Friday, April 2, 2010

Women Who Run

Posted By on Fri, Apr 2, 2010 at 11:02 AM

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Just because I call myself a “runner” doesn’t mean I always feel like one. As most committed runners will tell you, there are good runs and there are bad runs.

But it's not only about torching calories or improving cardiovascular conditioning. General health and fitness is all well and good, but what keeps us coming back again and again is that addictive body chemistry, that natural pharmaceutical that’s better than any man-made drug: endorphins. It’s that feel-good feeling that accompanies most forms of exercise, if you stick with it long enough. And when the mysterious runner's high is elusive, it’s hard not to feel cheated.

This morning I went for my last run before Saturday’s Dry Creek Half Marathon (I think of it as the wicked step-sister of the Race to Robie Creek because it's rumored to be more challenging—and not just because it’s happening two weeks sooner). Wanting a confidence builder prior to the race, I kept hoping for the endorphins to kick in, but they didn’t. I was denied.

Fortunately for me, I headed out the door this morning armed with a brand new inspirational artillery to keep my mind occupied as I shuffled along, waiting in vain for my endogenous fix. I might not be having a great run, but how much worse could it be?

What if I were a transexual, not just trying to run, but trying to live a new identity in the face of ruptured cultural norms and bent stereotypes?
Or what if I were a one-time breast cancer survivor, now facing a recurrence?
Or what if I were racing through the black of night on a craggy ridge in the middle a 24-hour adventure race, rather than just out for a 45-minute jog in the sun?

This cast of characters didn’t spring from my own imagination. As part of my mental preparation for Dry Creek, I spent the last few days reading Women Who Run, a 2006 publication by a Sun Valley local, Shanti Sosienski. In 160 pages, Sosienski offers enlightenment about the wide variety of female runners out there, from hailed distance runner Lornah Kiplagat to the founder of Girls On The Run, a program for school girls that uses running to build self-esteem and confidence.

While I once thought I had nothing in common with Lance Armstrong's wife, Kristin or a muslim Pakistani immigrant, it turns out I do. We are female runners. And as Sosienski suggests, there are hundreds of thousands of us, all with this common bond, and all facing different challenges. Each chapter of Women Who Run highlights a different runner and her story of how and why she runs. The format is simple, as is the language and syntax, which makes for fast reading, if not fast running. And while the prose isn't very colorful, the stories of the women runners are anything but black-and-white. If you're a Robie Creek entrant needing a mental boost and a way to spend your taper time, check out Women Who Run. It'll give you something to think about the next time your endorphins are on hiatus.

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