Greenville, NC – You could call it my running year. That's because last year I ran. A lot.
Generally, we ridicule people who run away from their problems. But who wouldn't love to leave everything behind sometimes. As a child, I mastered the strategy, disappearing into the tobacco fields behind my house for hours at a time. In college I ran all the way to France to study, then ran back home to eastern North Carolina with a graduate degree.
And let's face it, 2010 was a tough year. It started with an ice storm; then my husband and I separated in January. My freelance work slowed to a trickle, yet the bills still poured in. When my Grandmother passed away at 93 in February, her death left me a weepy mess.
In the middle of all this, a friend invited me to run an 8K race in March. I'll never forget how good that five-mile trail run felt. The trees shaded me; the moss and wildflowers offered a colorful carpet for each step. I felt stronger with each footfall, and ran faster and better than I imagined possible.
When summer came I ran in the heat, the rain and the cruel sun. I ignored pressing demands. I ran at 6 in the morning. I ran when I was so tired my legs seemed like tree trunks I had to drag along.
Then last fall, I signed up for a 10-mile run at Medoc Mountain State Park. Starting out that cold morning, I wondered, what am I doing? It's freezing, dark and I'm using my feet to go farther than I usually drive for groceries.
But soon, the ground disappeared beneath me and those tree roots, rocks and hills became clouds my feet never touched at all.
When I crossed the finish line someone said, "Congratulations, Marion." It felt like returning home.
Now I've spent a full year running away from my problems, but it's been a pretty good way to handle them. I've lost a little weight. My blood pressure's nice and low. My sister even gave me the nickname "Uber-runner."
My niece, who's 6, has taken it up and now she runs a 9-minute mile. Good for her. Because when she grows up and asks for advice, she'll know just what I mean when I tell her that sometimes, running away from your problems is the best thing you can do.