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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Wowk


Run. A piece inspired over the miles.

Saturday breezed in on the wings of nostalgia. It was race day in Central Park, and Scotland's blue and white Saltire dotted the start and finish lines while the chilling cries of bagpipes verberated through the morning murmurs. Eight thousand runners huddled into their corrals along the edge of Central Park West; many were dressed in tartan, some paired kilts with running shoes, and even the painted face of William Wallace made an appearance. All were in attendance for a 10k loop of rolling hills - a course so reminiscent you'd have thought we were in Scotland! And with the starting gun, we were off...

Lately, I've spent a lot of time running. As my Instagram photos of split times and course maps will show you, I'm training for two half marathons taking place next month -- one of them in the fine city of Edinburgh itself. But I've also been thinking of the other kind of running; the kind that doesn't let you settle in for very long or get very comfortable. And given my track record over the past two years, it should come as no surprise that there is no more accurate analogy for my life than running. Running's analogous representations of my life are played out in the dual paradigms of distance and time.

While it's what I prefer to run, not what I desire to have between those I care about most, the latter kind of distance is largely what I have experienced the past couple of years. And while, admittedly, I needed distance from certain parts of my life in order to gain clarity and conviction, there have been other instances where if distance wasn't a factor - I imagine situations would have turned out more favorably. Distance running calls for sacrifice; a runner must decide which parts of her life to give up, albeit temporarily, and make peace with the consequences.

On the bright side, without distance, I couldn't appreciate the value of negative splits. A negative split, in running terms, is the strategy of completing the second half of a race faster than the first half; an exercise in strength over time. Negative splits, in life terms, doesn't mean I'll live the second half faster, but that I'll aim to live better. What are the signs of a life well-lived? They'd be unique to everyone, of course. To me, the resiliency to conquer hurdles and a heightened understanding of how to overcome the gaps between who I am and who I want to be. {Gaps and hurdles -- this race is turning into more of a steeple chase than a marathon, don't you think?}

Time; we all wish we had more of it, right? About three quarters of a mile in to the race, a bystander yelled out "great jobs runners, only 5 and a half miles to go!" {cue the collective groan!} While his words were most unwelcome, he got me thinking about how I typically approach life when I know (hope!) I have so much further to go. Do I awake each morning thinking, ugh, another fifty years to go - WTF?! Of course not. Instead, I think about how lucky I am to have more days ahead of me to live my life, pursue my dreams, or sometimes -- just be better than I was yesterday. This reminded me that I should take the same approach with running: how lucky am I to have that time ahead of me, that opportunity to run harder and chance to get stronger? And with a quick backwards glance, I confess that I hope both my best miles and my best years are still ahead of me.

Five miles later, as I rounded the southeastern tip of the course and admired the canopy of elm trees over The Mall, I spotted that iconic Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott sitting stoically, with his small book in hand. I was instantly reminded of the months I spent strolling past the very same likeness of him on Princes Street in Edinburgh. How patient he was then, watching the passersby as we navigated our way along the busy street. And how mindful he makes me now; the synchronicity isn't lost on me that the very same statue of him sits in both cities, as if I'm following a path I'm just realizing existed...

Ahead was the finish line, the very same the NYC marathoners cross each November. Crossing the finish, yes, I was thrilled with my personal best time, but this particular race was evidently so much more than that.

Time and distance are obvious metrics, but what are the miles worth without someone to share the ups and downs with? And that is where my running partners come in.

These upcoming half marathons will be the first I've run without a running partner, and it's a fear I've no choice but to overcome. Looking back, I've been so fortunate to build some of my most significant friendships through running. Whether it's been making new friends in new places or reconnecting with best friends in old places, running has afforded me the opportunity to create incomparable friendships. And knowing what I do about my own ability to form meaningful relationships (read: stereotypical introvert), it makes utter and complete sense that my best friendships have simultaneously evolved through the act of running side-by-side, with miles of opportunity to develop meaningful connections that dip well below the surface.

My running partners, and you know who you are, have helped me through very different, yet equally important, stages of my life. And what's more, they've shown me that the friends who are willing to run long distance with you are also the kind that are in it for the long run in friendship too. Undoubtedly, without them, I would have spent more time running from life's challenges and fears if it hadn't had been for their encouragement to, instead, keep running towards them.

Over the course of time, distance, and partners, I've learned an important lesson. Our lives are puzzles that we only solve in hindsight. Everything and everyone put in our path is for a reason, and if we take those reasons along with us until we need their lesson sometime in the future, and we apply those lessons, only then can we grow. By tossing aside the need for perfection, and allowing ourselves the freedom to continue to learn and evolve, we will discover our own abilities to overcome any challenge thrown at us -- both in running, and in life.

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