April 25, 2016

The Leatherman's Loop 2016

There are running events that have inspired me and spurred me on as a runner. And then, there are running events that have changed me as a person.

When I ran my first Leatherman’s Loop, in 2012, times couldn’t be any harder. Micah had just died, my life was in ruins and I had kindly asked the Leatherman runners to please excuse me for not coming. They had none of it and requested instead that I and Olaf come present our recent running footage with Micah and honor our friend’s memory.

This would be the start of an amazing friendship and a lasting relationship with a group of beautiful people I now consider family.

Little Wings and two dweebs
I got to meet Christy Little Wings first. Instant love ensued. Then Dean, of course, who can make me burst into laughter at any given moment with a witty joke. El Copadre Tony, who welcomed me with the warmest of open arms, and Judy soon after. Born-Mas-Loco Kurt and his crazy homemade sandals. Jugglin’ Joe Cloidt, Karen, Gerry and his lightning bolt of a son Aemonn, Rob Cummings, Smilin’ Mike Poletta, Dave, Danny The Lion and the list goes on and on…

Every single one of these people reminds me why I run. All of them are beautiful, quirky, genuine, honest humans with colorful spirits. If your friends are a mirror of your soul, these people make me a beautiful person.

Pre-mud shot
The run itself is its own thing; a mudfest with waist-high river crossings, which begins each year by a prayer to Beauty. A wild rumble in the woods with yodlers and bagpipes to keep you smiling. An event that is nothing else than a huge party of runners who’ve been waiting for this as the starting gun to spring and to a new season of running happy, healthy and free. It’s nothing short of the best 10k you’ll ever run.

This year was extra fun because Rob surprised my good friend El Kodiak with an impromptu invite to join the fun as “The Stowaway” (that’s even what his bib said). We packed our stuff into my little truck and drove down together, taking every chance to be the happy idiots that we are. After having to show our passports to buy beer, making a wrong turn into back roads and off-roading with Dust-E in the back of a camping area, we finally arrived at the race site at sundown, just in time to see the awesome “Circle of peace”.

The top 2 on my podium in the girl + awesome divison
See, where other races will put up sponsor booths or podiums or a stage with music, the Leatherman’s Loop will always do something to inspire, to bring together and to make life a little better. This year, El Copadre’s family gathered to create an enormous “peace” sign with trail marker flags on the lawn of the Pound Ridge Reservation where the run takes place. Before the start was given, Tony addressed the crowd and, among other things, invited all runners to take some of these flags back home, saying “Take home a piece of peace”.

So we woke up to a gorgeous, sunny day, brewed some coffee and joined our friends at the starting line. We laughed and prayed and hugged and smiled and took off and splashed and splattered and sunk and rolled and sprinted and huffed and laughed some more. Simply, we lived one of these perfect moments that make life wonderful.

Beauty all around me as I run

I don’t know what I ever did to deserve being adopted by such an awesome family, but every April, my heart sings and my spirit dances with some of the best, craziest, authentic Human beings I have had the privilege to encounter.

Leatherman People, I love all of you!

El Copadre Tony, and the tribe.
(credit: Closer North)

April 13, 2016

Worlds Apart

To anyone else, it seems we are worlds apart.
What is it that brought us together?
It was always so simple.
All it took was a look and a smile.

Do you hear my dreams of you?
Can you sense me, reaching out?
Can you feel my hand, still cradled in yours?
Or my breath on your neck?

All we ever needed was a starry night,
A quiet moment, just lying still,
Whispering in each other's ear.
I should have stayed.

I look at you now and I tremble,
Not out of fear, or discomfort.
My hands get cold and I shiver,
Because I can't hold you close.

I told you almost instantly,
Like I knew it from before,
The stir I feel and can't explain.
You are a storm.

In a moment, I fear my words can't be enough.
"I understand you just fine", you say.
And you smile, lovingly.

Then we do what we do best
Peer into each other's eyes
Finding without words
What some spend lifetimes yearning for.

