Running Through a Man’s World

Posted in Monthly at 11:49 am by Pasha

My heart was just about to pump out of my chest. I swear, you could see it pounding, raising my black cotton shirt up and down by inches.

I had to remind myself to breath, in deep through my nose and out long and even through my mouth. I had to tell my feet to move faster, one in front of the other. My mind focused on the lyrics in my ears, I downshifted and catapulted my body past the other runner on my right.

For the first time in my 27 years I was not only running with the pack, I was leading it. When I signed up for the Men’s Health Urbanathalon two months ago I knew I could do it. I just didn’t know how well I would run the nearly five miles. At times my runs are lackadaisical and require no fire from my belly.

But it seemed that the runner in me had found another force from inside; it was the force that did not like to be passed by men who thought this wasn’t a serious race. The runner inside decided that striding longer, focusing stronger and making moves was worth every second of burn.

When I started the second leg of the three-person relay race my body was in peak condition, having been stretched and nourished all morning. My legs moved quickly along the familiar bike bath on the Lake. I passed DuSable Harbor where I had sailed all summer. I daydreamed of securing lines and raising sheets. I ran faster.
Once through that first mile and a half the terrain became foreign, a path that I had yet to traverse. In the mile ahead I could see Museum Campus, and beyond that Soldier Field. The Chicago Bears’ football stadium was where I would stop to complete my first set of obstacles; where my legs would rest if only for a moment.

I crawled like an infant in pursuit under the Dodge trucks, then through the mud under a cargo net. My music player dropped from my shirt and into the soaking dirt. I picked it up and held it in my teeth, knowing my hands were needed for the monkey bars ahead. I jumped to the iron bars and swung. I didn’t go meticulously from one bar to the next. Instead I took a page from the jungle and shifted my body weight from hand to hand, finger to finger; my hips swayed so far to the right and left that I hip checked a few other racers. Mumbling apologies through my tightened jaw I reached the other side, jumped to the damp ground and began the last half of my leg of the race.

Thinking ahead I thought that by now I would have been too tired to run, that I would have to take a breather and walk. But my legs were mobilized by the adrenaline that was rushing through me. Once again on the stretch of bike path that winds with Lake Michigan, I fell into the groove.

At a most ideal time the song, “I’m Burning for You,” pulsated through my earphones into my muscles. I kicked it into the highest gear and passed runner after runner (mostly men), weaving between grass and concrete. My eyes focused on the diamonds that the sun and the lake created on a still morning; the ducks that swam perfectly in a row. I thanked Jesus for this life that he has given me.

From a half mile away I could see the final obstacle, military hurdles, and the third members of the relay teams waiting eagerly. I pumped my arms and pounded the beach to the wooden hurdles. Standing at least two feet above my shoulders, the structures were daunting. But I knew I had to make it. I would not be shown up by these magazine-reading boys.

I pulled my stomach onto the first hurdle, my shoulder muscles quivering. The cheerleader beside me yelled, “Throw your leg up.” I couldn’t, my short shorts and the splintery wood guaranteed a sliver in my thigh. So instead I treated the last obstacle like I would any average play ground. I gripped my hands on the wood and flipped my body over the barricade while balancing my body weight on my hips. The second barricade was a cinch and the third was my final triumph.

As I passed my timing chip to my partner I reveled in what I had just mastered. I had passed men larger than me, with more power and speed. My body, mind and soul was determined. And as our team finished in under two hours I swelled with pride. In the second leg this woman has overcome in a man’s world; leaving them nothing but a view of my derriere.


A Lifetime of Laughter and Love

Posted in Monthly at 8:18 am by Pasha