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Running through the Puerto Rican countryside is something I’ll never forget. Flanked by palm trees and the occasional wild chicken, I explored the island of Vieques mile by mile- cautious yet enthused by its terrain. But it wasn’t the steep hills or rutted paths that eventually brought me down. It was a sidewalk— a smooth, level sidewalk. For reasons unknown to me, I fell flat on my face and made a bloody mess of my legs. Luckily, my legs weren’t as damaged as my pride. I nodded at the bellboy and limped back to my hotel room. “Okay,” I admitted to myself, “So I’m a bit clumsy. That’s okay, most 14-year-olds are. I’ll grow out of it.”
Alas, neighborhood sidewalks and running trails have been relentlessly attacking me ever since. Just when I get comfortable, a random tree branch or divot magically appears and I’m either on the ground or flailing into the runner next to me. It’s an awkward existence, but one I’ve embraced nonetheless. I’ve run into street signs and tripped on my own feet and almost (but not quite) fallen into a canal.
I have a feeling I’m not the only one who doesn’t always stay on her feet, and that’s okay. We, the uncoordinated runners, are the perfect analogy for the realities of a running career.
Whether you’re a neighborhood jogger or elite marathoner: You have a running career. And no matter who you are, your running career is unpredictable. It’s alluring one minute and discouraging the next. You fall down and you explore new routes. You face injuries, time and time again. And dreams, failures, pressures of life: They all trip you up and bloody your hopes.
But know this: The wounds heal. Each bump in the road grows you as a runner and a human being. And I’d like to think that an occasional fall serves as nature’s call to resiliency, to embrace your humanity and laugh at yourself every once in a while. Whether we are falling metaphorically or falling into an all-too-real bed of poison ivy, let’s dust ourselves off and have a laugh.
As any clumsy runner knows: A good fall makes for a great story. So get back up, tell your story and keep on running.