You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
– Mary Oliver
Writing has taken a backseat to the busyness of my life & I realize how much I miss the comfort and quiet I find by sharing my thoughts in this way. Spring is here and I am intent on welcoming the changes and opportunities for growth that this season, and this year, have to offer.
I will turn 44 this summer, a few weeks before I toe the line for my second attempt at the 100 mile distance. The Cascade Crest 100 miler stole my heart (& my stomach!) last August and my acceptance into the race via lottery this year signaled to me that CCC100 is the 2014 goal race for me. (doubling up and doing Bryce100 as well didn’t jive with my bank account, parenting obligations and frankly, my training….out with Bryce, in with CCC!)
Not a day goes by that I don’t visualize myself on those trails. Doing so feels like ‘coming home.’ It has taken me a long long time to find my place in the outdoors, in nature, in the freedom of physical movement. To let the “soft animal of my body love what it loves”.
What a gift.
There is precious irony in my relationship with running – especially running long distances in the mountains…in the dirt, mud, heat and rough terrain. I have come to realize that one of the keys to success in ultrarunning is a certain toughness or “thick skin”. Grit. A willingness to gut it out and let yourself get banged up & rubbed raw. I’ve only recently, in my 40’s, developed a thickness of skin which is beginning to serve me well in these endeavors.
I was always the sniffly wheezy girl with the asthma, allergies and angry rashes. With eczema so bad my skin would bleed and ooze. Weepy sores, cracked cuts & itchy crusty scabs. It seemed my skin was an outward representation of the anxious, worried, stress-ball nature of my inner world. I longed for the carefree, loose, tan limbs of my friends….to run free in the hot sun – the hot sun that made me burn & itch….to swim in the salty water – the salty water that made me writhe in pain. I wanted to feel that ease. That freedom.
My skin was thin.
As a young woman in my 20’s, my skin cleared somewhat as my body shrank. Developing an eating disorder which would last nearly a decade only punctuated and amplified my desire to be “free” & my inability to do so. Running was a rigid chore during those years – there’s nothing fun about punishing oneself physically for all the wrong reasons. (I once had a therapist tell me that “anorexia is like telling yourself you have to clean the grout between the tiles in your shower, with a Q-tip, all day, every day”…I found that metaphor frighteningly accurate.)
Now, I’m a mother. My skin has waxed & waned. I have the silvery stretchy lines to prove it. I bruise easily & wrinkle even more. Sometimes I look down at my legs as I run and feel sadness – “if only I had been kinder to my body then…” The truth is, when a woman’s body weight fluctuates to such extremes, the skin remembers. Maybe that’s a good thing?
I’m getting tougher.
The stretch marks on my thighs, hips, butt, tummy, breasts….I might finally sit in peace with them. They aren’t pretty – (not gonna lie!!) – but goddammit I am done hiding. Run free in just shorts and a running bra on dusty rugged single-track? Yes, please! Jump in that cool mountain lake?? Even better.
Here’s to a Spring of throwing open the windows, airing out your heart & unearthing your dreams…it’s time to get out there.