Sunday, February 21, 2010

"We believe in women."

I found a back issue of Runner’s World last night: November 2005. It was the introduction of Mary Wittenberg, then the new director of the New York City Marathon. In the article, she is quoted as saying, “This is our statement: We believe in women.”

Good on ya, girl! Me too!

I ran New York for the first time in 1984, the same year that the Olympic Games hosted the first women’s marathon. The gold medal was won by American Joan Benoit in her white painter’s cap. My mom and I watched together from her hospital bed in Virginia. She knew I had entered the New York Marathon for later that fall and was fairly certain that I had lost my mind. But watching Joan Benoit cross the finish line, she suddenly saw the potential of a hardheaded, hard-driving woman in running shoes. My mom, of a genteel generation that regarded sweat as the exclusive purview of men, acknowledged, “Maybe a woman running a marathon is possible … even for you.”

She died a few days later. I think she was a little amused and kind of proud of me for thinking I could do such an outrageous thing. I carried her (and Joan Benoit) in my heart when I ran that New York.

In some ways, returning to running after a few years off is harder than starting from scratch. My head has expectations that my body cannot meet right now or maybe ever again. But that’s okay. I think I’m going to get myself a white painter’s cap and lock onto the “possible.”

See ya in New York!

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