When I ran my first race, I was fifteen years old. It was at HK High School on their indoor track, a track that measured just 100 meters. I ran around it ten times for a total of 1000 meters. I don’t remember where I placed. Fifth maybe- my lungs burned, my legs were all weak when I was done. I had used all I had to get through that race. When I was done, my coach grabbed my shoulders and said, “you did good Tara B. You did good”.
I’ve always loved track. The regiment of a meet, the precision of a relay hand-off, the oomph you must gather, from way down somewhere deep inside, to finish the last hurdle of ten. Having my baby brother dubbed Connecticut girls’ track coach of the year for coaching at our alma mater makes me incredibly proud, and maybe, a little bit jealous.
Corey stuck close to sports in college, getting his first coaching job by the time he was 20. Me, I became a fan, and hung out with unhealthy habits. By the time I was ready to run again, I was getting pregnant and having babies, and gaining ridiculous amounts of weight.
Last year around this time, I started just wanting to run away from things. Run away from ICU’s and nursing homes, and damaged hearts, and broken souls. Run away from decisions and eulogies, and pain, and grief. And not just figuratively. Russ gave me a spa day for our anniversary last year. And half way through my facial, I noticed the shape of the room- the same size as Pops’ hospital room, and the sheets were the same blue color, and the steamer they use to get all the gunk from under my pores, sounded just like the respirator that kept him alive for 27 days. And I wanted to scream, to wipe whatever was plastered over my face, off, and change out of that soft fluffy robe, and run – into the sun – into the street, away from anything that felt like that. But I just held on, leaving nail marks in the soft of the table, and survived.
These days, I have little patience, and little capacity to stand much of anything. There are days I lock my knees to my chair, just so I won’t get up and run out of a meeting. I face confrontation without throwing up on people’s shoes, when all I want to do- is throw up on people’s shoes.
And I’m running again. Here’s the thing – I’ve lost thirty pounds since Sept 11th. Thirty- and my body, it’s starting to feel a little bit like mine again. And with that weight lost, a run doesn’t hurt as much as it used to. I’ve started on the couch to 5k program and downloaded some podcasts that tell me when to walk and stop, and run, all to the beat of techno music. Music that I would never listen to in real life.
And wouldn’t you know it, if a run doesn’t clear the head, if the inhalation of crisp cold air, really is more effective than a boost in milligrams to my anti-depressant. Today I walked out of school to the stoplight at the corner, waiting for the sign to cross, and I stood transfixed on the traffic, and the kids across the street, till I totally missed my cross signal. It was as if, those briefest of moments outside, that tiny bit of sunshine was actually letting me be present and enjoy the noise of the corner – as opposed to fixating on each of the thoughts that runs rampant through my head- thoughts I have no power over. And as I took those first jogging steps, and turned up the techno, and listened only to my breath, and the sound of my running shoes hitting a winter-hard sidewalk, I remembered what it felt like, to put everything you could, into only your next stride.