Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Week of Wisdom: Jennifer Luitwieler

Photo courtesy of 2355 Photography
I’m a runner. I run for pleasure and for clarity. I run for me and only me. I don’t race anyone. I don’t pay too much attention to my times, although I have been known to choke in awe at the speed of others. On my worst days, I’d say I run to get that dimple in my bum that real athletes have, but I’m way beyond that, on so many levels. I’ve been running longer distances for about a year now, anything up to about 15 miles. It started with a 15k (nine miles) last October, and I plan to run that race again, with a half marathon the following month.

Last year, I had very clear goals. I was just at the beginning of this love affair with running. I wanted to train for and run the Tulsa Run. All. By. My. Self. And I did. I spent a lot of time on the local trails, trying to convince my body and my mind that I could, in fact, run that distance without dying. At that point, my fear was that I didn’t belong in running tights. I didn’t belong on the starting line. I didn’t belong. I managed to get past that obstacle.

But that won’t stop me from finding something else to worry about. I’m a mother; it’s what we do. The closer the big race gets, the more I find myself walking up to a new fear and backing down.

Well, not so much "backing down" as "running away screaming."

You see, since I ran that race by myself, I got myself a running buddy. Not just any old running buddy. One of my best friends in the whole world. We don’t get to spend a lot of time together, so running together is precious time. We talk and laugh. We debate. We worry about our kids. It’s like Coffee Talk but with running and lycra, and sweat. And though we both will run the race, we are not going to run it together, for various reasons, all of which are good and happy and lovely.

Which puts me back to training for longer distances alone, of which I was suddenly and inexplicably afraid. My father would tell you that I like a good fight. He'd say I'm scrappy. I don't know about that, but I do know that if I find myself afraid of something, my instinct is not to run. My instinct is to stand tall and face whatever it is I'm afraid of doing by doing it. I might delude myself by thinking, "That'll show it!" But what I'm really doing is showing myself.

I had a longer distance run scheduled for this weekend, and none of the usual suspects was available to go with me. I could either run alone or not go at all. Not going was not an option. I was going to have to woman up and get my run on. And I did. And it was fine. In fact, it was all rather quite enjoyable.

Fear is such a stupid foe. I don't mean it's stupid to be afraid. I mean it's a waste of time for me to give in to it. Fear is a little kitten, hunched in the corner. We throw a light of acknowledgement on it and it appears to be the shadow of a tiger, claws out, fangs bared. Suddenly, what was just a harmless thought, running nine miles alone, is a predator stalking me and only me.

Not everyone has that same instinct, to fight. Some days I wish I didn’t have that mind set. It’s how I manage to try new, scary things. It’s sometimes how I manage to leave my house. I teach myself, every time I accomplish a new goal that I am stronger than I thought, and I’m sure as heck tougher than a kitten in a corner.

What about you? What do you do with fear?


Jennifer Luitwieler is the author of Run With Me: An Accidental Runner and the Power of Poo, available at civitas.comamazon.comand b&n.com. She runs, writes, reads and spins various other plates in Tulsa, OK, with her husband of 16 years and their three kids. And The Dog. Find her on twitter and facebook.


  1. Scrappy is good. I also love this image:

    "Fear is a little kitten, hunched in the corner. We throw a light of acknowledgement on it and it appears to be the shadow of a tiger, claws out, fangs bared."

    Keep scrappin'.


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