Metaphor for life: Joy for little runners, too
By Marlene Farrell
I have created a super-organism that is about to draw its first breath after school this Thursday, April 18. It’s 70 kids strong. They are its muscles, ready to flex and stretch and swarm over the track at Peshastin Dryden Elementary. The super-organism also has 10 or more volunteers, serving as its brain and neurons, whose job it is to coordinate the muscular actions.
I’ve done this before. Last year, the premier year for the Striders running club, we had 90 participants. This year we have less, not for lack of interest, I believe, but because I increased the time commitment to twice a week. The big difference is that last year I didn’t know what we were getting into. When the club ballooned beyond my expectations, and the paperwork never seemed to end and the volunteers didn’t know the difference between a plyometric and a fartlek, I just tried to keep up and didn’t take a deep breath until it was all over, in mid-May.
This year I can’t claim ignorance and whether I’ve put in 50 or 100 preparatory hours, I really couldn’t say.
I feel as ready as I can be. And I feel giddy. I’m scared to make a fool of myself demonstrating a plyometric drill, so I’ll have second-graders show the kindergarteners whenever possible. I worry that kids will complain about our occasional long runs of 2 kilometers (to prepare for the Girls on the Run 2K race on May 18 in Wenatchee) or that one of the 70 might vanish despite my best efforts when a parent arrives at pick-up. But the worries and fears are worth it when I get to watch kids with glowing cheeks, skipping through the grass, trying to bound like a superhero, giving it their all by picking up the pace at the end of a 400-meter time trial.
One of the big surprises last year was my joy when talking to the Striders. This was before dispersing over the football field and track, when we were still inside the gym, depositing backpacks. Although these kids were raring to get outside and move, I wanted their attention because I had so much I wanted to tell them. I forced myself to keep it to a few minutes, and I will again this year.
Running is a quintessential metaphor for life and all its challenges and joys. I want to share with the Striders that there is something for everyone when it comes to running. There is the diversity of running on a track, to climbing the flanks of a mountain, to competing in a race, to easy running and swapping stories with friends. There’s the thrill of speed and toughness and bliss of endurance running. There’s jumping and hurdling and throwing heavy objects. There’s the solitude of picking your own path and tempo and of pushing yourself. But there is also the camaraderie of the team, where everyone’s performance is important.
Running has given me so much. In light of the Boston Marathon tragedy, where I’ve raced several times, I am reminded of the universality of running, of caring for our bodies and for each other, of triumphing over adversity and even, sometimes, despair. Running shows us our inner confidence and courage.
I’m icing my right knee twice a day because spring fever had me running down mountains and rock hopping with my kids a bit too enthusiastically. I realize that icing, stretching and core work are all a part of running as we get older. I don’t love to do these things, but I am trying to be disciplined. For kids who are new to running (at least in the more intentional form of a running club), laps on a track might seem similarly dull or even dreadful. I hope to share the spark with those who will listen, that we accomplish so much by running if we’re willing to dedicate ourselves to trying. We will get faster, and we will go farther, and we will go beyond what we thought ever possible.
Marlene Farrell is a Leavenworth writer and long-distance runner who has qualified twice for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. She also helps coach the Peshastin-Dryden Striders kids running club.