Only In My Dreams

Only in my dreams do I sprint toward the hurdle. When I’m two feet away, I bring my right leg up to my butt and quickly extend it over the bar. It’s a beautiful thing, a split in midair. I continue scaling hurdle after hurdle until my final sprint across the finish line.

I’ve never done hurdles. I was the high schooler who after running the anchor in a relay or the 200-yard dash, went to the restroom, pulled a cigarette out of my gym bag, and smoked in the last stall.

Last week, I didn’t smell the tell-tale odor of cigarette smoke at Juan Jose’s conference track meet. No girl was hiding in the last stall.

I love watching Juan, Crystel, and their teammates run. I’ve known most of the team from kindergarten. At the meets, I can tell who the runner is by their body build, their stance and style before they even hit the straight away, their legs pumping up and down, their breath filling their lungs, and their arms propelling them forward. I stand twenty-five or fifty yards from the finish line, hollering, “Go Richfield, Go!”

It doesn’t matter to me where the runners place. It’s their heart that I love. I’m drawn to the winners and the losers, who give every ounce of energy that they have to the race. I’m drawn to the runners who strategize in the 800 and mile, who plan their break away, two hundred or a hundred meters from the finish. I’m drawn to the runners who starts at an all out run in the 200 and 400-meter dash, who have expended it all by the time they cross the finish line.

That is courage.

This track year, I was particularly drawn to a little guy with red hair, a sixth grader, who lined up for long distance races, who had to know that he was going to end up last or second to last and ran every race anyway. He stayed true to his nature and when he was one hundred meters from the finish line, he sprinted as if he was going to be first. I imagined him levitating, running on air those last one hundred meters. His feet were no longer on the ground, he had sprouted wings.

I remember that feeling. I quit smoking my 2-pack-a day habit in my mid-twenties, and started running marathons. I was like that red-headed sixth grader. Regardless of where I would place, I sped up towards the end of a race until my feet were off the ground and I was flying into the finish.

My days of levitating are most likely over due to a knee injury.

I’m okay with that. I can push myself in other arenas.

I’ll cheer on others. Celebrate with them.

The 200-meter race, is usually one of the last events of the meet. It was wonderful to witness the Richfield runners being first in every heat except Juan who was second in his.

Placing last, first, or second, it doesn’t matter. What matters is heart.

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A Wonderful Dilemma for a Middle School Girl

Crystel and Natty

Apple Jack Invitational. Crystel and Natty after their first cross country meet – A one mile race.

“Go, go, go, dig, dig, dig.”

I hear my voice replaying on the video and cringe. I sound like a crazy woman.

It’s just my child running a 5th grade field day race for gosh sakes. In the scheme of things it doesn’t even count. The distance is approximately 50 (or is it 100 yards?) and none of the kids are called back for jumping the gun. Still, there I am, my voice reaching a high pitch squeal.

Here she comes, my girl crossing the finish line … first.

I wipe away tears, choke back a sob.

I’m sure it’s her strong body and competitiveness and has nothing to do with my out of control fervor.

My daughter is in for some rough years unless I get banned from her sporting events. I don’t think they can do that to moms. But if they do, maybe I can wear my police reserve uniform and sneak in. And, if that doesn’t work, I’ll go as McGruff.

Not that I screeched any less at her brother when he was running. “Go, Antonio, go. Dig, dig, dig.” He’s in for the same mortification.

When another mom, texted a photo of 12-year old Crystel and her daughter, following their first cross country race as 6th graders, it hit me that Crystel’s experience in sports will be very different than mine.

This year marks the 42nd anniversary of Title IX.

10th place for Crystel and 20th place for Natty at the Apple Valley Cross Country meet

10th place for Crystel and 20th place for Natty in the 2-mile race at the Apple Valley cross country meet

In 1970 when I was 12, Title IX had not yet passed. Although I could beat my older brothers at most anything and was the only one who dived off the cliff in Spring Valley, Wisconsin into the Eau Galle Dam, I couldn’t compete in sports.

Regulations on how to implement Title IX, signed into law, June 23, 1972, did not go into effect until 1975.

