Dear Running Shoes,
On the eve of the most overrated holiday on the planet, I’ve been giving some thought to romantic love, and it’s place (or lack thereof) in my life. And I came to the conclusion that I have nothing to despair over, for I have you, my friends! My relationship with you is far better than any boyfriend I could ever hope to find right now.
I found you shortly after everything in my life came apart in huge, gaping chunks. Divorce. Single parent status. That dream of working part time and devoting my creative soul to writing? Gone. Co-parenting with a drug addict? Total joke. Father suddenly, although not unexpectedly, dead? Check. It took less than a year for everything to crumble, and while I didn’t know it at the time, you were waiting patiently for me to find you.
And to think I had scorned your presence in other people’s lives for so long! It took me 32 years to get to you, but it was love at first painful, wheezy mile.
We started slowly, as all strong relationships do. A two-mile out-and-back from my apartment, a couple times a week, with a lot of walking thrown in to the mix. How I longed for those stoplights to linger on red, so I could catch my breath but still look as though I belonged with you. Keep on driving, you! Nothing to see here. Just waiting for the light to change! Out for a run! I only appear to be dying of an asthma attack, and I’m sure I’ll be able to get upright again very shortly! Long runs on the weekends were maybe 3-5 miles and you carried me, limping, back to my door step. I ached from shin splints and just knew I would never master the whole synchronized breathing/running technique (who knew this was an art?), and yet…I kept coming back to you, again and again.
You were never pretty but I don’t want you to worry about that. I’ve fallen in love with good looks before and it’s gotten me, frankly, nowhere. Your wide base and sturdy arch support and ability to accommodate my left peg leg are all attributes laughed at by friends but secretly loved by me. You are strong and steady and dependable, so dependable in fact, your colors rarely change. Every six months, a new pair; every six months, the exact. same. blue. Once, about a year ago, you tried out purple. I swooned. But, purple or blue, you are the same shoes every time. You are exactly my type of boring monotony.
If Brooks ever goes bankrupt or stops producing its line of running shoes geared toward large flat feet, I will mourn as though I have lost a family member. That’s how dear you are to me.
Like any long-term relationship, we’ve had good times and bad. You’ve ushered me through races that came off so perfectly, it can only be described as elation. Every Rainier to Ruston relay we’ve run has been perfection, even if immediately after last year’s event, I crashed in a glorious burning fury of neck injury. And that 4th of July 5 miler last year in Sedro Woolley? Remember how we paced ourselves just perfectly, lagging behind in the beginning, only to kick it in to high gear in the last mile as we picked off runner after runner before cruising across the finish line? Those events where it’s just you and me and a paved path somewhere in rural Washington state have been our best bonding moments. It is those moments that remind me I have everything I need.
But, in the interest of full disclosure, I think it’s important to remember those super shitty times we’ve had together. Remember that godforsaken race we ran with Rikki down in Oregon, the one that took us through wine country and ended with wine sampling, which was so sad, because by the time I finished climbing all those billy goat hills, I was so sick and tired I couldn’t even stomach the thought of wine? That was my first official bonk and it was not pretty. Not pretty at all. But you were still there for me, never judging me in my moments of cursing and climbing and sweating and nearly barfing. And then, of course, there was every single race we did in our first year together. Oh, the wheezing and the peeing of pants! I like to imagine that you could have quietly carried yourself out of my closet and out of my life in that first year if you wanted to, as it must have been embarrassing to be associated with such an un-pretty runner. But you didn’t. You stayed with me and, while I’m still rather uncoordinated, I like to think I’ve got my act together more than I did in that first year.
I apologize for all those wayward snot rockets and for kicking you off without untying my laces first.
Running Shoes, I have so much to thank you for. Thank you for bearing witness to my dehydration, my uncertainty on the downhill, and the tears that always seem to surprise me when I hear a song that reminds me of my dad. Thank you for showing me strength I never knew I had. But mostly? Thank you for giving me back a sense of peace and faith I thought I had lost forever. Turns out, it was waiting for me all along, in a shoebox, in a running store, in a place in my life I never would have guessed I could find.