I participated in a turkey trot on Thanksgiving, like I’ve done for the last eight years, but this year was different. In past years, I’ve gone with family, and our entourage is always replete with strollers and babies and grandparents and a pack of dogs. Our trot is more of a stroll; I usually sip coffee the whole way and we’re habitually at the back of the pack.
This year was different. I ran a 5-mile Turkey Trot with friends. (Well, they actually ran way faster than me, so I did most of it with temporary, pace-matched buddies from among the thousands who participated.
As I was running, I overheard snippets of conversations from the walkers I passed. Words like “I wish I were a runner, but…” or “I just can’t get into running…” or “Running just isn’t something I enjoy …”. I didn’t hear the tail end of any of those sentences but I didn’t need to, because they’re all sentiments I’ve spoken, many a time, during many a 5K stroll or while cheering at many a finish line for friends’ races.
I still don’t consider myself a runner. My ‘running’ happens in fits and starts and is punctuated by momentary highs, rookie mistakes. and lapses of activity. I’m slow. I still take walk breaks and I don’t really see my leisurely pace as something that needs a fix or an upgrade. But I’m beyond proud of myself for running those five miles on Thursday, and beyond grateful that I was able to.
During the moments when I ran alone, I kept thinking about my grandma, who passed away just a year and a half ago, and who had lost her mobility, slowly and begrudgingly, over the course of 30-some years. She was a fighter and resisted her loss of mobility longer than most humans would have endured. She never complained or let herself wallow in self-pity. She was always her witty, sharp self up until the end.
Though she never spoke to me about her feelings about being disabled, I have no doubt that she would have jumped at the chance to be able to walk or run even a few steps. And in her honor I was grateful to join the thousands of runners and walkers and babies in strollers and families in our course around downtown Austin on the most perfect, clear, sunny day, and relish the opportunity I have to move in any way I choose.
Even if I don’t really like running. Even if I’m not a runner. Even if my friend’s dad who power-walked the course finished just 10 minutes after I did. (No joke, he’s a machine). No matter what, I’m so glad that I can choose to run. That walking or running is available to me, and that I’m no longer the person offering the “I would like to be a runner…” excuse.