Last Sunday (March 23*), I rolled out of bed at the unfortunate hour of 6 a.m., fell into my running gear, and drove into Santa Cruz with my sister to participate in the She is Beautiful run, an event that supports the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center. My sister planned to run the 10K and I would run the 5K.
The morning was foggy and chill as we parked our car and we rubbed at our arms as we hiked up the hill to check into the event. At least the cold woke us up; all sleepiness falling away in the face of the damp chill. There were complications with our bibs (which for a short while could not be found), but before long we were at the starting line with a multitude of women — many in pink — waiting to start the race.
Then we were off an running (well, it was walking at first, due to the crowds). We both fell into our own rhythm and my sister soon outpaced me, and I found myself running alone but not lonely among the throngs of women.
And what wonderful, beautiful women there were of all shapes, sizes, and ages, from elementary school kids to older women with wrinkles and greying hair. Women of amazing athletic skill and women power walking through the course. Thin women and round women. Mothers pushing strollers or with babies in packs strung across their chests. Disabled women in wheelchairs or using canes. And everyone cheering everyone else on.
At one point, a supporter on the sidelines, called out to the crowds, “You’re beautiful!”
I choked up and almost cried, because they really were and I was apart of that and it was an amazing feeling of love and community. I breathed and held back my happy tears and kept running.
I ran the entire way (minus the short bit of walking at the beginning and one short stretch of walking up the final hill). I wasn’t the fastest runner, but I did it. I accomplished my goal and that felt amazing.
As far as my first real running event goes, it was wonderful — such an empowering experience and it has me looking forward to the next one. Maybe next time, I’ll stretch myself further and god for a 10K.
*Yes, it’s taken me a whole week to write this post.