My book club assignment is to write a love letter to running. I write a sentence like that and it feels like I should capitalize Running.
A love letter to Running. As if Running is a lover/spouse/significant other. As if running exists independently of me and it is something I join from time to time. Something I meet. Something I kiss goodbye and leave behind after spending some time.
As if running is something separate from me. It isn’t; separate from me. I suppose a lot of runners consider running to be something they do. I used to be one of them. It only took 20 years to figure out that I don’t do running. I am running. Running is something I am.
A runner is something I am as matter of being homo sapiens. It can’t be separated from me even if I can’t run. I was born a runner. As soon as I could walk I could run. No one had to teach me. I didn’t have to wait to come of age. Running came moments after walking.
Watch a toddler learning to walk. After those first successful steps a baby does what? She runs. She figures out all on her own that she can keep her balance better if she moves faster. Walk to Mommy? Nope. Run to Mommy. Or Daddy. Or toward water, shiny things, moving things, furry things, and in my personal experience, every step or flight of stairs available. Those years I spent as a nanny I didn’t spend walking after babies. I spent them running. Not a single baby required instruction on how to run or why to run or when to run.
It amuses me that as adults we think we need to answer these questions about running. Babies let it be obvious before they even have words. Without them explaining it to us we figure out the how, why, and when of baby running. The joy run. The anger run. The adventure run. The catch the butterfly run. The somebody is chasing me run. The run because it feels good run. And then we promptly set about reigning those babies in, slowing them down, and teaching them the adult way. The thinking way; when it is no longer appropriate to run around in circles just because we feel excited.
I get the point of the exercise. I’m supposed to temporarily pretend that running doesn’t come naturally to me and that I discovered it. That I found it or it found me. Make it a miracle. I’m supposed to list all the things running has done for me. All the ways running has changed me or compelled me to change. All the people running has brought into my life. All the places running as taken me. All the ways running helped me grow, survive, overcome, recover, and then some. I get that. I appreciate that. I really have no problem with that.
Except that it isn’t true. I did all those things. Myself. I changed me. I brought people into and out of my life. I went all those places. I grew, survived, overcame, recovered, and then some. Running didn’t do all these things for me. I did these things myself. I am the miracle. I was running when I didn’t know this about myself. I was running while I figured this out about myself. I am running now as I gather the courage to declare this about myself. Put it out into the world and live in a Google search that I don’t owe running a damn thing. Not a thank you. Not a love letter. Unless I owe it to myself. Because running is me. I am running.
If running as an adult does anything for us it uncovers the truth about us. It makes things baby-simple again. That’s what it did for me. I’ll admit that without reservation. You know what they called me when I was a baby?
Precious. Priceless. Miracle.
Everything I did was a wonder. A delight. My father was enchanted by me. My aunt Bonnie was fascinated by me. My smallest achievement was brilliance. Even my poops were celebrated. My smile, my laugh, my fingers, my cheeks, my pink thighs thundering across the floor with abandon; everything completely and assuredly irresistible. A thousand pictures were taken of me. They saved my hair, my teeth, my tiny shoes, all my little things too cherished to throw away. Everyone was in love with me. Everyone was proud of me. All the time. All the time. And I didn’t argue with that. I didn’t pretend I wasn’t any of it. I didn’t wave away all the adoration as if it was ridiculous or undeserved. Until I grew up.
My love letter is this breath of remembrance. This breath of recognition. This breath of reminiscence. Returning to the baby-simple truths. All of them. Including this truth about running. There’s no reason. Not really. Not after all this time. It’s just who I am.