I am training.
They call this training. The running. Countless steps of movement.
A soft spring to a step I have gotten comfortable with; the following. Yes indeed, comfortable. I will follow you.
I could not begin to count the selfless guide runners I’ve met over the last 9.5 years of this ‘sport’. Can a thing be a hobby, if it’s calling is a cold sweat soaked sheet in the hours most still think of as night? Can it be a pastime, if it’s life-force carries your heart beyond the threshold of fear? An unfettering.
Indeed, I have become quite comfortable in the following. I wonder if my guide runners know I wish they were close when I walk the bank to cash the work cheque? I wonder if they know I miss them dearly when crossing the six lane, merge twisted city round about between me and my meeting? I wonder if they know just how dependent I have become on their voices in my head?
My goal has always been to create awareness for Inclusive Sport. This is what I cling to in the moments that my loathing for the actual ‘running’ creeps through. It always strikes me as funny when someone thinks I truly must love this sport. Everyone finds a voice and a medium. Running just happens to be mine.
Occasionally, when surrounded by the map in my head and the landscape that skirts my reality; yes, I do love running. I love to follow the trail, see where it leads. See what the world is like on the other side. See who I am after the end. I love that even when my skin doesn’t seem to fit, I can move along a wood, or a field and feel whole.
Yes, I am training.
I picked this goal to run a map I can’t quite see, across Tennessee this July. I picked it as focal point, as an “A” race. I knew the training would be a must. Not all of my training will make sense to you. There is a side of fear I must visit. There are demons there I have avoided at all costs, for far too long. There is this ‘independence’ syndrome that I normally don’t see in running.
The Last Annual Vol State; 314 miles of space I’ve never run through. 314 miles of unknown roads; of twists and turns and crossings and, apparently charging dogs. Outside of my ‘hobby’ of running, I tend to get angry at the levels of inaccessibility in the world. When I’m running alone in the dark, I stick to the roads I’ve practiced while following you. I might even have asked you to drive me down them first. I like practice. I like repetition. I like loops. I like to memorize the steps.
I like to judge the depth of a hollow from the sway of your hips. I like to anchor to your footfalls on the earth. The sound of your breath against the tree and rock are my most intoxicating moments on a run. The way you ‘see’ the world and how you share that with me, is the biggest gift, you’ll never know you gave.
A gift is never is to accept. I am fully aware that my constant slow, decreases your pace for too long. I am fully aware that to help me, you give of your own training. I try to distribute guide running requests across a number of people. This is so as to not take away too much from your possible. I know how you runners celebrate and relish in your possible. I’m grateful for all the guided steps I’ve ever been blessed with.
It is however a sheltering. I am tethered to the want of your voice, of your instructions to navigate through the ablest world in front of me. There is a child like ache in my soul to be ‘capable’ of just living. It is a hard reality to swallow that the world is not set up to allow such inclusive living. It’s difficult to look my children in the eye and say “I’ve done what I can, this is the way the world is”, and then sleep well at night.
As a whole, we can do better.
And so I run. I continue to flirt with this ‘hobby’ of mine. Space for disability in sport, and in life, may not come to fruition in my lifetime, but I will do what I can.
I am training. But my training is a haunting, hollowing experience of loneliness and fear facing. It is the running without you. It is the unknown road in front of me. It is the noise, the din that approaches in the light when I cannot see and have no telling voice in my ear to diffuse the fear. It is the wind moving between me and the oncoming. It is the edge of space where asphalt stops and more unknown begins. Is there a ditch? A safe step at least? When I get to that corner, will I be able to cross? Is there a light? A stop sign? The driver of the car may have waved me on, but I’ll never know. I can’t see through windows.
314 miles I’ve chosen to run alone. In my head your voices will sound though, in all my moments of attempted bravery. I hope to run most miles at night, but time will tell that tale for sure. There is a rather big difference between the black dark of country roads and the street light bathed city streets a slumber. On my side I will wear a BLIND RUNNER bib. Most will only catch a glimpse of this as they whip by at racy speeds. All the reflective and LED bright vests will be in my possession. I have made room in my pack for fear; because she is my constant companion along the unknown asphalt for all 314 miles.
Sometimes, to create space for a thing, a notion, a change, or a hope; you have to move beyond the margins you’ve been confined to and take up a previously shouldered place and do your best to be noticed.