Yesterday I spoke briefly with a neighbor, who asked me if I had any races I am training for. (Ragnar, right now, but I am seriously also thinking of doing the Epic Relay, which runs from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.) We talked about running for a bit and he said something like "I'm jealous of your ability to get out there and run" and I said something back about how he could do it, too.
I have this opinion that everyone could be a runner. That if you want to do it, you just have to start: buy a pair of shoes, figure out some routes, read a book or two about running. Start slow, with mostly walking. Pick a 5k to train for to give yourself motivation (nothing motivates like "I don't want to waste my race fee," especially now that they're getting more and more expensive!) and purpose. You'll have setbacks and frustrations and days you eat bagels and hashbrowns instead of going running, but that's OK because all runners have those, too. A large part of being a runner is believing that you are a runner. Once you have the mental ability, you run because it's part of your identity.
But what I forget to factor in is the physical ability.
I don't mean skill and talent. Trust me: I look silly when I'm running. I'm not super fast. I have to build my running wardrobe around the fact that my thighs rub together. I am not the typical ultra-skinny long distance runner and I don't run with grace or athletic ability.
Instead, what I mean is physical limitations. The neighbor I spoke with has a bad knee. Kendell can't run because of his two metal hips. Haley wants to run more than she does but keeps getting sidelined by shin splints. My friend Heidi has reoccuring skeletal problems from a car accident.
All of those physical things make it harder to be a runner. And none of them came because of choice but by happenstance.
And while I've had my physical abilities strained—ITB and plantar fasciitis and a constantly-irritated sacroiliac joint and burgeoning bunions—they've never broken. I've been able to recover with time and physical therapy and patience. But for the past decade or so, I've been physically able to run.
And despite my funny gait and my thunder thighs, I am grateful. I'm grateful for a body that keeps on going, mile after mile. I'm grateful I can touch my toes and practice cartwheels and handstands outside with my kids. I'm grateful my body takes me up and down mountains. I don't know what I'd do if I came across a physical limitation that would make it so I could never run again, because in my mind? In my mind I would still be a runner.
I think that sometimes you have to toss it out there: your gratitudes to the Universe. When I read Heidi's post this morning, I knew I needed to do just this. Acknowledge that part of being a runner is simply being lucky to not have physical limitations. I know one could appear at any time. But until one does, I am going to honor and respect my body just a little bit more. I'm going to be grateful that my mind says "I need to run" and my body says "how far?" and my thigh-covering shorts are clean.
I'm going to try to remember, every time I tie my shoes, that running is a privilege my body affords me, and not take it for granted. Not, in fact, care that I am slow and ungainly. Instead, I am (for reasons I don't understand) blessed to be able to run.