This image by Chicana artist, Yolanda Lopez, took my breath away the first time I saw it a few years ago. That it is part of the Getting Through College” series makes it even more significant for me.
I was not a runner in high school or college. It wasn’t until the middle of graduate school that I discovered that I enjoyed running. By myself, outside, without music. It’s a small way to be present in the world and in your body. It is also a place for me to sort through my thoughts. To me, running can be a kind of meditation.
I began running in earnest while I was living in South Texas, conducting field work for my dissertation. In the winter, I ran through “northerners,” winds that swept cold weather through town. In the summer, I had to leave the house early to not have a run suffocated by humidity.
My easiest and most pleasurable runs were in Santa Barbara, when I was on a fellowship to write my dissertation. There, I lived just a ten minute walk from the beach. I ran almost every morning along the trail to the beach and then on the sand. I learned about how the ocean changes colors with the sky, about low and high tide. One afternoon, I almost got swept up in the high tide as waves were crashing closer and closer the base of the cliffs. When I finally made it to the stairwell to go to higher land, some people watching me remarked that they “didn’t think [I] was going to make it!”
I enjoyed running through the tree-lined streets of my neighborhood in Austin during my last two years of graduate school . It was then that I also began to do some races–a couple of 5Ks and a 10K. I don’t consider myself to be a competitive runner, but I did discover that I enjoy the conviviality of races, especially “fun runs” and mostly compare my race time to previous race times.
When I moved back to California eleven years ago, I was still running. The apartment where I lived was at the intersection of two busy streets, so it wasn’t a great place to run. When we bought our house, one of the benefits was that I was able to run along tree-lined streets again. I used to run by a beautiful historic-looking elementary school not imagining that in just a few years my own daughter would attend that school.
I stopped running during my first pregnancy. My limbs felt heavy when I ran, and ultimately my doctor advised against it. After my daughter was born, I didn’t get back into running with any consistency. I was nursing, I was exhausted all the time, and I felt like I no longer had the extra time. After our second daughter was born, that was all exacerbated. I caught a run here and there, but it was not really part of my life any more.
[to be continued]