You. Guys. I’m thrilled to bring the Why I Run series back today with my friend Margaret’s story. If you want to share, just let me know. I find these stories fascinating in their similarities and profound depth. (And, I’ve been cleared to keep up the running, so I’m doubly happy today.) Please say hi to Margaret!
People who are athletic have no understanding of how awful it is to be bad at sports when you’re a kid. Those of us who couldn’t score a goal, catch the ball or climb the ropes know. We know the daily recess competitions, participation in which quickly became futile. We know the agony of gym class and the disappointment of team sports.
I would have been excused if I’d left all athletic pursuits behind when finally freed from the forced humiliation of PE. After all, there were plenty of things I was good at. Aside from not being much of an athlete, I was pretty blessed otherwise. I could sing, talk, write, and act. I could do lots of things well.
In my early twenties a number of my friends ran a half-marathon for charity. My runs at the time were limited to a few miles once in a while, motivated by the body-hatred that is endemic among young American women, so I stood on the sidelines and cheered while they hoofed in down city streets.
It looked like they were having so much fun. When the next race rolled around, I decided I wanted to be a part of it. So I trained for a half-marathon. I became “a runner”.
I was still slow. I still had a funny gait. But I could at least follow a training plan. During the winter of 2006 I did just that, and I finished my first half-marathon in an icy wind with an awful chest cold that would last well into the spring. I walked a lot of that race, and it took a very long time.
Putting pride aside was essential to surviving the event, and I learned that I liked that feeling. I liked having something to be bad at. In my personal and professional life I was always trying to be the best. I was always chasing the next operatic role, striving for recognition, hoping to be perfect in every area of my life. Running didn’t ask for any of that. All it asked of me was to show up.
Showing up has nothing to do with athletic prowess or elegance or skill. All I needed was determination and grit. Nine half-marathons later, I’m still showing up, still blissfully goalless. When I’m out on the road I don’t have to be fast or lovely or good. All I have to do is keep running, for better or – more likely – for worse.
Margaret Felice is a religion teacher by day and opera singer by night, as well as a choral conductor, runner and blogger most afternoons. A native of small-town Connecticut, she now lives in big-city Boston. Blog: Facebook:www.facebook.com/FeliceMiFa Twitter:www.twitter.com/margaretfelice