Running with Imelda

Written on Jun 29th, 2017 by , Category Training

By Marlene Farrell

Running improves us in many ways. Some are visible like how our physiques evolve — lighter, with lean muscles for traveling far afoot. A lot of changes are at the microscopic level of our muscle cells, capillaries and the endorphins coursing through our brains. The transformations that are most

Marlene Farrell, center, and her friend, Imelda, to the right of her, pose for a photo a couple summers ago at Chain Lakes.

powerful might be the intangibles, like increased confidence and serenity.

Kinship with other runners has been an unsought after reward of running throughout my life.

Six years ago, when my children attended Peshastin Dryden Elementary School, I met Imelda, the inquisitive and quietly passionate school secretary. I was a parent starting a kids’ running club, dealing with its unexpected popularity and fumbling with the school logistical hoops. Imelda guided me through the process and expressed curiosity about running.

I was ecstatic about getting 75 kids to run around a track, so her question had me immediately gushing about the wonders of running. Summer came and there was Imelda, joining our loosely organized Wednesday night trail runs at Leavenworth Ski Hill.

It was a quick transition to Imelda and I running together whenever we could — early mornings and occasional trail runs. The conversations were what made those runs memorable. We learned about each other and our different paths to Leavenworth. We bonded through shared values of striving, reflection and an awe of the natural world.

Then a few years ago, Imelda and her husband Nathan moved to Twisp. Imelda and I found time to reconnect only a couple times a year. We were together for her first trail race, the Rattler, held in Pipestone Canyon not far from her home. Since then, Imelda has launched as a racer, tackling a trail marathon and 50K. Her toughness might have surprised her, but not her friends.

Now it was June, and some trails were finally melting out. My children were happily on their way to Disneyland with grandparents, and my husband, Kevin, had to work before we took off for a short sailing adventure.

Thus, a day to see Imelda. Running gave us a reason and structured our day. She wanted to show me a beloved trail, which heads to Twisp Pass. So after an early morning drive we found ourselves on a trail steadily climbing through shady woods, across a rushing creek, past clumps of colorful wildflowers and over rocky slopes. Our emails, exchanged in Spanglish, could never match the depth of our conversations as we ran. We talked about things close to our hearts and shifted fluidly from topic to topic just as our feet adapted to the changing terrain.

The run led us to the snow-covered shoulder of the pass enshrouded in low clouds. My legs felt rather leaden from a stressful week and a recent trail marathon. But I didn’t mind because time with Imelda made me forget my exhaustion. As we stood on a dry patch of dirt and rock, an island in a sea of snow, we breathed the mountain air, feeling a touch of drizzle on our cheeks, enjoying a view of mountains unfamiliar to me.

We ran back down, sometimes talking, other times in contented silence. The day’s simple rightness continued with a relaxed lunch sitting in the backyard of Imelda’s new house.

Running brought Imelda and me together six years ago. It was the fertile ground on which our friendship grew. I cling to it now, even though more than a hundred miles keeps us apart. We think of each other when we’re on magical runs, knowing we can share them in spirit until the time comes when we can run with each other again.

Running is hard sometimes. There are days when all pleasure has vanished, leaving only the work of putting one foot in front of the other. I think so many of us run because of the connections we make, the long-term ones with running buddies and the fleeting exchanges with another runner sharing a path or finding a similar groove in a race. Running is a solitary sport, and yet the spirit of communal striving pervades it and inspires us.

Marlene Farrell is a writer, long-distance runner and coach. She lives in Leavenworth.

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