“Remember sixteen – when all the world was new and a lifetime stretched before you like fresh snow just waiting for your footprints?” Peggy Toney Horton.
This past Saturday, I ran 16 miles, for the first time ever. The number 16 has significance in my life. In a way, 16 has been a gateway number for me. It reminds me of movies like Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink. I loved Molly Ringwald and the accompanying fantasy of anonymous girl gets cute guy…maybe that was when my fascination with red-headed freckled women began…now I’m all about Julianne Moore.
It was the age at which I got my driver’s license, permitting me to venture out from my suburb of Mt. Lebanon into other Pittsburgh neighborhoods… Shadyside and Squirrel Hill, and of course into Oakland and the University of Pittsburgh campus where I had some college-age friends. It was when I started to realize that there would actually be a whole new world and life for me after high school….that in college anonymous girl can find her place even if she skips going to prom in her makeshift pink prom dress.
Sixteen was the year that my father took me alone for a drive to let me know that my mother had found my diary. She was reading it and relaying the contents to him. He suggested that I change my hiding location and as we headed back home, told me that I was not to ever tell my mom that this conversation happened. (Oops, sorry dad.) No repercussions….no temporary suspension of my driving privileges. If you look up the word progressive in the dictionary, you may just see my dad’s picture there. He is a man who in his 70’s continues to evolve rather than get more set in his ways.
Once I run 16 miles at the LA marathon, I’ll only have 10 (or more accurately 10.2) more to go…..10 miles is the number of miles that is actually “easy” for me to run now. 10 miles is the number that I don’t really need to stress about the night before…the number that I don’t need to have a whole fuel and hydration and rest plan for. 10 miles is the number of miles that this girl who couldn’t run a mile before can now just spontaneously run at any given moment.
Sixteen miles is the longest run Bethany Meyer did in her training before running the Boston Marathon last year. She survived it despite in her words getting “marathon drunk” towards the end, thinking that she was possibly hallucinating and may fall over at any point…were here legs actually still moving…or was she imagining that they were all the way up Heartbreak Hill and to the finish line.
Sixteen is also the number of years that I have been married to my husband (20 years together). At year 16, we are strong and in sync on a downhill coast, having figured out each other’s rhythm and what each of us needs from the other, despite being on a steep climb not that many years ago. We know that life’s course is not flat but hilly, and we’ve figured out how to breathe through the hills to reach the top before complete depletion that forces you to bail out. In our sixteen years of marriage, year one was one of the hardest… just like mile one still continues to be hard for me….panting and gasping, cursing and questioning what the f&ck I’ve gotten into…if it’s too late to turn back…not knowing that you need to warm into things. Before you know it, you’re at mile 2 and mile 3 and you’re on a high…so happy that you kept going…. You climbed the hill and the view from the top is so clear… you wish you’d had that perspective at mile 1 or year 1.
Mile 1 is the mile when if I’ve lined up with a new partner in running group, I turn to them and say don’t mind my rapid breathing and inability to talk right now…. you feel free to take the lead….reassuring them that I am in the right pace group, and that by mile 3 I’ll have found my stride, turning into a chatterbox for the rest of our time.
This past Saturday, I ran 16 miles, and because I ran with my training group and side by side with another runner – a companion at my side, with the rhythmic sounds of our footsteps, water sloshing in our bottles, and our inhales and exhales; it was so much easier from the solo 14-miler I wrote about in the post Pain.
This past Saturday, I ran 16 miles. I felt great, aware that the energy expended by my legs had been used to fuel my brain. I knew at the end, that my heart, my soul, and my legs, have enough left in them for many more years and miles of flight ahead.
*This post was originally published on 11/23/15.