Heavy Running

The first piece of writing for which I was paid was a column in Runner’s World that ran under Women’s Running, but it had nothing to do with being a woman. It had to do with being a fat, slow runner who’d come in last at one of the local 5ks, with the sweeper car lumbering along behind me. I knew the deputy sheriff driving that car from my work at the court house, and as I huffed and puffed through the hills of Smithsburg, MD, he was on his bull horn.

“Grace, you doing OK? Your face is really red.”

“Grace, I have some water here in the cruiser if you need it.”

“Grace, my kid turns seven on Tuesday and I’d like to be home by then.” Or words to that effect.

But when I did cross the finish line, I got a big round of applause from all the volunteers and other runners, who also doubtless wanted to be home by Tuesday. But they stayed for me, and they cheered for me, just as they’d cheered for all the division winners and the grand champion gazelle who clocked off 4:30 minute miles like they were nothing.

This past year feels like that 5k. The hills got much higher than I anticipated, the temperature burned hotter, the pace was out of my league, and some joker in the sweeper car found it hilarious to publicly ridicule my best efforts. I hope I never have to do this again.

And yet, here we are. We made it through December, and through 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. We have crossed another finish line. In addition to making rude gestures at whoever is driving the figurative patrol car, I also want to express my heartfelt gratitude.

To you, my bloggin’ buddies, who provide thoughtful, genuine responses to my maunderings week after week. To my readers generally, who continue to amaze me with their kindness, generosity, and good humor. To all the writin’ buddies out there who have commiserated, put up with virtual-this and Zoom-that, and are still penning the stories that have sustained and entertained me.

To my family. The sisters who’ve learned how to Zoom, the brothers with their ridiculous text threads. To my wonderful nieces and nephews, whether they are sending me fudge or adding me to their approved contact list at a federal prison. To my most magnificent daughter.

To the neighbors who wave as they drive by, to the vet’s office that is still open, and the ridin’ buddies at the horse barn who roll with the CDC guidance of the day, week, and moment.

I am so deeply grateful for all the good will, good humor, and resilience around me. If I did not believe in love before, this year has proven that love can get us through practically anything. So thanks for walking some the walk with me, and here’s hoping next year is more about the good times and less about yet still another round of rubbishing resilience.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Are there any finish line volunteers you’d like to thank? Any buffoons in the figurative patrol car who’ve earned a rude gesture from you?

To three commenters, I’ll send an e-ARC of A Tryst by the Sea!


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18 comments on “Heavy Running

  1. I have a friend who unfailingly cheerleads me no matter what. I am immensely grateful for her.
    I have some recent doctors who are great cheerleaders, which amazes me. They will have my business until they wish to retire… and, I may ask if I can come see them at their house anyway after retirement. ;p

    The buffoon award goes to my husband who just said, “are you just gonna stare at it?” (meaning my computer.) I was thinking about any buffoons I might have met and… well, he came into the room and sat down on the couch! ;p

    I given mental middle fingers to many people in my life, but the ones that stand out are the angels who have been kind and generous. thank you!!

  2. My television has taken the brunt of frustration and anger I have felt this pass year.I listened daily to the news and reports regarding the pandemic and it’s effect around the globe.To many voices,to many opinions,to many fallouts.I would get all twitchy and respond to the tv by sticking two fingers up at the screen.In the end I stopped watching tv news.If I had not stopped.I think they would have had me sectioned.My saving grace was my next door neighbour.When I moved into my present home I was told by the caretaker that my neighbour was a troublemaker an eccentric and recluse.These pass two years have been difficult for all but my neighbour and I have looked out for each other.With shopping,cups of tea ,cake,wine and good healthy chats.She is well educated and has travelled the world.Before restrictions she spent six months of the year in India.We have supported each other through various complaints to maintenance providers of poor and shoddy work in our block.Things have improved.We are already planning the years layout of plants and flowers for our patios.Life must go on despite all that is happening.A good and Happy New Year to you Grace and fellow bloggers.

