Why I Am Here

I run. I run a lot. While this running a lot is not necessarily a new development in my life, the meaning of it is. I ran my first marathon when I was 17. Now, at the ripe old age of 25 I’ve completed my first 50 mile race. It took me 8 hours. Other than surprise and shock, another immediate response I usually get from people when they hear about my ultrarunning habit is “What do you think about for all of that time?” And I want to ask, Well, what do YOU think about for any 8 hour time period?

Aren’t we always thinking? Why is it that people think that thinking while running is different than any other type of thinking? Is it?

But you asked, so I’ll attempt to answer.

I could start with a list of songs that I sing to myself, of parts of my thesis I think about while running, as well as that never ending list of what I need to do today after this run. I could name for you the songs that get stuck on a loop in my head when I cross certain streets with melody-inducing names (Virginia near Legion Park along the North Shore Chanel always makes me start to sing “Meet Virginia” by Train–and I haven’t actually heard that song in years, but the chorus is there, every single damn time I run along that trail). I could tell you how running is like meditation for me–that I don’t know what I think about because I’m just being. I could name for you the people that I love, why I love them, and why thinking about them while I’m running makes me both slow down and speed up. I could explain in detail for you the fake races I create in my mind to push me through the boring. I could recite Ani Difranco’s 9-minute long poem “Self Evident” for you. I could recite it again, again, again, again, again, again, and damn, again, until that last mile is done with.

I could try and re-create my mind for you.

That might even be fun for me to do.

I don’t think it’s possible, though.

But this is why I am here.

I’ve realized lately that I’ve never given myself the space to talk about running. I’ve always had friends who aren’t runners–who would rather drink beer and smoke cigarettes than run. And I’ve always honored this in every person that I hold dear to me. Hell, I enjoy drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, too, so I have always had that be the part of my life that I share with my friends, not my running. I realize this is a judgment on my part. Why would a non-runner care about how my 12 mile run went this morning? Wouldn’t she get bored by my thoughts on where I’ll do my next long run and which tights I’ll wear and why?

So I’ve stayed silent. Running has just been a part of my life that is important to me, but not something that I’ve shared with many people. But lately, I’ve been creating a different set of friends, a different sort of community. A best friend/lover who WANTS to hear about how my run went this morning. Roommates who don’t necessarily understand the why, but always ask and are curious about my running. Co-workers who ask everyday how my training is going and how long I’m going out for this weekend. I don’t know if any of them really understand it, but they all honor, respect, and love it.

The space that this encouragement has created in me is space that has made me realize how I get to clear my head when I run. Running is thinking for me. I run with myself, in the same way that I am learning how to sit with myself. To just be. To sit with, to run with, to think about all of the uncomfortable parts of life–and to honor them just as much as the things in my life that make me really fucking happy.

I want to continue all of this. To have space to talk to you and with myself not only about running, but about all of the things we think about when we allow ourselves the space to think.

And I also want to talk about running. About what I discover while I run. Because all of this makes me. The street harassment I face just about every time I go running, my queer and feminist perspective that helps me to name why stares and shouts make me so angry, the fact that I’m still trying to fully understand how my disability rights activism and ultrarunning completely fit together and possibly compliment each other, how running has helped me to heal from trauma but has also possibly prohibited me from healing in other ways, how some songs are still the best to sing to myself while running even if their meanings shift for me, how I want to make a statement with my long dreadlocks–that white women with dreads can run, how I want people to get over the fact that a white woman with dreads is running, the fact that I constantly worry about my body just suddenly breaking and what that means from a feminist, disability rights, and trauma-informed perspective.

These are the parts of me that I bring with me on every run.

Here is the space I have created to think more about them. To think about them with myself. To think about all of this with you.

Free-style Running

Free-style Running (Thanks to Karlee Miller for this picture from 2005)


4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Mandy said,

    Awesome, Chelsey! I love that you’re blogging about running. 🙂

  2. 2

    Pat Hall said,

    To my niece, Chelsey:

    The running spirit resides in our genes, hearts, body & soul. As a 30 year veteran runner, it’s what I crave for mind settling, energy enhancer & quality of life. It’s as important as eating, breathing & sleeping. I hope you enjoy it’s benefits for the rest of your life. Thanks for sharing on a blog & for your beautiful writing.

    Keep on blogging, running, & stunning those of us who love you!


  3. 3

    Betty Ann Hall said,

    Another “Happy Birthday” to my precious granddaughter, Chelsey. I enjoyed reading your blogs Chels. I am just now finding out what blogs are! You are quite a writer my dear. I didn’t know you were such a talented gal. Cheers to ya. Now I have to give you some very old advice that I got from my parents many, many, many years ago. And this is what I have to say: Enjoy life, worrying about everything is “such a waste of time.” And this ia a quote from my favorite, Katharine Hepburn! But it is so true. Don’t spend so much of your time in fear and worry and instead try and be helpful to other people who have not been so happy in life as you. If you help others, you will find that your own troubles and thoughts will soon be gone. Try to think positive (yeah, I know its hard) and most of all be happy with life and learn to enjoy every minute of it. Now this is your (almost) 85 year old Granny talking!! Hang in there Chels and you will be just fine!! All my love, Granny Hall

  4. 4

    Amanda Buffalo said,

    You are one amuzing person, you know that? I enjoyed reading about this actually. I knew running was big, but didn’t realize how big until now. It was refreshing to read.
    That is all. Run along now.

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