March 22, 2016

A Letter To Elitists

About 1/100th of my running family

When I began running, some years ago, I was swallowed whole not only by a sport that blends well-being, fitness and adventure perfectly, but also by an amazing community of people who seemed to share values very dear to me; humility, openness, simplicity and a desire to be healthier, saner and closer to nature.

As I got fitter, I set goals for myself. I dreamed that I would maybe run a race some day, and I did. A 5K. It felt amazing. I kept looking around me, and saw people of all sizes, colors and shapes cheer each other on, share the moment and lift everyone's spirit through the sheer love of running. I couldn't believe my eyes. And I wanted more.

So I kept at it. 5K became 10, and 10 something else. And you know what? Each and every time, I had a similar experience; I shared a moment with a horde of enthusiastic, positive people who simply put their busy lives aside for a while, dressed a little funny and lined up in some park or closed-up street to be five years old again.

From streets and parks, I took to the trails and was even further impressed with the people I kept meeting. No matter how much of a newbie I was, everyone welcomed me with open hearts and introduced me to more and more people and created more and more opportunity to inspire me, up to the point that I now am a fairly seasoned ultra runner and I know hundreds of fellow trail enthusiasts the world over. And I've never been prouder to be part of such a great community.

As I'd been taught by others before me, I developed a special attention to other runners around and made sure to be always available to help out, whether by offering a little piece of advice, a word of encouragement or my last s-cap to a struggling brother or sister. The law of trail karma quickly caught up to me and I could tell you of a hundred times where others came through in the nick of time, saving my race or saying just what I needed to hear to keep moving forward.

I could write pages about dozens of pure strangers who became instant family out on the trails, and I'm proud to be considered as such by numerous others I inspired, helped or supported at one point or another. It gives me great pride to call myself a runner and to have the privilege to hang out with such a huge number of fantastic people.

I want to insist here that some of the most amazing people I met through my running are international champions, top-of-the-top elite ultra runners who often went out of their own way to help me out, cheer me on or offer some much-needed advice. Most of them I only discovered later as champions, being told by other runners or seeing their face in a magazine after we met. They were as humble, welcoming and accepting as any other person, and in there lies something tremendously powerful and immensely inspiring. Something that reminds me how important it is to be cool to each other. Something that makes me want to be a better person, every mile.

So when I read bigot posts from supposed “elite” runners who look down on anyone who runs less miles or slower times, I don't only feel anger. I feel sadness.

I am sad because the other runners they encounter won't have the chance I had to be inspired beyond words by athletes who perform amazing feats of fitness and endurance. I am sad because in a world where everyone seems to be only interested in exploiting the next person, running – and trail running in particular – has always felt like a much-needed bastion of Humanity. I am sad because these elitists don't get it, but much sadder because of the harm they cause to the people they dis and ridicule.

When I wrote “Hey, Fat Girl”, it was because I was heart-broken from hearing a beginning runner call themselves inadequate and I wanted to reach out and celebrate them. When the article snowballed and reached hundred of thousands of readers and I started receiving emails and comments every day for years from people who'd been laughed at or dismissed, I realized first-hand the amount of damage and hurt that is done daily to beginners trying very hard to set themselves on a newer, better path. And I won't accept it. And I won't stay silent.

Every time you put someone down because you judge they are not worth being in your community, you are not only being a jerk and an egoist. You are attacking their hopes and dreams of bettering themselves. You are spitting in the face of people who might look up to you in search of inspiration or a simple couple words of encouragement. You are telling them that they are not good enough and that their efforts are useless. You are bullying them away from a potential life-altering choice so immensely positive that it literally transformed the lives of millions of people, probably yours included.

So the next time you feel like someone isn't good enough to post in your online community or have the nerve to toe your starting line, I'm not asking you to welcome them with open arms. I'm not asking you to turn your judgement around and try to find something positive to offer. Hell, I'm not even asking you to change how you think.

I'm simply asking you to keep your elitism for yourself and say nothing. And if you absolutely have to take your hate, disrespect and insecurity on others, create an ultra elite group and please remember to not invite me.

Meanwhile we, the other runners of the community, will take care of the cheering on and the high-fiving, don't worry.