  3. All of the healthcare workers who are still trying to keep people alive deserve more than our thanks. I wish we could get those who are actively trying to make their jobs more difficult to behave more responsibly.

    The best friend of my nephew who is teaching his kids to ignore posted signs deserves more than a rude gesture. He put his kids on pieces of cardboard to slide down a hill in a park and then posted pictures on Facebook showing them doing so in front of a sign that clearly reads “No Cardboard or Other Sliding Aids Allowed.” I always knew he was an arrogant jerk but this is the icing on the cake.

    Here’s hoping 2022 is a better year for us all! And, Grace, I look forward to your postings every week and thank you for them.

  4. I want to thank my roommate Heather from my final year of undergrad who ran races with me& cheered me on as we approached the finish line

  5. I am supported by a community of family and fellow musicians and friends. These folks showed what they’re made of during the last 6 weeks, some of the worst times of my life. I can’t repay them or even properly thank them (I HAVE thanked them, but it doesn’t seem enough)so I vow to pay it forward when their rough times come.

    Rough times always come and 2021 was full of them for many. Here’s hoping 2022 is better for US ALL! Happy New Year, Grace and my fellow commenters!

  6. I’m having an immediate flashback to entering the military as a direct appointee 1st Lieutenant (being a highly sought professional in those days) & reporting directly to Officer’s Training from civilian grad school. There were so few women officers that there was a single long sleeve shirt apiece in our sizes for marching in the 100F Texas heat, which meant washing & ironing nightly in addition to the heavy physical demands until more shirts could be special ordered & delivered. Our long-suffering drill instructors were dealing with training women for the first time, so humor was required along with language modification. (I’ll never forget a newly-minted sister officer turning to one of the enlisted DIs with a mild, “That’s M*****F*****r MA’AM to you.”)

    As we hit the confidence course, the men’s worst fears were initially confirmed as none of the women had the upper body strength to climb that expletive deleted wall without major assistance. But they pitched in to boost us, drag us & generally do whatever was required once they realized we weren’t going to freak out at hands going wherever hands go when you’re falling & need catching & boosting while the stopwatch is running.

    Ah, but then came the parts requiring flexibility & agility to get those blasted ammo boxes over & around those red-painted pretend mines & IEDs. Their patience & willingness to give us a chance was rewarded as we pulled moves no male body was comfortable performing. Not only did we meld into the team the military wanted, but we found legit solutions that weren’t in the training manuals to the consternation & edification of the drill instructors.

    I’ve gotten a decent number of awards over my lifetime, but I’ll never forget my flight voting me flight leader, then trusting my commands & spatial sense enough to win the marching competition. We might’ve been the slowest flight, with everyone all holding back in tight formation to pace me, but we were the sneakiest, most creative flight in that class.

      • @Pam – The military taught me most folks are pretty darned awesome if you give them the chance, get out of their way, & fall in behind to give a boost if needed. Step up, lean in & take care of each other. Seems the world needs a little extra dose of that these days.

  7. I’m not much of a caller – it’s usually too late for me to call anyone when I have the time to do it. I am so grateful for Facebook and email which have kept me in contact with family and friends. This year I got a new appreciation for how isolated people can be who don’t have access to computers.

    No, I don’t really have any buffoons to call out – although your story about the race was hilarious, although I’m sure you were mortified at the time.

  8. Grace, that was an endearing story, thank you. So much in our world sucks right now, but there are minor miracles to be found everywhere. My husband spent 6 hours in the emergency room this week, having come down not with Covid, but with pneumonia. The place was a madhouse, with patients on gurneys overflowing into the waiting room. But two days later, the ER doctor who had treated him called from his personal phone, on his day off, to check up on him. We’d never met this doctor before and will probably never meet him again. In the midst of a medical system that puts up roadblocks at every opportunity, one person took the time and effort to follow through and check up on a fellow human being. May this year bring surprising acts of kindness to you and all your readers.

