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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Leaving a Mark

Today was my day to cross train, so instead of running, I went for a long walk. I like walking; it's very relaxing and I seem to have more room in my brain to let my mind wander; whereas when I run, I often am just focused on the running itself, or the music blaring through my MP3. While I was walking this afternoon, I was passed by two runners. One, a small woman about my height in a very cute running outfit that was all coordinated. Secondly, by a tall man with long legs and no coordination of running clothes. And after watching each pass me by, it struck me how different each runner truly is.

Like a fingerprint or snowflake, each runner seems to have an individual gait -- their own way of running that is like no other runner. The petite woman who was dressed so smartly ran with short, calculated steps; on the other hand, the tall man's stride reminded me a bit of a loopy Labrador retriever with big clodding strides and a thumping way of pounding the sidewalk as if his feet were hooves. But these aren't the only two runners I've noted. I see hundreds of runners each week. Some I see running outside and many others I see in the gym, and I witness both the very graceful and the very strange ways of running.

I used to believe that the best runners were those with the long, steady stride, the ones that looked as though they were floating just inches above the pavement, and I have seen some runners who actually run like that. Yet, I have seen others run like they have something rammed up their ass, others who run kinda lopsided as if one leg is longer than the other, others who run a little crooked (they kinda weave back and forth and when I run next to these types in races I'm never sure if they're going to run into me or not). I also see people who run with very short, practiced steps, and then there are others who look like they are trying to reach into next week with their step.

Then there's me. How do I run? I really can't tell you. Some days I feel as though I am one of those crooked runners with one pigeon-toed foot and one foot slapping the pavement next to its retarded brother. Sometimes I'm extremely conscious of how my butt and thighs must jiggle up and down as I stomp my way down the path, and I think I have all the gracefulness of T-Rex. And other times I feel as though I am one of those perfect gliders who make running look easy and focused. On some of the treadmills at the gym, I can see my reflection in the glass doors of the dance studios and I catch a glimpse of a short (because my legs are Smurf-length) but even stride.

I am conscious of standing up straight, keeping my core tight, pumping my arms close to my body, and making sure my feet land heel first and roll onto their balls as I learned so long ago in seventh grade track. There are things I could improve about my stride I'm sure -- ways to adjust and smooth it out -- but I like the idea of having an individual mark on my sport. And if we had snow here in South Florida, I could turn and admire the tracks I made in the frost, and I would be happy to see how they said something about me and my running.

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