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A Reason to Run (on training for the Kili Half)

February 20, 2016
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Once, when I was running, the sky opened up and I caught droplets of rain on my eyelashes. The light reflected and danced from the corner of my eye and I felt beautiful as I ran slow and steady up the long hill, though I knew my hair was plastered to my head and I could feel the softness in my under-toned belly.
Once, I skipped church on a Sunday to run the twisty roads. I passed under canopies of green and watched the shadows shift and slide over the path, I waited for a break in the trees to glimpse Meru rising, and I listened to the sounds of a myriad of congregations pouring from assorted buildings, make-shift and permanent, blue-tarp walls and hollow stone edifices. As I passed a set of open doors a stately old priest clad in his white and red robes lifted his hands high and I knew I’d been to church just the same.
Once, I ran straight into the end of a rainbow. The sky was deep blue-gray in front of me, pale blue buoyed by fluffy white clouds at my back. Rain came down lightly on my skin and I looked for the pot of gold, but all I found was water and light, which turned out to be more than enough after all.
Once, it was early morning and I startled two wazee, dressed in their everyday best, suits and stylish hats, one with a walking stick and one without, walking the paths above Nshupu village, like they had this century, and last. I ran by with my call of Shikamoo and Semahani! and they both let out yelps of surprise and then bent themselves double with laughter. I laughed, too, and thought about a never-ending capacity for joy.
Once, I met a girl to run with, and we became friends. We told each other stories and talked about our kids, our experiences, our pasts as we ran mile after mile after mile. I made a friend, and I didn’t feel quite so alone after all.
Once, I was running at home and I ran by an old Daasanech grandma crouched by the shade in her garden, the smoke from her fire rising in her eyes. She stood up and stared at me like I was the craziest, palest thing she had ever seen. But then the next day, and every day after, when I ran by, she said hi to me to like she had been waiting all day for me to pass.
Once, I ran up the mountain further than I’d gone before. I didn’t know where I was, but I didn’t not know where I was. I was wandering, but I didn’t feel lost, and I liked that feeling a lot.
Once, I could feel my ponytail slapping the back of my neck and shoulders and it stung a little, but it was a good kind of sting and made me feel young again, like hot summer days, like big open soccer fields, like bike rides, like Dairy Queen and like kick-the-can on stay-light late nights.
Once, I received a Marahaba like a song from a dignified old man answering my greeting as I passed him standing by the road. I waved my hand to a neighbor and was given a smile so wide it lit up all the space between us. The morning had already known harsh words and frustrated sighs but I was given the poetry of a greeting, the grace of a smile, and I ran home lighter, to begin again.
Once, I slowed to a stop coming into view of my house and pulled out my phone to pause the app tracking my run. I checked my mileage and then checked my brother’s: him pounding concrete on city streets half a world away, me dodging siafu trails after a thunderous nighttime rain brought out all the pinching ants.
Once, when I stopped in the woods because of the two cups of coffee I drank before starting my run, I didn’t feel irritated at a body so changed from 10 years ago, before four babies. This body had seen her share of glory, housing and giving birth to those four babies so quickly grown, and there are more important things than finishing a mile under 9 minutes.
Once, while I ran I wrote the most beautiful essay. I wrote it in the twists and the turns of the trail, wandering but not lost, I wrote it in the rhythm of the pound of my feet, of the inhale and exhale of my breath. When I got home again, the words washed off in the shower along with the sweat and the dirt of the trail, and I resolved to
get up the next morning
to see
if I could write it
again.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2016 4:20 am

    You are poetry in Nikes…xoxo

  2. Karen Vander Sluis permalink
    February 21, 2016 5:23 am

    So happy to hear from you again and describing the way we communicate to others everywhere we go and live. We pray for you. Karen VS

  3. Chloe permalink
    February 21, 2016 5:50 am

    I am not, and have never been, a runner. Reading your story…makes me wish…but maybe, just maybe, I can try to see things unfold in my life AS IT IS…in the same ways that you were able to see things unfold in very special ways. You speak to me every time you write. Thanks, Joanna.

    • February 21, 2016 6:06 am

      Hi, Aunt Chloe. I can picture you jogging golf course paths. 😊

  4. Carol Linton permalink
    February 22, 2016 2:03 am

    Wow! That was absolutely beautiful! I imagined myself back in Metzer – Ethiopia. But we were on donkeys – not running. You are an excellent writer! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • February 22, 2016 5:39 am

      Carol, I don’t think I’ll ever think of the Lintons and Ethiopia without thinking of Becky’s stories about vomiting about any and every smell she encountered. 😊

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