  9. Happy New Year Grace
    I have a huge stack of thank you too. I am neither the slogger nor the bull horn but a “late” middle aged individual awaiting test results.
    The pandemic hill having risen to new heights hereabouts isolation ain’t that bad. I rolled the dice on Christmas Day to be with my family all 4 of us in total, and it came up poorly. Phone call on Boxing Day to say the unwanted fifth guest was Covid.
    I give thanks for my friends who check up on me, my son who texts everyday, usually twice while he contends with a sick wife and child, my other son who emails from across the country. For my church friends and for the genius who got Zoom church up and running about a month into lockdown so we can see each other and talk after service. For the church acquaintance who emailed after a flip comment about eating out of the freezer, to offer grocery pick up as they live near me. I give thanks for the kindness of friends and strangers who try to help as I hobble about and who answer stupid questions. I try to return those kindnesses.
    I am markedly buffoon free, except the idiots we all have who think that what they want is most important and have no care for the world and people around them. Behaviours in line ups for testing being a case in point.
    I can only hope for the best and keep reading. Fortunately, I have Lady Violet.
    Stay positive, Test negative.

  10. This really has been a long haul, hasn’t it? I’m thankful for the friends who have been willing to social distance. I’m thankful for family who has been cautious. I’m thankful that this pandemic occurred in a time of social media and apps and online ordering! And THANK GOODNESS for meditation apps!!!!!

  11. I have friends who let me whine about anything I want and still love me. Those same friends bullied me into doing a Covid test instead of whining about feeling sick and it turned out positive! I am fully vaccinated by the way.

    I have a doctor who insisted on a tele-appointment so she could give me every little piece of information to know if/when I needed to go to the hospital (didn’t happen)

    I have 2 dogs who love me when I share my popcorn and when I don’t, when I take them for walks and when I can’t.

    I have imperfect but loving family.
    I am a very fortunate person and I am thankful.

  12. I was already aware of what wonderful folks I work with (booksellers really are a delightful bunch), but the genuine kindness, concern, and compassion with which we have helped each other through the last 2 years has been an anchor.

    I am extremely thankful for the medical professionals who are still in the trenches saving lives, but also the primary docs and therapists and nutritionists and physical therapists etc etc that have been supporting folks trying to gain or regain health amid such chaos.

  13. My thanks and appreciation would go to the staff of the retirement residence where my mom-in-love lives, they have had to deal with so much especially frustrated families who can’t understand why the residence is locking down (a building full of high-risk residents and skyrocketing COVID rates, maybe??)

  14. My husband has been my greatest cheerleader for the past 43 years. He supports me in whatever I try, whether it’s writing a cookbook, building a dollhouse, cooking a 4 course dinner for 30 of our closest friends…whatever I attempt or think about attempting, he assures me that I will prevail. Sadly, the person who held me back the most was my mother. She rarely had a good word to say about anything I did, whether it was schoolwork or my early attempts at cooking. I remember making brownies from a boxed mix. She insisted that I did something wrong, that they should have risen more. I added water and an egg…what could I possibly have done wrong? I even showed her the picture on the box, but, never having seen brownies before, she clung to her opinion. For the first 26 years of my life, I was bathed in her toxic influence, so my amazing saint of a husband had years of de-programming to accomplish before I could confidently say, “I can do this!” I am fortunate that he never gave up on me or allowed me to succumb to my demons!

  15. I always thought I’ve be the next Emilie Loring, Mary Stewart or Phyllis Whitney but life in the form of a husband, who was a government employee with overseas assignments, three children, and after ten years, a surprise fourth – got in the way. At 82, I help out a young friend who is editor of the local weekly by writing the city and county crime reports along with a twenty five years ago column. It’s not a novel but I help a friend. I am also writing memories of my life for my three year old granddaughter so she can know her maternal grandmother! Just think. if you had continued committed to your legal career, I might have turned to writing instead of reading! But, I have enjoyed every page. You are one of the few authors from whom I purchase a book knowing nothing but the title and your name! Thank you for hours of enjoyment!