My good friend ran a marathon this weekend in Black Mountain, NC. He flew down from his home in New York and voluntarily paid to run 26.1 miles in the cold mountain air and on icy, snowy roads. We loaded up the car early Saturday morning to enjoy the brisk (i.e. frigid) air and do what all people do when supporting friends running a marathon — ring cowbells as he passed the finish line.
Half of those running signed up to run 40 miles — meaning they’d go to the top of Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak this side of the Mississippi and back to town. The same Mt. Mitchell that received 66 inches of show in January. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond the race organizers control, the extra portion of the race had to be cancelled for the first time in 19 years.
I respect and admire my friends who run. If you ever see me running these days, it’s because someone is chasing me. Who am I kidding, I won’t run, I drop and play dead. You see, I used to run. Every evening from the time I was 11 until I was 16 or 17. Run, run, run. This was also the 80’s when Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan didn’t apply to me, or the other girls I knew, and Keds were the running shoe du jour. Looking back, I understand my knee issues much better.
Title IX was implemented in 1972, the same year I was born. It guaranteed gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that received federal funding. Most people who know about Title IX think it applies only to sports, but athletics is only one of 10 key areas addressed by the law. These areas are: Access to Higher Education, Career Education, Education for Pregnant and Parenting Students, Employment, Learning Environment, Math and Science, Sexual Harassment, Standardized Testing and Technology.
As a young girl, living in the rural south, the only sport I had available to me was dance or cheerleading. Neither of those were considered a sport, but you spend hours per day in toe-shoes and tell me it isn’t a sport. I desperately wanted to play t-ball, but there were no other girls playing and since federal funding wasn’t being received, I wasn’t allowed to play. Many years of tap, jazz, ballet, baton with a few gymnastics classes were how I filled that time. I’m very thankful my Dad and Uncle taught me how to throw a baseball and kick a football. The baseball skills came in handy when I was old enough for softball and pitched.
But running, running was great. There wasn’t a team and I didn’t have to worry about acceptance. I could have tried out for the track team at school, but I was a slow runner. Besides, running is what I did to escape my teenage problems and clear my head.
I’d strap on my walkman when evening came, pop in some Black Sabbath and run. Iron Man and War Pigs were my favorite running tunes and I’d hit the rewind button in order to listen to them over and over. Even now, I can picture myself running down the length of my Grandmother’s gravel driveway, out to the road, and running from end of the road to other, back and forth. The throbbing of Geezer Butler’s bass with Ozzy powering through songs about a time traveling man and war kept me pushing. I preferred running Sabbath because it was hard, heavy and not the thrash/speed metal I listened to at any other time. I’m pretty sure my heart would have exploded had I tried to keep up with Nuclear Assault’s or Metallica’s “Whiplash.”
Gratuitous music break
These days, I walk and most of the time, I have in ear buds but no music playing. It’s so I can walk in peace and quiet and I’m not interrupted by people wanting to talk. I walk up the street to the elementary school in the afternoons where a lot of middle school girls teams practice lacrosse, soccer, and field hockey to name a few. At the high school my son attends I’m amazed at the athletic young women, knowing that when I was in school the only sports for girls were cross country, track, softball, basketball, volleyball and cheerleading. And cheer wasn’t considered a sport, but they were certainly athletes. I much preferred field hockey, but that wasn’t available and I’m pretty sure still isn’t.
That day on Black Mountain my friend crossed the finish line with tears in his eyes. He hit the wall at 24 miles in and slowed down to a crawl, but still made the run in under 4 hours and 30 minutes. He was six weeks post-op from shoulder surgery. My husband was there to greet him. We knew he had slowed down and I had went to the car to warm up, missing our chance to ring the cowbells when he crossed. But he got all the cowbell he needed in the form of hugs, local coffee, and time to soak in the hot tub, followed by dinner.
Sometimes, all the cowbell you need is that time with friends. At other times, it means something like Title IX to know that there have been others ringing that cowbell for you before you were even born. Knowing that you have that someone there ringing the cowbell pushes you further and faster than ever. We will be in same place next year, ringing our cowbells. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re at in life, you can always use more cowbell.