Those of you who know me, or who follow this blog, have heard me talk about Fellow Flowers. Fellow Flowers is an awesome company that honors women and their journeys, both in running and in life. As the name implies, a large part of what connects our group are the flowers that we choose to wear in our hair. There are thirteen different flowers, each one a different color and with a different meaning. Most women involved with the group own many different flowers, but find that there’s usually one or two that especially resonate with them.
For me, that flower has often been the yellow one, “Joy.” The description of Joy is as follows: “Joy, happiness and confidence. To smile for a reason. To appreciate sunshine. To find your happy. Embraces laughter, believes in dreams. I run because I get to.” That last sentence in particular has always been one that I connect to – “I run because I get to.” Running has given me so much in life that I try to always remember how privileged I am to have the opportunity to do this as much as I do. I probably wear my joy flower more than all of the others combined. The petals are now ratty and frayed, some nearly falling off, but I continue to clip it in to remind me of how lucky I am to have the chance to do what I love.
Fellow Flowers recently announce a virtual run series, focusing on the thirteen different flowers. The first run, coincidentally, is for joy. When I first heard this, I was excited about the thought of signing up. Joy is my flower. Of course I should do this one. I began to picture what my joy run would look like. It would definitely be on the trails. It would probably be fairly long. A beautiful autumn morning with the sun beaming through the trees. Then reason kicked in. See, I don’t really like virtual runs. For me, the joy of running races is to be out in a new location, with like-minded people, celebrating something we all love together. I appreciate the idea behind a virtual run, the thought of connecting runners across great distances, but it has just never felt that meaningful to me. With my new job, money is tighter than it used to be, and I realized that I couldn’t justify spending the money on a race that wouldn’t make me super happy. I decided it was wiser to pass.
Then of course, we hit the officially race period, and it felt like every day, women were posting on social media about their “Joy” runs. I felt a bit left out. Ironically, reading about others “joy” runs was bringing me less joy.
Over the years, my kids and I have run together a handful of times, but it’s not something we do regularly. I am normally running too early, or too long, for them to be able to reasonably join me. Last week, however, they began clamoring for a run together, so we made a plan to go out for a short run on Saturday morning.
Saturday was a jam-packed day, as they often are when you have young children, and the only way for us to fit in our run was to go early. Like 6am early, which means that it was still pitch-black outside. I wasn’t sure how the kids were going to react to running in the dark, but we got up, got dressed, and outfitted ourselves in headlamps and reflective vests. The first thing they noticed when we got outside was that it was dark enough to see the stars. (I love that I have kids who notice things like that).
We set off down the street at an easy pace, our usually busy neighborhood surprisingly peaceful and calm. We crossed through the main intersection, then turned onto the quiet neighborhood streets. As I loped along with my kids by my side, I realized that I was feeling a sense of peace that can be hard to find in my busy days. On that run in the dark, the kids and I were isolated from all of the noise and distractions and busy-ness of the outside world. It was just the three of us together, sharing something that we loved. The thrill of being outside in the dark invigorated them, and they ran with a sense of ease that they don’t often have. We covered three miles with only one short break, and it’s hard for me to think of another run that I enjoyed more.
I realized in that moment that I didn’t need to pay an entry fee and pin on an official bib to be able to experience a “joy” run. I didn’t even need the beauty of the woods, or the calm of a leisurely morning. I didn’t need hours to myself to gather my thoughts. I just needed a dark stretch of pavement and two beaming children by my side.
When we finished, the sky was just beginning to lighten. There were no medals waiting at the finish, no crowds there to welcome us home. There was just the comfort of our front door, the wagging tail of our beloved dog, and the satisfaction of knowing that we had started our day together in the best way possible.
Our blurry attempt to document our early-morning run.