Washington State is where I became a runner. And yet even that title came in phases. As I acclimated to Wallingford, my first real Seattle neighborhood in 2002, I started by running a mile or two mixed with walking. I wasn’t necessarily getting fit, but I was running and learning my neighborhood hills. After walking increments and building mileage I was running more than walking and decided I was ready for a 5K. Like any good racer, I carbo-loaded the night before the annual Jingle Bell 5K. Once I finally parked, walked to the starting line, waited and finally got going, I grew frustrated at how loud, crowded and stuffy it was inside the tunnel, the major section of the race. When I got home I realized what a small thing it was to run a 5k race. I also started to piece together what was frustrating about the race and what I loved about running in general.
I love that running requires very little than a well-fitting, supportive pair of shoes. I also love that there have never been more options of stylish (wicking!) running wear for ladies. I love that I can walk out my door and simply begin, by myself, without any ask, permission or special skill. The skill is only to keep going. I love that I can listen to music while I run. And I love that now thanks to Premium Spotify I can very specifically tailor a playlist to suit the exact requests of that run: wistful indie, sleepy 70s, power EDM, poppin’ 80s, dewy spring playtime, land, air, fire, and water. I love that while running I find insight for relationships (“end it now, this isn’t right”) and teaching (“five groups of four!”) and the freedom to choreograph pretend dance routines. I love that I can run for speed, hill workouts, or distance and still the bottom line is to always to keep going. I love the sheer opportunity of running. Most of all, I love that running is the only aspect of my life which always says ‘yes.’ I know that every step I give to running is me saying ‘yes’ to strength, joy and independence. Every alternating step is running saying ‘yes’ back to me. If you pace yourself and treat your knees well, running is an ongoing exchange of acknowledgement and affirmation. I could describe the 20-mile training run in the rain followed by eating a pizza on the floor, or the intense final mile of a 14-miler on the Burke Gilman, full speed, crying to “Like a Prayer,” or the hardest run of my entire marathon training which was three miles around the track behind my apartment chased by an off-leash dog, simply broken in spirit from a hard day. But none of those memories are as important as the overarching task of saying “yes” every time.
Having lived in Seattle for 14 years and running fairly regularly for most of them, training for a marathon, three halves, a handful of 15, 10, and 5Ks, and the regular joy of running, as a very rough estimate, I guess I’ve run between two and three thousand miles in Washington. That’s a great distance to come to know that if you say “yes” to the run, it will always say “yes” back.