Running in my hometown, I found myself running into a hometown hero of mine. When I was a kid, there was this woman who ran in my neighborhood. She was radiant. You know the kind of person that glows and it kind of hits you, even from afar? She was that. She always looked as if she was in an 80s fitness video with Jane Fonda. Those bright sports bra straps hanging out with these huge sweatshirts hanging down her body, even in the summer. I realized later those sweatshirts were not ironic, but used to fit her. 

This past January, I threw myself into the world of running and this had really made me reflect on that running lady and the impact she had on me. Sometimes we don’t even realize the effect we have on strangers.  

When I would see her coming, I would always be in awe of her huge curly hair going in the wind, just flying behind her. Everyday I watched her and thought about how she wasn’t even wearing a scrunchie, just running. I need my hair beyond tamed when I play sports or I touch it constantly. This was the bane of my father’s existence as I fixed my headbands between offense and defense in basketball. Not her. WILD! FLOWING! I envied her. She raged with confidence and happiness, unfazed or annoyed by seemingly anything. That hair would change colors frequently over the years, which also kept my interest when I was young. 

She would run by in storms, still smiling. STORMS! I hardly wanted to go to the bus stop on those days, but there she was with that grin. She would still say “Good morning.” Sometimes she would make a weather comment about how you still ‘gotta do it.’ That’s how I guess I felt about school at the time. I would much rather have stayed in bed than put on my uniform skirt for my Catholic School. Glad I was around before girls were allowed to wear pants in bad weather… Oh wait.   

Anyway, every day before school as she ran by me at the bus stop, she would yell that “Good morning!” She ran by me every single day at that time because that routine must have been such a habit for her. She always had that huge smile on, which at first made me think she was a huge psycho because who smiles before 7am? As I saw her more and more, I think I understood that she was just showing joy.

As I run more and more, I actually feel myself smiling when I hit milestones and my MapMyRun app alerts me. I smile when my favorite song comes on and makes me run faster. I smile because, Oh God, am I really saying this? I enjoy running. I think I am showing joy like she did.  

Other people can have such an impact on us and our goals. This woman is still having an impact on me long after she last said “Good morning” to me. 

Now, I have a fabulous group of rugby-running friends that I started this journey with. The support and encouragement of other people is unmatched by anything else. The texts and calls to encourage each other, the group runs, and tracking together has made this so much more motivating and fulfilling. I thrive on competition so I am not sure what I would be doing without this club. Running friends have given the best suggestions when I did stupid things like wear thin socks. They encouraged me to keep going on the days I didn’t feel like going. They have made me want to run in the literal and figurative storms. Running has been great to calm those storms and/or be proud you pushed through them.

I am so proud to be part of a group of athletes who are genuinely proud of each other and lift each other up so naturally. 

I can’t say enough that you should surround yourself with people who want the best for you, complement your goals, and want you to accomplish them. If people aren’t for you, they’re against you. Always remember that. 

Also there is no better solo date than distance running. My best thoughts, my most rewarding self reflections happen during these runs. No one in my head except me (and maybe Blink 182.) These runs have been so personal. There is no one pushing me at that time but me. It feels so good to set a goal and stick to it. 

I am proud of every single run no matter how far I get or how fast I run. Celebrating these victories makes me keep going. I know I am out there and doing it and that’s something I am proud of. It is so awesome to do something that makes you proud every single day. 

I finally understand that running woman, one of my hero ladies as a teeny athlete. 

I mentioned to my dad one day, some years after our first “Good morning,” that there was this running woman that says hi to me in the morning. To my surprise, he knew exactly who I was talking about, as adults know neighbors. At that time, I thought only kids hung out with neighbors so I was in disbelief. 

Anyway, my dad told me her weight loss story. She was very overweight when we first moved to our neighborhood and had health problems. One day, she took up running. He waved to her too as she ran by our house down the block from my bus stop. He said she just started and didn’t stop. He told me he saw her almost every day, too. My dad was just as impressed. She was electrifying in a way that made you want to commit yourself to anything that extremely. 

Now, over two decades later, I have taken up running and you bet I say “Good morning” to every single person I see. This woman doesn’t know my name and I don’t remember hers but I have seen her since I was around 8 and she is still going. Inspirational. I want to spread that joy she spread as I bring myself joy in my runs. 

I promised myself I would be proud of every run for her. Why? 

Because she did it and keeps doing it. That makes me think I can, too. 

I’m a running woman now!

So good morning, everyone. Let’s go out there and get it done, because you know… you ‘gotta do it.’