It’s Complicated

                                                              Here we go!

My first official “social distancing” blog post this Saturday March 21, 2020.  Previously I was writing for an online organization that ceased to exist as of   1/ 1/2020.  While searching for a new writing home I decided to take the plunge and start my own blog! So basically, and currently, I am writing for my 6 subscribers.  Well, five since my brother subscribed twice. Oh, but wait 4 subscribers since one is a troll but a troll, I am familiar with so half a subscriber since I doubt, he will read the same blog twice. Build subscribers I must!

Today like yesterday and the day before that and I suspect for the many days ahead life will feel more like the Ground Hog Day movie starring Bill Murray.  Run, shower, eat, walk, try to sleep and repeat. The day is occupied with trying to make life as “normal” as possible but there is nothing normal about what is happening now in our country and in the world.  Our once busy home in Vermont hosting friends and relatives is quiet now. Not even the sound of the heat coming on is filling the empty cozy bedrooms upstairs

My favorite local food market happens to be one of the very few options in our remote area. The doors have officially closed to public shopping, but online shopping has become virtually and instantaneously available. Desperate times breeds swift and immediate creativity to ensure continuity. Amazing to me how quickly we react and tackle a learning curve when survival is at stake. I remember when we were living in London just a quarter mile from Kensington Palace when Princess Diana perished in a tragic car accident in Paris many years ago. Waking up to the very sad news one August morning in 1997 we did what many people were doing and wandered down the empty High Street in disbelief. The Kensington High Street was normally burdened by traffic and the sound of black diesel cabs but this August 31st only pedestrians were employing the street leading to and from Kensington Palace. What was remarkable to me was that by early morning flower vendors were everywhere. Without exception people were purchasing and carrying bouquets of fresh flowers for the makeshift memorial outside the palace. How this happened and where they came from was mind boggling…what we do and what we can achieve in extraordinary moments in time is powerful and hopefully what will safely bring us all into the future and out of this current circumstance. 

 I ordered groceries yesterday for curbside pickup. Curbside pick-up? I can’t remember the last time I thought or better yet even used the word curbside but voila it has made a resurgence and its popularity may be a lifesaving measure. Being in vogue and trending phrases have very new meanings these days. Social distancing is the newest of buzz phrases but packed with meaning and implications for our health and well-being.  I feel more comforted that I can order groceries seeing we live quite remotely.  I am always more confident and self-assured after the first time I do something different for the first time. Placing that initial order, learning the new drill is a step forward but in what direction?  I can’t help but worry and wonder how long this process will last? Will this also change?  How much more threatened can we feel?  How much more insecure…I don’t think I want the answer to that question just yet. As my sister would say “this is exactly why we don’t have crystal balls.”

Maybe by slowing down, staying close to home and even closer in contact with friends and family we are investing more in those we love and care about.  Listening more closely to what and how something is being said. Possibly without external busy schedules our focus returns to the cherished friendships and beloved family members? Nothing lasts forever and there has been no time I can remember that has brought that point home to me as dramatically as the pandemic and the stock market crisis. We are on the precipice. So many unknowns and uncertainties for each and every household for an indefinite and undefinable time is so worrisome in this ever-increasing curious time.

I do already miss just going about my business with little thought or regard for anything standing in my way of doing what I normally do. Nothing exotic or noteworthy just doing what I do. I miss the early 6:40 am daily calls from my daughter as she would normally chat with me on her way the T just walking distance from her home but long enough to have some light conversation before both our days started.  I already long for simple lighthearted conversation which seems impossible to conjure up right now.  My daughter is currently in voluntary self -quarantine after just returning from a Public Health work trip to Africa, Harvard University has closed including their offices so her work from home days are open ended.  Habitually I am still aware of the time she would call each morning as it has been a lovely daily routine for a number of years, but the phone remains silent. Currently our conversations happen later in the day and as with everyone I speak with I detect anxiety in her voice. We struggle to find uplifting topics and conversations, but it is incredibly important to find something happy to discuss as my daughter is expecting their first baby early this September. My son and future daughter in law have been planning their June 27, 2020 wedding for months. Sharing their excitement, hopes and dreams is something we took for granted while planning of their very special day. I remain hopeful that the day will still be theirs, but it is just too soon to say. I just wish contingencies weren’t part of our daily wedding conversation and we could go back to discussing the details of the day. As a parent I recognize that for both children these are major life events and should be purely filled with joy and not anxiety, doubt and worry. There will never be a moment when I don’t want all that is good for my children and I find my early morning 2 am slot to be more ominous than ever before. Our family like all families is struggling to understand and navigate this trying time. 

Will we ever relax again? Will we meet in person again? Coffee dates? Will my snow tires be removed before the 4th of July? The journey may be singular but we are and must be in this together so we can come out the other side of this nightmare. I do believe when we all work together the greater good is served. We are creative, resilient and strong in times of great duress. Stories of extraordinary kindnesses and caring are unfolding daily. Friends, families, communities are being innovative in creative ways to stay connected during social distancing. We are the sum total of our experiences and this certainty is not only defining us but also redefining us. We will persevere and overcome this test and plight while we hold our friends and family just that much closer …

               Perspective during this curious time…running is more important than ever!


