Both / And

A little over a month ago I ran my second half marathon of quarentine, and two weeks ago I ran a 10k. I didn’t post about either on Facebook. I’ve been engaging less and less on social media lately, and have hardly been writing at all. The world (and specifically my city of Portland) have been in crisis mode, and the last thing anyone seems to need is another white woman taking up bandwidth.

To say we’re in a difficult time is, well, a bit of an understatement. Some of 2020 life is a necessary difficult, like the ongoing pressure to seek justice for Black people and end police brutality; some it is an unnecessary difficult, like our never ending quarantine because people couldn’t be bothered to trust science and stay home in April (or at least wear a mask now).

As for coping, I’m doing my best. Some days my best looks like standing up for neighbors or calling my senators, and other days my best looks like emerging from the covers long enough to drink a giant cup of coffee and survive the day.

Throughout all of this, running has remained my sanctuary. Lacing up and hitting the trails is key to both my mental and physical health, but as much as I love the escape, I can’t deny the privilege that allows me to do so – having a strong (and finally uninjured) body, the time and energy to spend hours outside, or the money to afford new shoes. Beyond that, the privilege to leave home and return home safely, as we continue to learn over and over and over, is not granted to everyone.

So what’s the answer, then? Do I stop running because my energy could be better put to use elsewhere? Do I turn off the news and run anyway? Do I take a step back and be quiet? Do I use my  (limited but not insignificant) platform to share information? Do I stay in my lane? Do I even know what my lane actually is? Do I  read the news, and then go for a run because I need the release before fighting the rest of the fights? Is it still important to find joy where we can and celebrate every win, or is it gratuitous and tone deaf to broadcast a happy, healthy body that isn’t serving as a barrier between police and protesters?

The answer to all of these is an ugly, contradicting yes. Every day a complicated mix of all of it, and no two days look alike.

So these are my realities: my mind and body require running, and my community requires help. These two are not mutually exclusive, but overemphasizing one side of the equation does real harm to the other.

In an attempt to thread this needle, I’ve made a pledge to combine them. Fortunately, job security has not been on my list of 2020 troubles, so for every mile I race, I’m donating $10 to an organization helping on the ground level. In July when I ran the Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon, I donated $131 to Don’t Shoot PDX, who are phenomenal community leaders providing mutual aid for Black Lives Matter, and I followed up the Fit You Seek, Run You Must 10k with a $62 donation to Sisters of the Road, who provide nourishing meals in a safe, dignified place.  Tomorrow I’ll run the Wonder Woman 10k, which will be partnered with a $62 donation to Raphael House, who help wonderful women through horrible times.

Now does this moral cap and trade system absolve me of any further work? Of course not. But this hybrid approach keeps me motivated to continue racing and prevents me from disengaging from the needs of my community.

Turns out the answer was never either/or, but both/and. I don’t see a future where I’m not running, and as my eyes continue to be opened, I don’t see a future where we can ever stop working towards justice either. Donating as I run doesn’t solve either problem entirely, but it keeps me moving forward on both fronts.

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