My blog today has two parts: one that concerns getting into the arena when we may well lose. The other concerns violence on the trail, and our response.
Part 1. Ever had this happen? You throw your hat into the arena, say, “please, choose me”, and everyone involved says “nope, not this time”. It’s happened to me a few times recently. I volunteered to be interviewed for a fitness magazine about motivation and running: nope. Be interviewed as part of the North Face 50km Race: nope. Be a race ambassador for the Salomon Bitumen is Boring Series: nope.
I get knocked down; we all do. When the “nope” arrives, it always shakes me for a bit, makes me doubt myself, wonder if I am trying to do something hopeless in my mission to inspire others. Maybe I’m not good at this. Maybe no one even cares. Like the water going down a drain, there is a deep, deep vortex-like pull that threatens to pull me down with it.
I only let myself sit with these feelings for a very short while: disappointment, anger, sorrow. All black and negative.
Then I dust myself off and go for a run. Sing the songs aloud that make me believe in myself. Today I ran 15k along my favorite coastal track. My feet were fast, my Inov-8 shoes gripping like claws, pulling me along. I had tucked a gel into the waistband of my running tights. I saved it until 45 minutes in, and by then it had warmed up, and flowed smoothly, a wonderful hit of sugar, and I flew through the last half of the run, doing 100 metre strides towards the end, hitting my fastest pace in ages.
By the time I got home, I’d forgotten all about the disappointment. I’d run to a better place. A place where I can see with absolute certainty that, if the door does not open, it is not meant to. I am someone who has always carved my own trail. Perhaps linking myself to one event is not where I am meant to go. Perhaps I was too darn inspiring and the race organisers and magazine editors thought I’d swamp the event/magazine with my positivity. Or – perhaps here’s the real truth – they didn’t select me, because they can’t know me. They can’t know the battles I’ve faced, the challenges I’ve overcome. Some battles are deeply personal, they involve others, and to share them would be unfair. So to say “select me to tell my story” becomes rather difficult. Some stories are private.
So instead of being a race ambassador, I am a running ambassador. My mission is to show through my own action that what we consider impossible one day, the next day can become possible. Even, well, easy. Last year, I couldn’t begin to contemplate running twenty kilometres. This year, that is a kind of short training run.
My message: I get knocked down. But that’s only because I keep stepping into the arena. I’ll keep stepping in anyway. Because I know I’ll always, always get back up again.
That’s what running has taught me; to get back up again.
Part 2. Here’s the other battle I’ve been fighting. Last Monday at 3 pm, a woman was sexually assaulted on my favorite trail. She was pulled into the woods, and, with the help of a passer-by, managed to fight off her attacker. The man ran away. He has not been caught. I run this trail alone three times a week.
I was frightened; I am frightened. But, more deeply, I was furious, furious that this woman had been attacked simply because she walked alone; I pray she is healing. But my fury went deeper. I was outraged that this trail was now a dangerous place. This safe soul-place where I find my peace of mind had been violated. I debated whether to run on Tuesday; I couldn’t sleep Monday night thinking of ways to repel a violent attack. After a long debate, I found a small bottle of insect repellant (I know, I don’t have pepper spray or anything, but I thought this would do in a pinch), and carried it with my finger on the spray nozzle for ten kilometres, ready to spray it into an attackers face if necessary. I was tight as a spring, incredibly tense and jumpy, looking behind every rock and tree, ready to pounce on the man if he appeared. I got to my lookout, the one pictured,
where I often stand to gather my “chi” and the feeling of violation was immense – the woman had been attacked right near this spot. I stood there alone, and said these words: “Evil be gone. This is a soul place. You cannot have this place. Evil be gone.”
It was a strange moment. I felt those words coming from a deep place in me, a place that was outraged that our freedom should be threatened, that our places of beauty damaged. I didn’t even know those words were in me.
I ran on down the trail, and every now and then, I repeated the words. It was almost like I was cleansing the trail for all the women who would run and walk it later. I was so angry I was close to tears. I didn’t see any boogeymen, and there were other women out there walking and running, some with headphones, some alert and cautioning me not to run where the attack happened.
And so we have choice. Do we fear, do we give up our freedom, do we give into the darkness? I have run my trail three times since, vigilant, fast and alert. I notice that all the women runners I speak with feel as I do – they’d almost like to meet this man to give him a good hard kick, and make him go away.
There are many battles we face. As you meet yours, I wish you courage in the face of darkness, light to give you hope, and fast feet to ignite your belief in yourself if it ever fades.
- There’s a Monster under my Bed (therunningteacher.com)