There’s a Place for You at the Starting Line

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

By: Anne Joos, Charm City Run Racing Team Member

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (1994 in Abilene, TX to be exact) I bought my first pair of running shoes.  I’d gone from being a high school athlete to being a couch potato and had put on some weight.  I’d seen an article in a beauty magazine that had a tag line “have you ever seen a fat runner”. 

What an absolutely horrible message.  I look around now and nothing could be further from that ridiculous tag line.  But it resonated with me, so I bought a pair of Nike Pegasus and a couple of sports bras and hit the road.

And hated it.  It was chore.  At the time I was in the Air Force and there was no running community near Dyess AFB.  To be fair, this was in the dark ages, when the internet was still in it’s infancy and connecting with other people was more challenging, so there could have been one but I hadn’t found it.  Things didn’t really change when I was moved to Fayetteville, NC.  I ran, occasionally.  Found lots of excuses not to, since it was still just a means to an end.

In 1999, I moved to Baltimore and ran in the Preakness 5k.  I’d run a couple of Turkey trots when I was very young, so this wasn’t my first 5k.  But it was the first time I’d glimpsed the possibility of enjoying my runs.  I’d grown up in a competitive family (board games are cut-throat) and when I left high school sports and my family behind (they’re in California), I’d lost that spark.  And even though I’d gone out WAY too fast at the gun, struggling to complete the remainder of the run, something was reignited.

2019 was when I began volunteering after having a particularly bad half-marathon (a distance I had sworn I’d never do claiming those people were crazy).  This was my fourth race at that distance and I almost didn’t finish.  Not sure if it was my back or my IT band that started the party, but I could barely walk when I crossed the finish line.  What stood out were the various volunteers that checked on me when I was clearly struggling.  When I ducked into the medical tent , one of the volunteers followed me to make sure I received my finisher medal.  The medal didn’t mean much but the gesture did.  I knew it was time for me to give back.  So I volunteered that year for the Baltimore Triathlon (which launched me into another sport).

Nowadays, I sign up for as many races as my calendar and pocket book allow, both running and triathlon.  Volunteering still gives me a lot of satisfaction, especially seeing the young kids and the newbies that are starting what will hopefully be a lifelong endeavor.  Every single one of those events reminds me just how wrong that beauty magazine was all those years ago.  Regardless of age, physical build, speed, or what kind of fancy gear you have (or don’t), there’s a place for you at the starting line.  Running remains about personal achievement, of course.  I’ll likely never lose that competitive part of me.  It’s so much more though.  Running gives me a way to stay fit and to get out of my head when I’ve had a tough day bringing me peace. Running gives me a community.  Being part of a sport that is so supportive, inclusive and gives back in so many ways brings a sense of purpose and belonging that I had been missing back in 1994.  No longer a chore that needs to be done, running is a necessary part of my life and I am so glad to be able to share it with so many others.


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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