Meet Ellison Weist, 54, one of Sarah’s best running friends in Portland. A mom of one twenty-something daughter, Ellison is the runner who passed Sarah right near the of her PR marathon when her engine had sputtered and died. (If you feel left out of an inside joke, read the mental toughness chapter of Run Like a Mother.) Sarah loves tweeting with Ellison (@egwreads) and reading her book- and running-related blog.
I was a scrawny kid.
Growing up in South Carolina, I was always one of the skinniest kids in my grade. Any and every team sport was an episode for embarrassment and defeat. In gym class I sucked in basketball, ducked in volleyball, and swung wide in badminton. Even neighborhood games of Red Rover, Red Rover were shameful occurrences thanks to my inability to keep anyone from busting through with my toothpick-sized arms.
What I loved to do was read and daydream. Not always in that order. My mother, a voracious reader herself, felt that afternoons and weekends were for outdoor play so she would send me and my two brothers out to run with the neighborhood kids. And run we did, through a large chunk of land known as Hitchcock Woods. Entire afternoons were spent dashing in and out of what I now know are miles upon miles of sandy paths and trails.
The year I entered high school we moved to a small town in the Canadian province of Ontario. For the first time I was introduced to the sport of distance running. Our gym teacher, resplendent in a ruffled tennis skirt, would send us out on two-mile runs with explicit instructions not to dawdle. I found myself running second in a pack of 20 or more girls, trailing only behind a beautiful Chippewa Indian who made her sub seven-minute miles look effortless.
From that point on, running became something I excelled at. More than that, it became a way for me to accept myself as scrawny, yes, but also strong and fast. It saw me through college and my first real job. Through marriage, new motherhood, divorce, and re-marriage. Through 10Ks and marathons. It sustained me through the death of my beloved mother, the very person who gave running to me whether she knew it or not.
After nearly four decades of running, my stride is awkward (“Have you had a stroke?”) and my times are slower. Still, I run each and every chance I get. These days I run so I can reconnect with the dreamy child I was. In my mind I am still that skinny, knob-kneed little girl--only this time I am proud, fast, and strong.