Skate away

I used to run. Did you know that?

Not fast or anything. I kind of plod. But I took a running class once in college. I probably need some precise amount of credits to get my student loans that term, or something, and I know gym classes were always one credit.

I remember the very first day of class, trying to find my way around the physical education building and somehow opening the door to the men’s locker room.

And right then I knew, I was going to like running.

And I did. Even though I’ve never been fast, or graceful. I’ve never been one of those women you see gliding down the sidewalk in cute athletic garb. But I remember leaving that running class in bike shorts and a purple tie-dyed shirt–because 1989–and going to my work study job at the museum (our offices were in the museum’s warehouse), knowing I looked sort of good. My legs got nice right away.

“How far did you run today?” people at work would ask me. I’d always feel accomplished when I told them. “RIGHTEOUS!” I remember my museum boss saying once, when I told her how long I’d run.

I ended up living in London that summer. I had this English professor I was obsessed with because I admired him so much. He was brilliant and caustic and original, and he returned one of my papers with “See me about a small scholarship to London” across the top. It was one of the best moments of my life.

I saw him about that scholarship. Then I called the bar I’d snootily quit months before, proud of not needing it because of my fancy $7.45 an hour work study bike shorts job at the museum, to ask for some shifts back. They gave them to me, and in a month or two I’d raised enough to get to London to live all summer.

When I think of that summer, I think of reading The Bell Jar in a pub while church bells rang nearby, and I think of my morning runs.

My dorm was in the same park as the London Zoo. I’d run all the way down to that zoo. Once the wolves ran with me, all the way to the end of their cage. And I heard pink flamingoes chattering. I didn’t even know they made any noise. I guess it was because it was just me and them that they felt okay to squawk.

I think it was when I got back that I stopped running that time. If I recall, my new apartment complex had free aerobics or something very early ’90s.

Ten years later, I was in Los Angeles, getting a pedicure at one of my two pedicure hotspots. I went to either RedNailMayIHelpYou near work (that’s how they always answered the phone, with the enthusiasm of warm lettuce) or Nail Station near my house.

I was at Nail Station that time, waiting for my feet to dry, when I saw a pamphlet for AIDS Project Los Angeles’s marathon fundraiser. They’d take six months to train you, and you raised a few thousand dollars for them, and then you’d be flown to Chicago for the marathon in October.

“That seems like pretty much the last thing I’d ever do,” I thought. So I did it.

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What I remember about running for that stretch of time was how I’d eat breakfast and then by 10 a.m. get the receptionist at work to get us grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches from the restaurant across the street. Then two hours later I’d have lunch. I looked magnificent.

I remember waking up early and driving down to the park for our training, and seeing nothing but hundreds of those light necklaces people wear around their necks when they run in the dark.

I remember running 23 miles along the beach. I remember how close my group got, and times we’d have to stop running because we were bent over laughing so hard.

After we’d run the marathon, one big tough guy emailed us all to say we kept him off heroin, that group did. He said he missed us so much it made him cry just typing us.

I wonder how that guy is now. He had gang tattoos, I remember.

On Friday, I pulled on a sports bra and my old running shoes and I got a leash and Edsel and I headed out for a run.

I thought it would be awful, but my old plodding body knew what to do. I knew the first 10 minutes are always the worst. Your lungs hurt, and you feel everything jiggling at you in protest, and you feel like there’s no way you can keep going.

But then you can. Then you do.

I could hear my breath coming in a rhythm I’d forgotten, and my feet pounding on the sidewalk. And as we reached the first mile, I realized why I was running.

I was running because I’m furious. I’m furious that I’m not married at 52. I’m furious that Ned didn’t turn out to be who I wanted him to be, and that Marvin disappointed me too. I feel marginalized at work, and a lot of my friends have moved away, or got married and don’t talk to me (note to self: Stop being friends with people you used to sleep with).

I don’t look the way I did when I was 25, and meeting new people isn’t as easy as a result.

