Monday, August 25, 2014

Finding your tribe

Last night we had our Moms on the Run End of Season Banquet to celebrate a wonderful summer of running and friendship. I have had the privilege of being part of Blaine Moms on the Run for the past five years, first as a runner, then as a volunteer coach, an injured coach, a pregnant coach, and finally a head coach. What a ride it has been! Banquet night is always an emotional night as we celebrate the strength, determination, and achievements of women who step out of their comfort zone and push themselves to new limits, but last night was especially emotional because it is nearing time to say "goodbye," or rather "see you later," to people I love dearly.

I joined the group to try to fit exercise into my busy, stay at home to three kids ages 1, 3, and 5 life. I never expected the way it would change my life or the friendships I would make or how strong I could feel. I never expected that someday I would have to say goodbye to this group and it would kind of break my heart.

I asked if I could speak for a couple of minutes at the banquet to say goodbye and to let each person in the room know just what this group has meant to me. I stood up in front of that room of 500 women and I almost couldn't speak. I thought, "Oh crap. I'm just going to stand up here for three minutes crying and then they'll finally ask me to go back to my seat." Thankfully I pulled myself together enough to talk through the tears. Here's what I said:

I feel like I’m standing up here in front of my people. My tribe. I know I don’t know all of you, but I feel like I know you in the most important ways. I know that you take a really busy schedule and squeeze and tug and stretch it until there are a few little spaces in it that allow time to run. I know you probably don’t stretch as long as you should because as soon as you get home there are 3,001 things to do. I know that if you have kids you want them to see an active, happy, healthy, whole mama and hope they’ll follow in your running footsteps. I know that if we went for a run together, when our watches beeped at mile 1 (because we’d both be wearing our watches, obviously), we’d have laughed together or cried together or both and we’d probably be trying to squeeze and tug and stretch our schedules a little more to find time to run together again.

I love all of you like runners do, but can I just talk to my Blaine people for a minute. You guys. You have no idea what you have meant to me. When marriages hit a rough patch and ACLs are torn and babies are born and kids are sick and all the other pieces of life that overwhelm, you have been there for me in all the ways that matter most. You reminded me of the simple, yet transformative, power found in putting one foot in front of the other, even when it’s really hard. Because sometimes it’s really hard when we’re running and sometimes it’s really hard when we’re navigating our way through the world. You have been the lighthouse signaling safety in the midst of a raging sea. Maybe you didn’t know that. I want you to know now. I could never ever thank you enough. Saying goodbye to you just absolutely sucks.

This world is so overwhelmingly horrible and so shockingly beautiful. There is suicide and Ferguson and the Ukraine and Iraq. There is so much. Becoming a runner and being a part of this group has shown me just how beautiful and good people can be. Thank you to Karissa for taking a few friends in Forest Lake and creating this beautiful lighthouse in the Twin Cities and now across the country. Thank you to all of you for joining. For some it was an easy decision. For others it was a huge leap out of your comfort zone. But look. You’re doing it. We’re all doing it. We’re getting stronger and making friends and accomplishing things in running and life that we didn’t know we could.

So you see, my inspirational story is a little different. It’s an affirmation or a reminder, or maybe you’re hearing it for the first time, that you are an inspiration. You and you and you and you. All of you. Because you show up, even when it’s hard. Because in a culture that says women tear each other down to lift themselves up, you know that together we go higher and faster and farther.

So keep showing up. Keep being a friend. Keep laughing and crying together. Keep believing in yourself enough to take chances. Keep believing in the friend next to you because the time will come when she’s injured or having a streak of bad runs or life is kicking her while she’s down and she won’t remember how strong and worthy she is and how grand life can be. Remind her. And in a few weeks or a few months or maybe years, she’ll remind you, too.

Keep inspiring your friend and your co-worker who says he would only run if a zombie was chasing him and your spouse or partner and your aunt who says you’re ruining your knees and your kids who look at you and see a happy, smiling, sweaty, beautiful, whole mama and realize they want to be just like you.

And if you ever find yourself in the Denver area and don’t call me to go running, may you get just a touch of altitude sickness as punishment and as a reminder that DeNae misses you. Because I will miss all of you and this community of strong, beautiful runners so very much.

Thank you. For everything.

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