The snow is falling on St Patrick’s Day and while this is not particularly noteworthy in March in New England there is nothing usual about this March.  McFarland, USA starring Kevin Costner plays on the television as I write this essay. McFarland, USA is the heartwarming story of a high school Latino cross-country team’s remarkable running success in 1987. The volume is low as I have watched this movie countless times and could repeat the dialogue for each and every actor with running accuracy. Listening to a movie about running, while writing about running after taking a run makes for a very good day! Is there ever enough running in a runner’s life? 

 Freedom in childhood always involved and was equated to running. The outdoors has always provided solace and comfort. As a child the hay fields that surrounded our home were dotted with apple trees, the remnants of chicken coops and a small skating pond.  The open space always represented endless imaginary possibilities such as transforming a New England hayfield into the Great Plains. Nature is good for my soul, artistic inspiration and most importantly is stable and reassuring. Running in the back field or running down our once dirt country road was as important and basic to me as breathing.  I grew up running around a sandlot playing field as the majority of my neighborhood playmates were boys.  Petite in stature then and now has never stopped me from wanting or thinking I could compete with boys. Tenacity has served me well.

Today the landscape that surrounds my home in beautiful Vermont provides a different landscape but a comfort none the less. The Green Mountains continue to stand tall; rivers are freely flowing, and mud season is previewing on our unpaved roads. A twist or two of an ankle last weekend during my Sunday long run was a reminder that the tire ruts are not only adventurous but tricky terrain as well. This morning while running down my snow-covered street I passed the Appalachian Trail and couldn’t help but wonder how many through hikers will make the trek this upcoming season? Many hikers have been officially “social distancing” forever and a day but will this year be different? Everything is different right now…

I have been privileged to have met some of the best elite athletes in the world including past champions to current day elites over the many years I have been involved with the sport of running. I have had many mortal running accomplishments, very successful age group performances primarily in shorter distances but a good run so to speak.  I have attempted all road race distances but have been successful only as far as the half marathon. I trained for Boston Marathon 2012 but dropped in Framingham and ended up in Brigham and Women’s Hospital with bronchitis and dehydration. At the time and up until the evening before I considered the BAA’s offer to defer to the following year due to the high heat warning forecasted for marathon day, but I had trained and felt nervous but ready. Had I deferred that would have meant running Boston 2013 … just can’t go there. 

 “The marathon will humble you. But the truth is, sometimes it will do more than humble you. Sometimes it will break your heart.” 
― Bill Rodgers, Marathon Man: My 26.2-Mile Journey from Unknown Grad Student to the Top of the Running World

Our family home for nineteen years was in Holliston, MA right next to Hopkinton and the start of the Boston Marathon. I had the great pleasure of hosting visiting Kenyan elite athletes around many of their Boston Athletic Association events. Greeting the athletes at Logan airport and welcoming them to the States often for the first time was a great pleasure and honor. As a Holliston High School assistant cross- country coach I loved introducing running to some of the  high school age girl who struggled to learn the sport but  the elation in their faces as they finished their first competitive cross-country meet will forever live in my heart.  I have learned about the sport of running from the most knowledgeable and gifted people in the field from renowned running coaches,  running camps, running clinics, and endless informative running books. 

Technically I am painter by trade but often and not surprisingly I think of myself as a runner first. A lifetime of running and to date I have not wavered on my love of our sport. My finest artistic moment was in creating a painting that celebrates some of the greatest American female elite athletes titled “Women Who Inspire.”  Happily, and proudly the painting is part of the Boston Athletic Associations’ permanent art collection and hangs in the BAA conference room in Boston. How has running inspired my art? I am certain in more ways than I can even imagine.  My most expansive painting and writing ideas almost always form while running. Inspiration and clarity seem to happen simultaneously as the miles tick on. Our sport focuses on moving forward, looking down the road but seldom back…physical yet metaphysical. 

Running has numerous physical benefits and there is science to support this statement, but I would suggest the friendships made from sharing the pavement is the single greatest benefit. Heartfelt conversations, shared secrets, worries and concerns can melt away the miles. The fun and the laughter as we celebrate one another cannot be diminished.  Runners are more than happy to listen to anything and everything running related.  We obsess and live for it.  There is something about moving forward side by side that keeps the conversation flowing in such a caring and non-threatening way. Chances are on any group run you will have the opportunity to have a long conversation with one other runner or a few other runners as pacing increases and decreases. Magic. Even the silences are comforting as you simply hear the rhythm of another human beings breathing and footfall. Nothing better nor more bonding… 

Running during our current crisis may be more important than ever as we try to wrap our brains around a swiftly moving pandemic.  Personally, feeling a bit paralyzed by the information of the day or actually by the moment as social media allows is altering my focus. Trying very hard to employ a daily schedule in this very curious time we are experiencing is not without trials and motivational challenges. It all comes back to running as I head out the door to be once again reassured by nature that it will all be ok.  I want to keep my aging body as healthy as it can be since I now find myself in the undesirable age group that is most susceptible. Isn’t being in your 60’s tricky enough? I have decided to literally run from it …plus one cannot underestimate the power of endorphins! 

Maybe in actuality my true faith and reliance lies in running and nature just provides the stunning landscape. Either way I am grateful for each day I can put one foot in front of the other.

Lace ‘em up and head out the door…

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