I am a middle-aged runner, a person who by some inner compulsion began long distance running in my mid-30s. I’d always imagined myself as a long distance runner when I was a kid. In this vision, I’d be running towards the sun down a long asphalt road by myself wearing soft soled shoes, and the air would be dry and easy to breathe. In this vision, I had a long gold ponytail that swayed back and forth with each step. I was medium height with gangling limbs and had a heart-shaped face with a soft smile. I was a girl who barely sweat even in the hot sun with tan legs and no boobs. In the reality of my youth I was awkwardly tall, disproportionately chunky on the bottom half of my body. I was a girl crying in the bathroom at my grandma’s house at nine because I was too developed to “not wear a bra anymore.” I wore the weight of always being picked last to scrimmage on our girls’ soccer team. From the coaches point of view, I was smart, had vision, but lacked speed and endurance. And from the other girls’: the girl who had a butt so fat that it looked like it was churning chocolate while she ran.
So I visioned myself as someone else. Not only did I vision myself as a distance runner, but also a basketball player. I could see myself, a certain version of myself, being able to jump up and touch the rim of the basketball net while laying the ball through the hoop. In reality, my personal trainer at the National Institute of Sports and Fitness was trying get me to be able to jump to even graze the bottom of the basketball net. I never reached the bottom of the net. I remember the afternoon Dan had to go over and manually lower the basketball hoop so I could touch the net. Maybe he saw in my eyes, what I thought only I could feel. I needed someone to give me a break, to offer me the opportunity to feel some kind of achievement.
Maybe this running now, too, is about that, a feeling of promised achievement. My present self fulfilling a promise it made to that little girl: one day things won’t be this bad. And it turns out, I was right.
Today, I ran my familiar training track, a dirt path lined by tress on two sides. The tree-lined path used to be a railroad. One and a half miles down path, the tree line opens up to a clear flowing creek. I’ve run this track for several years, this stretch of land has become my friend. I like how details of terrain jump out to me on a long run, and how I notice the passing of time like when the mulberries are ripening in late May. My cells are excited to breathe in different qualities of air and know for certain if rain is in store.
Funny thing is, I thought this running was going to be about her, about the girl; maybe that’s where something began, but there’s so much more. The clear flowing creek is frozen, it is the first time I’ve ever seen it like this. I briefly notice its contours, the pattern of water has been frozen into what looks like a swirl, small air bubbles line the surface just underneath the ice. I see the ice and the frozen bubbles, and in that moment I am back looking through the eyes of me, as a girl, the real me. Not a vision of me, looking down from somewhere else, but me.
I am a girl looking into a frozen puddle on Creekwood drive. I wonder about what makes water freeze in those patterns, and what will happen if I crush the ice under my foot. I lift my knee high to my belly and drop my foot down, the ice shatters and I feel omnipotent.
Allison for the PGM