I “got back” into running after under-grad, collegiate softball, world’s softball, and graduate school, by my mentor teacher who told me we could either meet once a week after her run, or we could meet while running. Lucky for me, I chose ‘while running’ and since this was September, of course, the next available race (uhhh huh!). Was a 10k snow- shoe race………exactly! Why would I do anything EaSy? And so I found my way to the gym, because I had no outdoor clothes to speak of, alternating between making a fool of myself on the tread-mill and making a fool of myself high-stepping (yes I was pretending to snow shoe on the indoor track! Yes, I get I’m a CoMpLeTe dork!) while on the indoor track.
So, this trail running, adventure racing, log jumping and dodging, was my open gate to endless stories, friends, opportunities to discover myself, laugh, and get DiRtY.
Some of my best running memories are some of my snowiest, wettest, and dirtiest…..literally!
Katherine and I have been a part of a 100k relay team on and off for the past 7 years now. Over the years we’ve rotated some of the team runners, our team’s name, but some-how, some-way, we both circle back to being on the team. Our team has even seen years where someone on the team has been running for two.
Our first year of being on the Team we dubbed ourselves, The Coalition of the Unwilling. Almost every member of our team began life in a place, different than MI. nevertheless, here we all were, in the back woods of Hell, MI, to run miles through woods, rivers, swamps, mud-pits, corn fields, climb up the sides of hills and rock piles……doesn’t everyone define fun like this??
Wait! She left out the part that after recruiting us all into the Coalition of the Unwilling (having run on a different team the previous year), after we got our lottery spot by showing up to a freezing field in February and running in a pre-dirt run, she was 7 months pregnant and couldn’t run on the team!
We divide up the course between five runners dependent upon who runs long strong, short quick, who doesn’t mind a mid-day mud bath, and who can run and swim. Yes, there is a leg of the relay where the last half mile is going against the current of a river that has on some years been over my head. So yes, swimming strong is indeed a considered skill for admittance to our team and that leg of the race.
Katherine has had a few years where she came out of a leg of the DWD run not only with a gritty face, but a gritty body! Some of my best stories are those where I’ve come out of tangled brush not only dirty, but with wounds that were bloody! (One of my best years was one when the next day I went to pick out clothes to teach my six-year-old students and I had to wear a skirt. The kids were convinced that I was toughest teacher in the world who had out-run a bear over the weekend because the thrash marks were still red and swollen and what else could it possibly be. The teacher is from Montana you know, so she does things like fight bears – they’re six!)
The runners that have made their way into our coalition all have their own interesting stories and backgrounds as it seems birds of a feather……
Our team-mate and friend Ali, for years, was our Team MVP. Now that is a girl worthy of some shout-outs. She came stumbling, late to my college class I was teaching at the time, into my life……..and we won’t let her go. She went to college in Montana, and so a bond was immediately formed (I mean really….we both start in Montana and land in DETROIT, and her in a class I’m teaching!?!?! the Universe was begging us to meet!”). I passed her running out at Kensington with her dog a couple of times, saw her at a race or two, and knew we had to connect. She, like most Montanans, is a tough willed lady who works hard, doesn’t give up, and has one of the best smiles I’ve ever seen.
She said yes to our team with no hesitation and ran with us until she moved back to “live on the ranch” with her husband. I think the best year out there with her was when she ran pregnant and still passed boys on the trails. I always wanted to run my best, and be my best, when she was around. I’ve got one of my best pictures, captured by Greg Sadler, of me charging ’round some boy coming in to a hand-off to Ali.
Still, when I stop to think about it, it’s hard to put any moment above the one from this year where I came in from a muddy leg, saw some friends, offered a hug……..and the whole group scattered, like the best hit break ball in an opening pool shot.
And so each year in February, we sign up our team again, to run routes we’ve already done, where we are likely to get lost, unaided, get throw the clothes and shoes out gross, in a town that’s no longer a shocker to name drop, to play together in the woods, fields, and streams, because not only are we healthy enough to, but we share this love of silly-ness with some of our besties who maybe we didn’t go to high school together, but we’re making time to get our play on now together, just a little dirtier!
Run Clean or Run Dirty either way Dream Groovy,