My mom says I ran out of the womb and haven’t stopped since. It’s true. Running, I feel most at home. My dad, who broke the state mile record in 4:26, ran after work and I rode my bike with him. I loved the angle of the late afternoon sun on the green grass, my feet on the bike pedals, and my dad running next to me. When I got older, I ran with him. I’d run next to him and I’d get tired. I’d want to stop. He would say, “Feel that pain? Yes, Michelle. That pain is when you have to get your guts up.”
The pain that suffocates you from your lungs down to thighs. I started racing in junior high and I felt the pain. That’s when I would say to myself, “Get your guts up, Michelle.” I began to understand, every time I went to the start line, that’s all racing is. The person who can take the most pain. I knew, at the start line, I could take more pain than anyone else on that line and I would be the one to finish first. That knowledge is when I started my racing career.
Running to me, though, isn’t racing. Running is my passion so deep in my core, it’s like breathing. It’s the one time of the day that I am free. A oneness. In earth, mind, and body. Where my thoughts become my lungs and my hear t and my feet. The earth, and all its beautiful elements -- blustery wind, bleating snow, simmering heat – become me, too. I am free to be that thing I was before I was born. I become the earth and the earth becomes me.
Because of this passion, many of my life events have taken place around running. Like my most intellectual and deep conversation with my equally geeky boy teammates. Like my college weekends riding in vans to Midwest campus tracks. Like running in practice until I would hurl and be bed-bound until the next morning. And, finally, like running 22 miles of the women’s national marathon championship unknowingly pregnant with my soul-changing baby boy.
My passions have not changed. They have morphed. Both my family and friends trump running, now. And Memoir of Me might rank a little higher than running in a list of priorities. But the racing lesson I learned early -- the person who can take the most pain -- is a life lesson really. Life is pain. In an expansive, lusty, breath-taking way. The person who can take the most pain and bounce back and take more is the one who has the capacity to continue on their spiritual quest and become the thing that they were put on this earth to be.
This is running to me. What about you?
This is me hugging my SCSU (where I was rently inducted in the the Hall of Fame and deemed the greatest distance runner in St. Cloud State history) teammate Darla after a race, not a run.