Monday, February 6 2023 - 8:11 AM
girl running
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Running Forward

I was never a gifted athlete.  I was one of those kids assigned to a team in elementary school gym class when the options dwindled. Youth soccer was as close to sports as I got. As a shy girl, I could at least dress the part of an athlete in cleats and a jersey. But while it was clear early on that I was never meant to play competitive sports, those formative years yielded a practice that still sustains me decades later—running.

My elementary school offered a program called the Ten-Minute Mile Club. The name clarified its membership requirements: run a mile in under 10 minutes, and you’re in. Running a mile was a dreaded annual fitness benchmark in gym class. We all had to do it, but no one liked it–except for me and a few other crazy 10-year-olds who signed up voluntarily for this new club.

In my eyes, it meant I didn’t have to kick a ball, climb a rope, or capture a flag. It was just me rounding the bleachers a dozen times to the sounds of an FM radio. So I found a partner, and each month we and the other pairs of participants counted laps for each other while our gym teacher manned the stopwatch. You earned a medal at the final assembly if you kept your time under 10 minutes for at least six out of eight events. I walked up to the stage in June to receive my only athletic award.

Running Ever Since

I’ve been a diligent runner ever since. I’ve run around tree-lined suburban neighborhoods, under the hot Arizona sun, over steaming manholes in city centers, and in the wee hours of frigid Iowa mornings. I’ve also run around too many high school tracks to remember. On some days, I let my mind drift, while on others, I seek my personal bests.

I’m not fast, and that’s okay–and sometimes I don’t want to be if I’m in a new environment or taking a hiatus from a stressful day. Something as simple as the vision of frost on grass or a good bend in the road can be the reprieve I need. Years ago, I remembered reading an article about a local running club. One of its members said that no matter how bad the rest of your day is, you will have accomplished something as long as you go for a run. His message comes to mind when pounding the pavement to clear my head.

Every so often, I revisit the plastic bin in my basement that contains my childhood awards. There are music performance ribbons curled from humidity and a third-grade spelling bee champ certificate brittle from age, but the small medal with a silhouette running across it is the one that holds the most meaning for me. It is a reminder that I am fortunate to be able to lace up each day, wherever I am.

If you liked this, you might also like An Ironman’s Prayer 

Emily Stokes writes from the midwest.

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About Emily Stokes

Marie Florence

Emily Stokes

writes from the midwest.

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