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  • Writer's pictureBetsy Crumb

I've Got Your Back

"It is to say, my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours. We belong in a bundle of life. It is not I think therefore I am. It says rather: I am human because I belong, I participate, and I share.”

- Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Today I finished my last long training run. It was a pretty short one, just 7.6 miles. But it felt like a completion. The end to a brutal summer of training. I've trained for 8 marathons - this will be the sixth that I run (one, Boston, never happened because the pandemic hit first; the other, San Francisco, I downgraded to a half when I realized I way undertrained). It's hard to compare this season to the last time I trained for Chicago because if I'm being honest, I barely remember that summer. I was wracked with grief and going through the worst thing I've ever experienced. Only months later did I realize I was severely depressed during that time - when I left a Christmas party with the thought of, "oh, I had fun there... I haven't had a good time anywhere in months..." Because as it turns out, I'm a very functional depressive. I also billed the most hours I've ever billed that year and raised more than $11k for charity. What was my day-to-day like? No idea, but endurance was surely a huge part of it.

So many people, especially those who are not runners, have asked me why. Why suffer through the pain of 26.2 miles? Why curb your social life to spend hours on your feet training? Why not give up when the heat index hit 100 and your body tried(!) to give up? Endurance. It's the best answer I have. Running is something I do, obviously, but at this point it's also something I am. It shapes how I interact with myself and the world around me. Life ain't easy, I think we all know that even as we all know that it's easier or harder for different reasons for every individual. But running is a place where I can push myself, face my fears, challenge my perceptions, and then, ultimately celebrate my wins. I can endure.

I've often said about me as a worker, as an attorney, that I am autonomous, but collaborative. That is: I like to do things my way, on my own, but surrounded by a group of helpful, intelligent people who are there for me when I need it, and ipso facto, I'm there for them. On my run this morning, I was thinking about how that's not just true for my work life, but really all of my life. I like my quiet apartment, filled with my trinkets and Jean Valjean (my cat, for all unacquainted), and I like that it's decorated precisely to my liking. As a single woman strongly by choice, I have little desire to share my every minute of life with anyone other than JVJ and my own brain, but I do love to entertain, to fill my home with friends and family, at a potluck or a party just because. I love to host dinner parties and for all of my life in Vermont and much of my life in Seattle, my apartment was the home base for my friend circle. Indeed, in Vermont I'd frequently come home to my friend Brian, standing in my kitchen drinking some water, needing a quick rest and hydration while he was out running. He, like all of my friends, knew where the spare key was and that my home welcomed everyone I love at any time for any reason. For the last year and a half I've been taking improv classes, a place where I get to let loose as a total lunatic if I want for a couple hours, but surrounded by scene partners who yes, and every choice I make and I their's. Independent, but shared, joint, collective - to me, this is the point of life.

Running, and especially racing, is an extension of this. I generally like to run alone, lost in my own thoughts, with no particular goal in mind other than finishing what I started. Occasionally the right person comes along (read: Alex) and I like to run with them, because they are there with me, pushing me and cheering for me just as I am for them, but in the silence and through the means of rubber hitting pavement in stride. When it comes to racing, there's no better example of autonomous but collaborative, especially when you fall in the back of the pack like I do. I'm not going to win any medals - I'll be awed by and cheer on anyone who does - but I am going to struggle along with my fellow runners. We motivate each other, rely on each other, care about each other, and give it all we've got on any given day. I'll never the know the names of my fellow racers and I'll probably never see them again, but for a few hours we all have each other's backs. In improv, before every show, it's routine to all literally touch one another and say, "I've got your back." I likely won't do this in Chicago on Sunday, but I'll be secretly thinking it.

My collaborative crew helped me hit my $10,000 mark this week. I can't say thank you enough. All that money will go to fund Danny Did and help all the folks suffering in this world with epilepsy. I can't imagine a better way to remind Megan, even now posthumously, that I'll always have her back.

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