locomotion n. movement, motion, moving
About a week ago my one year old took a dive into the bottom of my bed frame and opened a quarter inch gash in his forehead. Being new parents, we took our blood covered toddler to the ER immediately, where they closed his wound with 2 stitches – all the while, my son trying to continue the sprint he started at home around the empty emergency room. Later in the day, as I went for a jog to clear my head a little bit, it occurred to me that locomotion – specifically running – has been an ever evolving practice in my life.
One of the first things my mother said when my son started walking is that I never walked as a toddler – that I only ran. So it seems my son has inherited this trait from me. He walked for a few weeks and then quickly gained speed and now it seems he only runs. When I was about 4, I was put out into the yard because, understandably, my mother had had enough. I ran, played tag with neighbors, rode my big wheels and usually returned to the house at dinner time covered entirely in hardened filth. My parents bought me roller skates – the great old kind with the key – and I taught myself to roller skate on the gravelly concrete, knocking the wind out of myself quite a few times but keeping myself busy for hours. I was always moving.
When I was in the first grade, my school’s CYO started a track team and my parents were very enthusiastic about getting me signed up. My father had run the Steeplechase in high school and was tall and lanky and loved to run. After or before practices in Votee Park he would race me and I still crack up thinking about the time he lost his footing and fell flat on his face. Saturdays were always my track meet days as a kid. My mom would pack up a picnic lunch and lawn chairs and we would head to a day long track meet with other St. Anastasia Blue Knights. Back in those days there was no stigma about little girls and body weight. We were put into heats based on our weight, and since I was rather portly, I ran against older, faster girls. I placed a few times, but it was just fun to run as fast as I could for 50 or 200 yards. Although, the relays were the most fun. For an 8 year old, learning how to pass the baton mid sprint was learning the true meaning of team work.
In high school, I was a sprinter at a very competitive sprinting high school. Running became more of a worry on my mind, juggling a part time job and school work. Like so many things as I grew older, running became much more complicated. I had to make certain splits to qualify for the invitationals on the weekend and to be in scoring heats for inter mural competition. The girls that sprinted at my high school were thoroughbreds – the best in the state, even the country. I was always in their dust. I used to have nightmares the night before meets thinking about the starter pistol and the blocks that could add whole seconds to your time if you tripped up. Perhaps it was this complicated mind game that led me to injury and not competing. Nonetheless, my sprinting days ended in high school, but the way I would run as an adult began.
I attended Providence College – a division 1 distance running school and I am pretty sure everyone ran – in between beers and keg stands. Providence was a great, hilly city for running and I remember my long runs to the East Side near RISD and Brown. Running became a way to get out of my head. Where sprinting and competing once caused me stress, going out on the road and not worrying about time or distance was heaven. After a few weeks of conditioning and getting used to a slower, natural gait, running became my haven during some difficult times. It still is to this day.
When I was young, I wore shorts and a t shirt – nothing wicking. My sneakers were the fanciest thing I owned. I remember my first pair of New Balances and how great they felt when they were so new and bouncy. I used to have a bright yellow Sony Sports Walkman loaded up with a mix tape of music that I had recorded off of the radio. These days my 34 year old body needs a lot of gear to get up to a 5K distance a few times a week. I don head to toe wicking layers under a wicking, thermal fleece that has 3 zip up pockets – one for my Iphone, one for tissues, and one for my wicking gloves, which inevitably end up coming off mid run. I wear a head band, ear buds and if it’s sunny, sunglasses. I top it off with an occasional knee brace or compression cuff for my groin..all so I can be comfortable while running…a sad imitation of what once came naturally.
My son’s running has earned him 2 stitches in his forehead…a fitting entrance to a life of locomotion.
I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way.
I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way.
And where does the power come from to see the race to its end? From within.
– Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire