By Rebekah Barricklow

I started running early in life with my mom. She was extremely active when I was growing up and encouraged us to participate with her. We grew up joining in 5Ks, watching her in triathlons, and competing as a family in a year-long event called the Quad Games each year. 

When I had kids of my own, running became my sanity-saver. I ran pushing the jogging stroller, willing my body to get stronger and my mind to be clearer. I loved this time out of the house when I got to just be ME and not Mom, and I couldn’t wait to put my shoes on each day. My kids loved it too! They loved these runs with me, to see other people and places, and especially to nap outdoors. Running has become the sport that my family participates in together. Now that my kids are older they can ride bikes along side me and join in races themselves. It has turned into a major family bonding experience for us and something we are very proud of. 

Running has always been a time for me to process the struggles and joys of life. There is something about the rhythm of running that calms my thoughts and gives space for mental organization. I have spent countless hours on the road or trail smiling, grumbling, crying, and even yelling. As the endorphins work their way into my system I am always able to see things in a more rational way, to problem solve, and create on a higher plain than if I was sitting at home. I remember one time running on the trail with my headphones on yelling at the top of my lungs about something that was bothering me, tears streaming down my face, when I came across another runner on the trail. This passerby did not jump out of the way (although I’m sure I looked like a mad woman), but merely nodded and smiled as if to say, “I get it.”

I am not stubborn enough to refuse a treadmill run if that’s what is necessary, but the outdoor running is my real love. Actually, trail running. It is the best of everything for me— exercise, nature, and beauty. I love the sound of my feet on the path. I love the attention that is required to maneuver the rocks and roots. I love the dirt on my legs and the bugs in my teeth. I love to get out there right before the sun comes up and watch the world wake up. Right now, I have a nagging injury leaving me sidelined as my friends and family continue to run. It is a hard thing to have to try to recreate the magic of running. How do you mimic something so pure that requires nothing of you except that you show up? Any age, any size, any race, any gender, any economic class… all are welcome with open arms.