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Suspenders & Sauconys

Several years ago, a crowd gathered at Historic Poole Forge in Churchtown, Pennsylvania, to watch the finish of a 5K “Run for the Cows” to benefit farmland preservation. My kids were running in the kids fun run, and I was busy tying shoes, running to the bathroom, (port-a-pots are important for the youngest runners too!), and coaxing one six year-old to run the event, with the promise of a Wilbur chocolate bar in her finisher’s bag. The first two finishers made their way through the covered bridge toward us. The young man out in front, let’s call him “Biff”, was a first-year college student and a former high school cross-country star. Biff was dressed as you might expect of a competitive runner. He wore short-seam running shorts, no top, sophisticated distance shoes, and a fitness watch, no doubt tracking distance, pace, calories burned, and heart rate. An Amish gentleman, let’s call him “Jake”, lumbers just a few paces behind, not necessarily dressed as you would expect in a button-down shirt with a collar, black polyester pants, secured with a button, and held up by suspenders. Jake gains on Biff, and the crowd murmurs the possibility of him taking over the lead. In the last few yards, Jake breaks his form to adjust his suspenders as they fall from his shoulders, and Biff surges ahead, securing a first place finish, and oversized cow medal. (Runners will do anything for a neat medal [and a Wilbur’s chocolate bar], right?!)

Spirit of Running

The two exchanged a sweaty handshake and breathless congratulations, and the crowd was treated to a unique moment of unity under a banner of fitness, fun, competition. Running doesn’t care if you are male or female, short or tall, young or old, Amish or “English”. When you gather together before a start line, with others who have trained for the same race (some more than others), you share an energy, and a buzzing eagerness- some for a PR, some to achieve a set goal, some to just get it over with (that’s generally me), but at that moment, you are with your tribe.

Are you a runner? Yes, you are.

Once, someone asked me if I was a runner. I responded, “Well, I run, but I don’t know if I consider myself a runner.” Could I allow myself a title, when I often had to really talk myself into that weekend long run? A friend butted in, and said, “Yes! You run, and you are a runner.” Those of you who run, you are part of a special class of people. You get up at crazy hours to get your runs in, choose races based on the theme, medal and t-shirt design, run with strollers, run on treadmills, and lace up over lunchbreaks. You are a runner. Now get out there and run!

Happy Trails, Allison

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