When I started running, I was an awkward, skinny tween. I was never any good, but running on my junior high school and then high school track and cross-country teams saw me through some difficult years, and helped an uncoordinated girl who had never been good at team sports feel a part of something special. I loved the camaraderie of long runs after school, bus rides to meets, and the thrill of the occasional point I was able to contribute in competitions. Although I wasn’t a fast enough runner to join a collegiate team, college brought me to San Diego (heaven for distance runners), and the love affair continued. I spent much of my early 20s in the eucalyptus groves on my college campus, the dirt trails of the city’s scenic canyons, and of course along its many beautiful beaches. Eventually I morphed into a full-fledged distance runner, but somewhere along the way, running became a solitary pursuit.
Keep in mind that this was the early 90s, and the proliferation of running groups, meet-ups, and fitness camps had not yet begun, so I really didn’t have a lot of options as an unaffiliated adult. Not only did I learn to love the quiet time that a long training run can provide, but I also began to turn inward. Like most female runners, I am mindful of my safety, and easily alarmed by stories in the news about joggers and runners who are attacked. It took only a few cat-calls out of car windows and startling honks of a horn while out running alone to begin to feel like a target. I developed a slump in my shoulders and a downward gaze. The way I ran in my 20s was a lot like how I lived my life in my 20s – full of fear and self-doubt.