We go out in pace groups on long runs every Saturday morning.  The person in charge of the whole training program gathers at the front of what seems like an enormous heard of people who have been held captive in a 2×3 prison cell for each of their entire lives, grabs the megaphone and starts shouting:

“8:30 and under!  You’re outta here!”

“8:30-9:30! Go get em!”

And just like that, about 250 people start heading towards the path for the next 2-2 ½ hours of collective bonding.

Yesterday I found myself running in the middle of a group of eight runners: seven other females and one lucky guy.  I enjoy this for so many reasons, most of which I don’t have time to get into right now.  Suffice it to say, there are no “PC” conversations among runners anywhere, any time.  It is a universal truth.  And honestly, we all pretty much hate having to apologize to non-runners for that.  It’s just a thing.  If you don’t get it – come join us.  We are also the most welcoming and encouraging group of inappropriate, competitive, and crazy people you will ever meet.

The topic of conversation around mile 12 yesterday was the ongoing battle of GI issues.  It is also a thing. For runners and non-runners alike, unfortunately.  And it’s terrible.  While I don’t struggle with it personally, I know plenty of people who do and I hate it for them.  Zero fun.

“Yeah, well I have Pedialyte in my bottles right now,” said one of the girls.  “Does the trick for me much better than Gatorade which makes me want to hurl.  Too much sugar.”

“I take two Imodium before every long run.  I don’t go again till Wednesday, but whatever – totally worth it.”

On and on the grossness continued among a bunch of females who, I’m sure, were completely mortifying the one dude who said nothing the entire conversation.  It had to have been like an abstinence infomercial for him.  When we started talking ovaries, he bailed.

Camaraderie at its finest.

Running, at least for me, is one giant metaphor for life.  I watch as people in these groups vie for position:  some people HATE being in the back of the pack – they feel stuck, stifled, claustrophobic and simply, out of place.  Not where they are supposed to be.

Others are waiting for someone to say, “Ok, enough dilly-dallying, let’s go already!” after a water cooler stop so they too can start running again.  But they don’t want to be first.  They want to follow.

Some people simply listen to the gross conversations and laugh quietly to themselves while the ones telling the stories are upping their decibel levels as their arms are no longer pumping in runner-form and instead are flailing around in the air to make a point (or, affirm their Italian heritage).

It’s a beautiful, complex, and sometimes difficult engagement.  But the one thing everyone out there has in common, whether they are leader or followers, is this: they are all moving in the same direction.

Forward.  Making progress.  One step at a time.

It’s always been a struggle for me to “be ok with” (ugh…that phrase) people imitating something I have said, done, worn, etc.  Can’t tell you why other than I know it’s shallow and I know that yes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” except who says I want to be flattered?

I get on my own nerves about it, trust me.  So please don’t start getting all “Can you believe her?” right now.  I got it.  It’s annoying.  As I’m sure your own annoyances are for you as well.

When I was in second grade – yeah, second grade, so like 6 or 7 – my best friend Becky came to school with a pair of clogs like I had worn the week before.

And I wanted to pummel her.

I was SIX or SEVEN years-old.

Becky and I played checkers on the floor of Mrs. Mudrak’s class (the woman was retiring and hated kids, so she left us out to pasture every day [NOT A LEADER, LADY]) and all I wanted to do was capital D-destroy her.  At checkersFor wearing the same shoes.

This both embarrasses and intrigues me.  How can someone who is all about camaraderie and leading HATE when someone else does what she does?  Wears what she wears?  Is that nature or nurture or something completely attributable to nothing other than terrible?

It makes no sense.

Get out of my head, head.

Sometimes I think it boils down to nothing more than I think we should all just stop apologizing for who we are.  We should literally just be.  Just be the people we already know deep down we are.

But maybe that’s the problem: not many people know who that actually is.

Yep, works in progress.  One step at a time.

(Just please don’t wear the same shoes.)

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