This past summer, Crystel was mulling over which activities and sports she was going to become involved in during middle school. “This is what you call a dilemma, Crystel,” I told her. “You have so many options that you will have to choose.”

Three weeks into middle school, she’s done what she can to cram in her interests: piano, dance, cross country, and Kor Am Tae Kwon Do. If she could she’d figure out how to add soccer and a number of other after school activities.

When Title IX was enacted, 1 in 27 girls participated in athletics. One in three girls participates in athletics today.

In the photo, Crystel and her friend are self-assured, confident, and have just run their first one mile race. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, women who are active in sports have more self-confidence and are more outgoing than women who do not participate.

Most people think Title IX only applies to sports, but athletics is only one of ten key areas addressed by the law. Other areas include: access to higher education, career education, education for pregnant and parenting students, employment, learning environment, math and science, sexual harassment, standardized testing, and technology.

Before Title IX

• In 1972, women earned just 7% of all law degrees and 9% of all medical degrees.

• In 1970, women earned only 13.3% of doctoral degrees.

• Women weren’t awarded athletic scholarships.

After Title IX

• For the graduating class of 2013, the Department of Education estimated that women earned 61.6% of all associate’s degrees, 56.7% of all bachelor’s degrees, 59.9% of all master’s degrees, and 51.6% of all doctor’s degrees.

• Last year, 140 women graduated with a college degree at some level for every 100 men.

• By 2003, there was more than $1 million in scholarships for women at Division I schools.

1045198_1472771266320064_3137456199553566764_n1My WordSister, sister in writing, Ellen Shriner has completed a book-length memoir called BRAVADO AND A SKETCHY VISION LED ME HERE, a coming-of-age story that takes place in 1979 and 1980 during her first year of college teaching.

Her memoir portrays the challenges of women faced as they sought graduate degrees and entered the workforce.

On July 5, 2012, Ellen also wrote a blog piece about Title IX.

Thanks to Title IX, Crystel has the wonderful dilemma of choosing which sport she will compete in. Eventually when she joins the workforce, she will have more choices to her liking than women of previous generations had.

And, because of Title IX, Crystel and Antonio will have to put up with a mom that alternately shrieks and sobs at the finish line.

Why Run A Half Marathon?

Half Marathon start wearing a trash bag

Half Marathon start. Wearing our trash bags.

What am I doing? I asked myself at 4 a.m. Saturday morning.

Often I find myself asking this question—whether it’s getting bitten by a police dog, jumping off a cliff, or sparring a 20-something man.

Why do we do what we do?

I would have 13.1 miles to ponder this question, if I followed through on running Grandma’s Half Marathon.

It wasn’t that I haven’t run a half marathon before. I have, many of them. I’ve also run many full marathons—the entire 26.2 miles—Twin Cities, Grandma’s, Chicago, Big Sur, Whistlestop, etc… Some of them, I’ve run more than twice.

Most likely, I asked myself, What am I doing? then too.

Starting Line

Gun has gone off. Moving towards the start.

Saturday morning, it was drizzling. If it was a downpour, I wouldn’t have left our tent trailer where Antonio, Crystel and the dogs were sleeping—warm and dry.

There were times that I haven’t made it to the start line. On one occasion, I had a broken toe. Others, maybe I wasn’t prepared for the venture.

Today my only reason would be that it was a little wet. That wasn’t enough to keep JODY out of the half marathon so I didn’t even bring it up. I knew that I would feel bad if the weather cleared and the sunrise took care of the haze and most importantly, JODY would be out there running the race and not Beth.

Why We Do What We Do, Reason #1: We are partnered with a person who follows through when we might quit if left on our own.

I’ll admit right now that Jody is a better person than me and a much better athlete. With that thought, I just got into the van for the ride from the KOA in Cloquet to the Duluth Convention Center where we would board a bus and be taken to the start of the half marathon.

Discarded clothing and trash bags. I kept mine for the first mile.

Discarded clothing and trash bags. I kept mine for the first mile.

Generally, if I am able to get myself to a race, I can finish it. Even if I fall down in the first few miles like I did during a rollerblading marathon. I picked myself up, swatted at the road rash and kept going. I still have the scars.

