by Freddi Carlip
Being home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been looking back at columns I’ve written through the years. This one was published in RG 10 years ago. It gives a glimpse into my life and how much running has meant to me. Life has changed dramatically over the last few weeks. I am grateful for all of my blessings and for having such a wonderful RG family. We have been through a lot together and shared our experiences, both on the road and off. Now we share our new normal, including canceled races and now the Olympics. Please be safe. Be well. Run or walk if you can. Please use social distancing out of the house. Think of others. Be kind. More “look-back” columns to come.
The image of a woman I used to know is burned into my mind. She’s the foundation upon which my life has been built. She helped me get to the starting line of the run that has become my life. Let’s see if I can describe her…
She entered college as an Elementary Education major in 1962 at Temple University. The joke on campus was that any college girl studying Elementary Ed was really going after her MRS. Degree. Her parents thought teaching was the best plan for the girl’s future. She really wanted to be a writer.
The young woman’s life was mapped out by her parents, by the Northeast Philadelphia Jewish community in which she grew up, and, of course, by Doris Day and Donna Reed. The only physical activity she ever imagined was giving birth, and perhaps golf or tennis if her social circle demanded it or it helped her (then) husband’s career.
An aside: She had no interest in anything athletic, except her hometown sports teams. She was forever being told she was terrible at sports…and she believed the words she heard. Her classmates laughed when she had to run during gym. She was always chosen last for neighborhood pick-up games of any kind. She laughed when the kids laughed, but she hurt inside. She dreaded gym the way most kids dread calculus.
All proceeded according to plan: engaged in her senior year of college, married a month after she graduated, taught school, pregnant, first child, second child…Stop!
Here’s where life’s plan, as arranged by everyone but the young woman involved, had a midcourse correction, thanks to the Running Boom of the 1970s.
You guessed it. That non-athletic Donna Reed wannabe is now an athletic independent woman of ‘wow’ 65 (make that 75!). She has developed into the person I’ve become; a person I never dreamed I could be.
Running has given me the opportunity to explore my limits, to test my body, and to push myself. My running roots are planted in the first Boom. They’ve grown deeper and stronger over the years. Hard to believe I’m now a Super-Senior age-group runner.
Through running I experienced the joy of my body in motion; I felt the sweat drip and reveled in it. It’s a cleansing, cathartic experience. I learned courage; courage to take risks, both in races and in life.
Women find that their 50s (and beyond) are a transition time. Their bodies are changing, and in many cases, their lives are too. They may be dealing with everything from hot flashes to insomnia and everything from an empty nest to the death of a parent. At no time in their lives is running as important as it is now.
Our runs give us time to connect with friends or time for some much-needed solitude. Every step we run staves off osteoporosis and lessens the effects of menopause. We can look in the mirror and say to ourselves, Look at me. I’m strong. I’m fit. I’m ready for anything.
What an example we set for younger women runners. When they see us out there, pounding the pavement, testing ourselves in races and on the track, they quickly learn that running is truly a lifetime activity.
I wear my stretch marks and lifelines as badges of honor. I’m a long way from 25, but I see my future filled with endless possibilities.
My generation has paved the way for the women runners who make up the majority of the second running boom. I’ve never thought of myself as a pioneer, but I am indeed. All of us who were out there trailblazing were pioneers. We have cleared the path for women runners everywhere. And we’ve shown them that growing older is not a curse.
We are older women runners. Hear us roar, louder than ever! Let our voices touch all the women runners who are running in our footsteps.
Categories: From Freddi