Over the years, I’ve noticed that new runners don’t just get healthier and more energized. They also often start to turn other corners in their lives as well. Take, for instance, Desirae. I met Desirae on a red eye flight back to see my wife and family. She was seated next to me and looked like she could be a runner. (She was at least wearing the uniform—running shoes, black tights and a comfy looking sweatshirt.) So before donning my headphones and settling in to my book, I asked if she ran. What followed was a truly remarkable story that highlighted for me, once again, the transformative power of running. I loved hearing it and thought you might too. Enjoy!
Becoming a Runner…
Desirae’s running story began without anything special to note, at her local gym, where on a whim, she decided to one day take a spin on the treadmill instead of her usual elliptical routine. Running had always looked somewhat intimidating from her vantage point up on the elliptical, and she was surprised at how simple and doable it actually was. Eventually she ventured outdoors to run in her neighborhood, which was liberating, but which also had the surprising effect of making the previously enjoyable treadmill runs not so fun. The treadmill even acquired a new nickname–The Dreadmill.
Eventually, Desirae found her way to a running store in a nearby town and was properly fitted in a pair of Nike Pegasus, which made another big contribution to the fun and enjoyment factor of this new running thing. Twice a year, she returns to this same store to faithfully purchase two more pairs of the same shoe.
Soon she also found herself in possession of a Garmin and began tracking her day-over-day improvements. That was fun and motivating at first too, but like the dreadmill, the watch found it’s use being curtailed too. The Garmin gets left at home most of the time these days. The pursuit and focus on the next “faster time” or “previous pace” got in the way of what she’d originally found so intoxicating about running—the simple act itself.
These days Desirae runs with her 11 year-old daughter….or to more accurately put it, “at the same time and in the same neighborhood, but not ‘with’ her.” Her daughter mostly enjoys lapping her on their short neighborhood course, saying, “Hello again!” every time she goes by. The daughter is fast to her and seems to have a some talent, which Desirae says she hopes she’ll pursue in cross country next year. Desirae doesn’t race much, herself. An occasional 5K is all. Her daughter is a runner because of Mom, for sure though, and seems to enjoy it.
Flying Through the Air with the Greatest of Ease…
While running was becoming a positive force in Desirae’s life, it was also accomplishing something else. The physical progressions of becoming a runner were also awakening an awareness that there were a whole lot of other things she could do and wanted to try as well. Becoming a runner “gave her permission” to do even more.
It was on a run when she had the realization that her son, then 9, was half-way to becoming an adult (and leaving home). She determined she needed more time to teach him all that she wanted him to learn. Full-time work was robbing her of the time she needed to guide and mold him. She’d been working full time since the moment he came home from the hospital. They’d had a difficult pregnancy and her son was born premature, causing her to use all of her maternity time with him at the hospital. Even after she went back to work, she came to the hospital and slept nights there for months while he grew stronger. Running, she is convinced, gave her the courage and belief in herself to know that she could step away from the financial security of a full-time job and that she and her husband would absolutely find a way to make things work—which they did.
Running also opened the door for a slew of additional fun activities:
Today, in addition to running with her 11 year-old daughter, they take trapeze courses together in a nearby town. Every Sunday they drive an hour each way to fly through the air under a big top. Flying through the air and being caught by another person 60 feet or more over the ground is like being a superhero, she says. The exhilaration after the act is unmatched. Her husband and other family members occasionally come to watch and video their practices. She would never have attempted this before becoming a runner, she says, and I believe her.
This January, after the ice broke up on the lake they live on, she also took a polar plunge to kick off the new year. This, she says confidently, will be a new yearly tradition.
Tonight she is flying to Florida to visit her parents. What does she plan on doing during her stay, I ask. She and her husband will be getting some much needed kid-free time for a few days, while her parents babysit. But first, she’s enrolled her mother and herself in a surfing class over in Cocoa Beach. She’s hopeful her mother won’t back out, but Desirae will be there regardless.
Keep Moving Forward!
Life is a little richer and full of so much more possibility for Desirae since became a runner. There’s more she says she wants to do, and running has given her the self-belief, a permission of sorts, that she can do almost anything. For this reason alone, she says, she’ll always be a runner.
Running will do that. I’ve seen it transform the lives of countless adults who have come through our 3 small stores at FITniche over the last 10-12 years. I’ve also seen it crack open the world like an oyster for my kids when they first learned to run. You’ve probably seen it too: the joy, the exuberance, and the unbridled enthusiasm a child has to go chasing off after almost anything once they learn to run. Desirae reminds me that whether you’re a child or an adult, running is a universal activity that unlocks our capacity to live life to the fullest. Running gives each of us the permission and the ability to open the throttle a little wider on life. May your running help you find and open the throttle on living this life a little wider too.