
“Girl, this is more like fifteen blocks!”
All I could do was shrug and apologize. I was used to just meandering the city, a habit I learned from walking everywhere, borough to borough, with my mother. We walked to save carfare, walked to go to the welfare office, walked to church, walked to the pantry, walked and walked and walked.
But running was mine. Running was mine when I was a kid and it was mine when I joined the track team and set a school record my freshman year. It was mine even when I felt like I was coughing up tobacco residue during Austin 5Ks. Then 10Ks. Then half marathons. One, two, three half marathons, 13.1 miles each, and I wondered about the marathon distance, whether I was brave enough to fail. 26.2 miles, even to someone who doesn’t have a normal estimation of distance is still really damn far.
But here is what I wrote about that about four years ago, in a longer post, Running Through Madness:
Next thing I knew, I had made the lottery for the New York Marathon, the same spring when I learned my father had committed suicide.
Both reminded me that nothing was impossible.
It turns out that running 26.2 miles, and training body and soul to do it, is useful for heartbreak. It does not mend anything, your muscles are all broken, and that becomes the point. Everything is weary and strained and exhausted like your heart.
It took me almost six full hours to run that marathon. I started with thousands of marathoners around the world before the sun came up and finished with just a few lonely Clydesdale running souls just as the sun was going down.
This year, I am running the TCS NYC Marathon again with some of my colleagues at the New York Common Pantry. I sit on the Junior Board for the pantry, which helps serve New Yorkers with dignity.
I’m raising $3,000 to help feed New Yorkers who may not have the resources to make ends meet. The New York Common Pantry provides 6+ million meals each year. We are committed to meeting the needs of underserved New Yorkers by providing nutritiously balanced food and services.
I’m also running to see if I can be a little faster, since I have distance and time has helped me heal the heartbreak that got me running in the first place. But the thing that gets me out the door for running miles that take hours to complete is my passion for making sure the hungry get fed. I hope you can contribute to help with the cause. (I also accept prayers, Biofreeze products and chocolate chip cookies.)