My chest had a thumping deep inside that I wouldn’t normally notice. The spitting of rain had stopped and the air was clear and cool. I kept a steady pace. I didn’t want to burn myself out in the first five minutes. People passed me quickly while I passed just a few but I knew it would pay off. I hadn’t run for several weeks, let alone enter a Parkrun event, it had been a couple of years, but I had to do something. It was only earlier that week that I had dreamt of the chance to run any distance was passing me buy with legs pains and colds but when I woke on Saturday morning I just knew I could do it and I knew I had to do it.
I had got up and flung together everything I needed. That old long and neck-stretched t-shirt that was a kind of comfort zone top for running. Ankle socks that cost extra because they were for running but the bright colours felt nice. A decision on which hoodie to wear given the threat of rain that would eventually come to very little. Then the decision of which running trousers to wear, the three quarter length regular baggy things that don’t suggest anything remotely feminine other than visibly shaved legs that would be underneath or the capri style three quarter length that I’d so confidently worn when I would run from home.
All this confidence the last few years suddenly in question over one pair of trouser because there would be several hundred people running along with me. I applied the question rule to myself, “If it didn’t matter what I thought other people might say, think, look, what would I want to be wearing today?” A question that filters and banishes any reason that would be linked to, ‘just wearing it to look feminine’. I ask myself this question because I don’t want to be wearing things just to prove to others or myself who I am. I want to do the things I do – because I want to. I get fed up of having to do certain things that I’m doing to constantly win approval from myself. The answer to the question was simple, the obvious capris because I like them better, they’re more comfortable and I just like them.
It felt good to be just getting in the car in the things I wanted to wear and get down to the city and join the others. When I arrived there were pockets of people walking to the park in numbers all in running gear, dated marathon tops of their last phenomenal achievement and equally baggy old comfort t-shirts. The start had that murmur of crowds-of-people chatter and that alone felt freeing.
The organiser made a speech of instruction and encouragement on a megaphone that was typically incomprehensible for the first two minutes until he exclaimed, “can you all hear me ok?” Before too long we were off and I held a steady pace like driving a road lined with speed cameras. I knew given how long it had been since I’d run. I would need every ounce of energy for the end and a few calories for worrying about who might notice my clothes and me and make some sort of odd calculation to what I was about. There was nothing to worry about, of course, and besides which people were concentrating on their own goals – it really isn’t all about me.
The well in bloom trees arched over the park path creating a pedestrian tunnel along side a scenic fast flowing river. The smells of spring and the morning thick. The park a line of runners meandering with the flow of the path and five kilometres in front of me to tread. An gentle pain in my lung and a weakness in my ankles just didn’t top the feeling of elation, not just for my identity but just getting some morning vitality into my veins and sharing it with other like minded people of all types.
I didn’t think much about the gender thing through the whole event. Apart from reminding myself that ‘the wall’ doesn’t exist and if it should confront me then I would simply smash it down, promising myself that if I couldn’t sprint the last few yards then it wouldn’t matter today, I was here and that’s all that matters, apart from that, it was just a glancing feeling that things were right. Things were clarified. Doubts put to rest, at least for now, and knowing what I want was actually, quite simple, really.
What it is about running, or any exercise for that matter, that clarifies thoughts and doubts I don’t know. The rush of adrenaline or stirring up nutrients in the body, who knows, but it works. That’s the moment I know what I am and what I want. Blockers just don’t seem to exist.
The end of the run was approaching. I couldn’t see the end, there were a few swirling bends in the path blocking the view, but I could tell by the people who were starting to tire. Breathing in and out through the mouth, that time when controlled breathing had been flung into the river by most. I had kept control of my breathing. Keeping my run realistic. Every pounding foot to the floor felt a bit heavier and the chances of a sprint to the end were unlikely but a good finish time and taking part was all that mattered to me.
The trees cleared and the time keepers came into view. I crossed the line with many. As if I had ordered it spartan spots of rain started cooling my face as I came to a stop evaporating from the heat of the skin on my cheeks, breathing in huge breaths and my fingertips tingling with lack of oxygen. I’d done it. A small victory for running and another for identity.
Until next time,