Daily Journey Journal #354: mission accomplished

From May 16, 2015

Today was our last day of She’s A Runner Girl. For the past six weeks we’ve run, talked, set goals, learned from and supported one another. This morning we brought all that together for our biggest day: race day. Lucky for us, the day dawned beautiful and sunny with a cool breeze, optimal for racing.

The race was a 5K, the furthest that most of our girls have ever run. For some girls, this was intimidating, for others it was a challenge that they were psyched to take on. Whatever their feelings, nearly all of our girls arrived this morning, decked out in their purple Runner Girl shirts and ready to go. Seeing them all there is one of the most amazing sights. Though they may be different ages and come from different backgrounds, they are a team united.

My favorite part of this day is watching the girls surprise themselves and seeing how much they’ve learned these last weeks. This year, my running buddy was one of the 3rd graders from my team that I had not had the chance to run with yet. We started out with some of our other team members, but she was ready to take off, so we upped our pace and off we went.

For three miles, she chatted me be about everything from her family to friends to school to flowers and beyond, weaving in all the little things she’d learned about running. At one point she told me that one of the other girls dared her to run a mile without stopping for a drink. We’d just passed mile two and she had no idea she had gone so far without water. Knowing that she was going above her own expectations powered her through the last mile and she met her goal: to finish the race. She not only finished, but she did so in 41 minutes, arriving before several of her teammates and other racers in the community. Her pride when she crossed the line, the confidence she had in herself is exactly what I hope to see on every girl’s face at the end. It means that we’ve done our job: one more girl has learned how to empower herself.

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Daily Journey Journal #343: cleaning house, mentally

From May 5, 2015

Run, push off with strong muscles,

Let your mind go blank.

Think not of the day’s concerns,

Out run the worries.

For now, let it all rest,

Settle in your mind.

Stay in this space,

This world of ground,

Of air in and out,

Of feet pushing you on.

Daily Journey Journal #308: runner girl

From March 31, 2015

Run-ner Girl! Run-ner Girl!

In my head, I’m chanting the words over and over again, even though today is just the She’s A Runner Girl program coaches’ meeting. I am so excited for the program to start that even though I am completely and utterly exhausted, I am thrilled for yet another activity to be beginning in my life.

Runner Girl is near and dear to my heart. As a runner, running is something I love to encourage others in doing. I recognize that running may not be for everyone, in that not everyone enjoys it as much as I do, but I do believe that no matter who you are, running can make a difference in your life. And, this is what Runner Girl is all about. We aim to empower girls through running and help them to learn skills that will help them to become confident, determined women. Some people may question if this is possible, but I am here to tell you, it for sure is.

When I was just beginning junior high, my mum signed me up for cross country. That first practice kicked my butt, but I had made a deal with my mum that I would at least try it for one season and then I didn’t have to do it again if I didn’t want to.

Well, I went back the next year. And the next. And the next. The running never got easier, but I got faster and fell in love with it. I learned that if I set my heart and mind on a goal I made, that I could reach it with enough practice, patience and effort. Running taught me about determination. It showed me what I was capable of if I believed in myself and tried my best. Running taught me how to set challenging, yet achievable goals. It showed me how rewarding it was to do something simply for myself. Running helped me connect with others. It gave me something to be good at and in doing so, boosted my confidence. That confidence is what I needed to come out of my shell of shyness.

Running made a huge difference in my life, and it was one of the things that prompted my mum to start the Runner Girls program with one of her fellow running friends. Now, five years later, our program reaches out to seventy girls in our community. For six weeks, we play games, run together and talk about health, goals and self-efficacy. After six weeks we join the community in running a 5K and it is truly amazing to see the difference in our girls. The grins on their faces when they cross the finish line, having reached their goals, is simply priceless.

Daily Journey Journal #179: full contact running

From November 22, 2014

My mum’s dog, Cooper, has turned running into a full-body contact sport. No longer are legs the primary focus of the activity. Oh no, it’s all or nothing, at least for Cooper.

Cooper is an Australian Shepard, and as such, he feels the need to herd his people, primarily by jabbing them sharply with his nose as he passes us by. As a younger dog, this wasn’t really a problem, as his nose pokes were generally well placed so as to leave only a big wet smudge on our legs but not knock us over. Over the last couple of years, however, Cooper has steadily become blind to the point that he now sees by crashing into things. Walls, doors, tables, people, they’re all the same to him.

Despite his blindness, he continues to be extremely active and his daily run with us is the highlight of his day, as my mum says. So, you can only imagine how running has changed. The thing, we’ve discovered, about running with a blind dog is, he not only gets lost easily but he has turned our little jog into an exercise in not falling. When we aren’t continually turning around to make sure Cooper isn’t romping in the middle of the field, thinking he’s following us when we’re a quarter of a mile in the opposite direction, we’re getting ready to crash and burn.

Every few minutes the cycle repeats itself. We start off, going slow, as that is the only speed possible on the snowy, icy ground. Cooper stops after a few feet to sniff a tumbleweed for an exorbitant amount of time during which we call to him so he knows which way to run. And then, BAM! He runs up behind us and throws his whole body at our legs, tangling his feet with ours, which, on the ice, makes for some interesting ballet moves to stay upright.

My mum takes it all in good stride, literally. She’s had months more practice at the balancing act than I have, but I think she also is taking Cooper’s blindness better than I am. It is so hard to watch him bonk into the refrigerator, thinking it’s me, or fall into a hole while running because he doesn’t see it. Mum though, just showers Cooper with love and keeps taking him out, because that is what he wants. He has been and will be our good running buddy until he no longer wants to go. In the meantime, we just hope that he doesn’t take us out too badly.

Daily Journey Journal #172: a view to love

From November 15, 2014

My father looks at me like I’m crazy. It’s three degrees with a wind chill of negative five and I’m bundled in layers of clothes, my running shoes tied on snugly. He can’t believe I am going to go outside. Today is one of those days where the temperature preceded to drop throughout the day, rather than increase, and with the minutes of sunlight numbered, it’s now or never for running. Dad shakes his head as I pull my scarf over my mouth and reach for the door. With a promise to be careful and be back soon, I head out.

The only other life outside is a group of neighborhood kids, bundled in snowsuits and looking ready to start a snowball fight. I turn the opposite direction and creep along the icy street to the field and take the alleyway around the perimeter, passing by the snow covered park and backyards of the neighbors. Except for bunny tracks weaving along and under fences, my footprints are the only blemish on the perfect snow. Everything is quite and still. Not even the bunnies are out, the wind making it all but miserable to be in the open.

The alley ends at a construction site where the prairie is slowly being turned into residential space. Nothing is moving today though, the equipment too frozen probably to even turn on. I run through the middle of the site, happy to have the freedom to romp around without disturbing anyone’s work.

At the edge of the site, my trail runs into a barbed-wire fence, along which runs another trail. The trail heads up a ridge and I huff and puff my way up, my lungs still not quite used to both the elevation and the cold. My going is slow, my toes frozen from the snow and the wind rushing through my layers. I’m just starting to think that maybe my dad was right, I am crazy, when I crest the ridge.

Sprawled in front of me are the Snowy Range Mountains. Dark blue-grey clouds obscure the jagged peaks and turn the sides of the mountains almost purple. The prairie stretches out below until it reaches the outskirts of town. Spotted rays of sunshine stream through the clouds, highlighting mountain ridges and golden grassy hills. The view takes my ragged breath away.

My frozen cheeks ache as a smile brightens my face. There is nothing in the world quite like this sight and it makes the cold, the desolation worth it.