There are events when wearing a trash bag is perfectly good attire, even envied. Saturday morning was one of those times. It didn’t appear that the drizzly weather was going to quit.

I had a strategy for the half marathon. I was going to run walk it. So the fact that I hadn’t run walked more than 7 miles to get ready for the half didn’t bother me.

Reason #2: To see if we can actually do something that we aren’t prepared to do.

I thought that I could run 10 minutes, walk five minutes and in that manner I would stay in front of the bus that would pick you up if you were too slow. It clearly stated the time requirement in the rules: A policy regarding time requirements will be implemented for the half marathon. The policy requires participants to maintain a 14-minute-per-mile pace (finish in 3:03:40). Those unable to maintain this pace along the course will be bused back to the DECC parking lot. Failure to comply with this time policy will result in immediate disqualification.

My new goal. To keep her in my sights.

My new goal. To keep her in my sights.

I’ve been threatened before with a mandatory bus pickup, but it hadn’t happened … yet. Now is the moment to tell you that I did run a marathon with my adult niece who was in the portapotty when they were coming to clear the course. I had to stop them from loading her and the potty onto the semi bed. She should be forever grateful to me.

When the race crowd surged forward, Jody and I knew the run had started. We moved with the wave and soon Jody was saying her goodbyes.

I altered my running strategy to run the first 3 miles and not walk any of it, because I knew that I could run that far without stopping and in that way gain minutes on the bus. You might think I am jesting here, but my goal was to finish the half marathon in 3:00:00 hours. That only gave me a 3 minute and 40 second leeway or I’d be forcefully placed on the bus. Being in front of busses, trash haulers, and portapoppy picker uppers has been a lifelong goal of mine.

The crowd I was with wasn’t moving too fast. That is the funny thing about these races. You wear a chip on your shoe and it tells you everything. For instance, I know that after the race started (gun time) that it took me 5 minutes and 52 seconds to cross the starting line.

Lemon Drop Hill

Lemon Drop Hill

This posed a problem for me. I only had a 3 minute and 40 second leeway before I would be picked up by the bus.  Does a bus pickup go by the gun start or the chip start? Most runners don’t think of these things, but I pondered that question for the first few miles.

Fortunately, about the 4th mile, when I started slowing down I saw a woman runner holding a placard that said 2:45. Whoa. If I could hang with her and her group, then I would do better than I thought.

 Reason #3: Sometimes we surpass our own expectations.

I was pleased to find like-minded people to run near. They ran and walked. So now, my new goal was to stay right with them and not lose sight of that woman with the sign.

Music urging us onward.

Music urging us onward.

I was around the 10-mile mark when Jody finished the half marathon. I know this because she finished at 1:54 minutes and at the 10-mile mark my chip time said 2:03:21. I had 3 more miles to run.

It is one of those things about our relationship that I have accepted. I had just started feeling my groove and was in the zone, but she was toweling off, wearing the finisher’s jersey, and fiddling with her medal.

It was there at the 10-mile mark that I left those 2:45ers behind and started running my own race.

Reason #4: We constantly push ourselves to make living worth living, to feel alive.

The last three miles of the race were my fastest times with the last mile of the half marathon being the quickest at 11:03 minute a mile.

In the zone you feel like you are flying and your feet have wings. I gave it everything I had and passed 220 runners in the next 34 minutes (this stat provided by your chip).

Finishers!

Finishers!

Reason #5: It makes us feel good, young, and healthy.

After the race, Jody said that she thought her full marathon running days were over.

“Oh, no,” I said. “When we’re really, really old there won’t be that many people in our age group.”

In our 50 – 54 age group, there were only 217 females running the half marathon out of 6,627 people. Just think how that number will drop when we are 65 years old. Now that’s the time to run a marathon.

Reason #6: Against all odds, against all stats, against all reason, we might win. Never give up.

Beth’s Stats:                                              Jody’s Stats:

Average Pace 12:04  per mile                    Average Pace 8:46  per mile

Overall Place 5881 out of 6627                  Overall Place 1927 out of 6627

Sex Place 3336 out of 3904 Females        Sex Place 725 out of 3904 Females

179 out of 217 Females                              22 out of 217 Females