This December, I put up a running themed Christmas tree in my home.
The ornaments are medals, both finisher’s and placing, from several years of running. Most have the finish times and my place written on the back with a sharpie. My friend Steve gave me a silver heat sheet to use as the tree skirt.
I didn’t have a star or angel, so I topped the tree with my ring of race number bibs. I can change which bib displays on the ring, but I’m fond of my Cooper River Bridge Run one. I’m a bit flattered that someone who works in their office considers me “competitive”.
This week, I went downstairs on my lunch break and reflected on the past few years of running and life. When I started running in 2009, I had no idea that six years later I’d have a Christmas tree themed around running six years later.
I’ve run through job changes, family members and friends passing away, an engagement, a wedding, home buying, and several moves (including to Charleston). I’ve overcome severe iron-deficiency anemia and a stress reaction. I know how it feels to run a 33 minute 5K and a 21 minute 5K.
The medals on the tree represent so much more than finish times on a clock- they represent training, hard work, and the bravery it takes to step to the starting line. The bravery to tackle your longest distance ever, or what you hope will be your fastest pace at that distance. The bravery to tackle your first race in a new city, or your first race post-injury.
Some medals are for finishing, while others are for placing in my age group or overall, but each medal tells a story. One story includes holding down a race registration tent in winds and pouring rain. One story involves running on a muddy trail in memory of a friend’s 9-year-old son who passed away but inspired a community. One story is about a spontaneous half marathon where we participated in a plank challenge before the race.
Many stories represent meeting goals, while others miss the mark. Most stories are about running to benefit a charity or greater cause, and every story is about leaving a comfort zone behind.
So many Christmas trees are “corporate”, with matching store-bought ornaments or fancy décor. Those trees are beautiful, but that’s not who I am.
I’m sweaty, smelly, scrappy, muddy, messy, and mismatched. I’m hard working, tenacious, and brave. I’m a runner.
Merry Christmas, and here’s to a new year filled with friends, family, fun, and fast times.