The Winning Essay
Updated: Feb 25, 2019
Running as a form of freedom and expression of goodwill
I am in awe of seasoned runners. Their dedication to the pavement so obvious in their stature and movement. When I line up for my runs I always look at them for inspiration, knowing they will far exceed my pace. I watch the soles of their feet as they swing through the air, a metronome for the future. At times I also feel fear through the inspiration, finding myself looking for others in the crowd like me. Less finely tuned, but a little apprehensive about what I am about to undertake.
The wonderful thing about running is that often times you don't realize you are inspiring others in the mists of your own fear. During the Magic City 5k in 2018, I befriended a fellow runner who shouted to me over our footsteps pounding on the pavement, that she was using me as her pacer. If I slowed down, she was going to slow down, we were going to do this together. We encouraged each other throughout the race and gave each other a broad grin when we both crossed the finish line. It was this camaraderie, this unique bond formed during a time of physical trial that fed into my love of the movement and freedom I feel when running. Not only did it make me realize novice runners seek encouragement not just from seasoned and awe-inspiring runners. The likes of Michael Jordan or Mary Keitany, but also from the everyday runner, like me.
The motivation to run may come from any number of sources. Perhaps its the wind in their face, the desire to become healthier or more fit, or like me, a wish to use their limbs as an expression of freedom. Freedom from the mental stress of the day, freedom to propel your body as much or as little as you wants toward a common goal; to reach the finish line. Freedom to express good will towards others by raising awareness for a cause or championing a city.
Japan, holds a special place in my heart. To me, it is an endearment, a symbol of friendship and budding love. Vincent, my boyfriend, lived in Japan for three years. It was during his time in Japan that he decided to pursue a career in medicine. The decision that would one day lead our paths to cross.
Years later, on one of our first dates, he recounted his fondest memory of his life in Japan. The Sakuria Matsuri, or cherry blossom festival. He smiles every time he speaks of it. Last spring, l visited Washington D.C. ahead of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Knowing Vincent’s affinity for Japan and his mother’s love for Vincent and flowers, I purchased an enamel cherry blossom pin for his mom, enclosing a card with a detailed history of the cherry tree as a symbol of the friendship between the U.S. and Japan which started with the gifting of 3,000 cherry blossom trees in 1912. It was after sending the pin that Vincent and I discovered his mom, an avid gardener and horticulturist took part in a tree exchange in her own community in which Japanese cherry trees were gifted to her community as a sign of friendship from their sister city of Fukuoka, Japan. She sent American saplings to Japan in the same spirit. It would give me immense pleasure to continue the U.S. Japanese expression of global friendship and sisterly love by participating in the Maebashi run.
I believe that given the opportunity to act as an ambassador for the Birmingham Track Club, as a newly minted member, I would demonstrate to the running community and those who aspire to become part of the community that runners come in all shapes and sizes. We represent a unique common aspiration to move and seek freedom through movement whether on a trail or pavement. It is a common drive that brings us together across body types, cultures and languages.
I hope to use this opportunity to encourage runners in Birmingham by sharing my journey to Maebashi with the BTC community and fellow citizens of Birmingham through an online blog. Embracing the similarities and differences of our beautiful cities and runners that span across the globe, but hold a unique bond formed through running.