Running Revolution: A Study in the Human Spirit

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." -Ian Maclaren

Photo by Marques Jackson. 

Photo by Marques Jackson

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When I first set foot on our school's lawn for cross country practice as an awkward adolescent, I had no idea I was stumbling into a new world and a new me. The people I would meet, and the unbreakable will I would see would forever change me.

Early on running taught me, at a precarious time in life, to focus on working hard, training and self-discipline. At an age when many teens were slipping through the cracks or succumbing to the temptations of destructive quick fixes for hard feelings and peer pressure, I was focused on lowering my mile time, getting faster and completing my first 5K races.

While all of us girls were inundated with messages on how we should look, talk, think, date and act by the time we reached high school, some of us were too busy running, sweating, shooting, jumping, throwing, lifting and kicking to listen. I remember my friend and I were the only girls in our weightlifting class, and we got called dykes and other supposed insults. But I was too busy focusing on benching more to listen to the scrawny boys sneering at us.

Later on, after high school, my friend A from weightlifting class ran a marathon, becoming my hero. She wasn’t by any means the fastest runner but no one on our cross country team had more determination than her. When A set a goal, she took any means necessary to reach it. And that day she ran the marathon, A, the girl who sometimes finished last in races, went further than our school’s fastest runners ever had. This to me embodies the spirit of running that brings out our collective strength as a species.

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No matter what pace you run or how you look while doing it, the fact that you get out there and run is a testament to the human spirit. I’ve been fortunate to train runners from so many different backgrounds - from Team Challenge runners training despite Crohn’s disease and hospital stays to high-powered Manhattan business women facing the same insecurities about their bodies that so many women confront. I’ve run with family members battling depression and suicidal feelings, friends haunted by domestic violence and fellow New Yorkers rebounding from homelessness.

Through all the miles, tears, hugs and sweat, I’ve seen the true strength of the human spirit shine brightest during these runs. Times, places, races and titles all take a backseat when you’re out there running through obstacles, silencing inner critics, slaying doubts and confronting demons head-on.

Running may not promise an easy panacea for everything, but it shows us the strength of spirit we need to keep pushing onward despite life’s most brutal knock-downs.

Run on, Runstreet runners, and let your spirits soar.