Photo Credit: Rockbrook Camp For Girls
My parents didn’t want me to run. As the youngest of 10 kids, though, they soon gave up on trying to dissuade me. I had my mind set on running and I wasn’t going to give in, just because my parents thought that it was too rough on my “female parts” (they really said that). Running for me, at the early age of 11, became a time for my head to clear. I loved it.
I had a lot to deal with, looking back. Surely we all did. And I can’t complain, since my complex living arrangement probably helped strengthen my character over time. But since I was part of a farming family, I was not allowed to play sports for most of my elementary education. So I ran.
I joined the cross-country team in high school. I wasn’t a fast runner. But I loved to run.
When things around my home or school became a bit too complex for me, I ran. When people confused me with mixed messages, I ran. When friends confused me with their fickle attentions, I ran. I found clarity, an inner peace, and above all, a strength that pushed me onward through running. Whenever I finished a run, I finished strong and I felt like a champion. I wish my parents could see that.
Today, more girls than ever are participating in sports. They are gaining confidence in the experience of competition that is good for everyone, I believe. There are people who believe sports and girls are not a great mix, because a girl’s body isn’t meant for such aggressive, athletic activity. To me, they sound like my parents. Maybe they mean well, but they don’t really make any sense. Sports gives young people, young girls, the chance to release, express, challenge and strengthen. It’s a really beautiful thing.
Did you find any coping strategies most suited to you while growing up? How did you sort through the complicated messages that people in your life presented to you, so you could choose your own path to be true to you?
If you see a girl this week, don’t tell her she’s pretty. Don’t tell her she’s a princess. Don’t tell her she’s so sweet because she’s so quiet. Give her a high-five for being strong. For speaking her mind. For reaching a goal. For expressing herself. For playing her sport, whatever it might be. You might just help her feel a little bit stronger.
Here’s to all of you strong girls out there!
May your next run be a good one.