I thought I’d be more financially settled than this by now.

I thought I’d be important, somehow.

Instead, I seem to be shrinking in every way but physically.

So I ran. I ran because I didn’t know what else to do.

And as I did, I thought, Well, maybe you really do have no interest in men now. Maybe it’s not just something you’re saying to get through this lean time. Maybe it’s true. So, have no interest in men.

And maybe you do feel bad about work. It’s still six minutes away, you know how to do it and there are a lot of people there you feel very affectionate about. Still, if you feel bad about it, feel bad about it.

Maybe there aren’t so many friends right now. And maybe you have no interest in making new ones. So, just don’t have so many friends right now.

I could hear my feet. Pound, pound, pound.

I started to notice how pink the trails of planes were as they flew overhead. I smelled the magnolias and smiled at the puppy behind a neighbor’s fence.

I made it the whole way, stopping just once after a hill. Edsel ran next to me like a police dog or something. If you just give that creature something to do, he’s pretty obedient. He smiled the whole time.

Back when I used to run in London, I didn’t have any way to listen to music, so I’d THINK songs. For some reason the song that ran through my head the most was River by Joni Mitchell.

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on, it goes.

If you lived here, on Friday evening, you may have seen a slightly chubby middle-aged woman running with a goofy smiling dog. Maybe you were wondering why she bothered.

She did it because she found a river she could skate away on.

Published by

June

At one point, I was sort of hot, in a "she's 27 and probably a 7" kind of a way. Now I'm old and have to develop a charming personality. Guess how that's going.

123 thoughts on “Skate away”

  1. I knew you ran because I found you from that Purple Clover story from the time you were left stranded at the marathon.

    Something about knowing that story and now this one meant a great deal to me.

    I hate wearing earphones so I frequently think songs. You thought the perfect song.

    Finding you has changed my life. Since finding you I have divorced and I will be moving on my own. Since finding you I have been disappointed by men and I haven’t found my river yet.

    When my friend Lori divorced she did a 365 run challenge. It was her river.

    There have been many dark moments where I turned to your blog as a comfort. Someone out there has done this. I can do this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Haven’t read all the comments because I’m totally on the late show and maybe you won’t read this for the same reason, but this post of yours needs to be submitted to a magazine. No editing or rewriting, just sent. It’s wonderful. Really wonderful.

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  3. Good gravy, Joon! This is one powerful piece of writing!!

    It even makes me (an absolute hater of running) want to run.

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  4. Wonderful post, inspiring, just had a hip replaced 6 weeks ago so I shall live vicariously through you, I love when my dog smiles!

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  5. Beautifully written, thank you. I miss running. It brought me a lot of joy and a lot of confidence.

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  6. This your best post that I’ve read. The style, the words — my heart is full after reading this.

    I love this post on another plane too, as a runner.

    Maybe I’ll get to run with you some day, in a race, or in some park.

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  7. Another great post. I think this would be a great purple clover article. I have never ran and I am jealous of runners. I am pushing and will push all my kids to join the track team so they can be runners.
    You are perfect just the way you are.

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  8. I’ve thought about this all day and though we all know how you feel about offering opinions, I’m going to brave the liver and say if you’re still working on the book of posts, this should be the final post in the first book. Not only is it poignant and inspirational, it would leave a reader wanting more after the hilarity posts.

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  9. What a great post. Thank you. One of the best things about getting your body moving, especially outdoors, is how it frees your brain to do some productive processing.

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  10. Fantastic! June, you really do make my day. Thank you from the bottom of my little pea-picking heart!

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  11. Thank you. That really was a great post!
    You’re awesome.
    If I knew you in real life, I’d be your friend!!

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  12. Whenever I read a comment that says “That was your best post ever!” I think, “wha??? How could anybody pick just one?” But this post just really got me. Beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing your time and talent – creepy to hear from a stranger, perhaps, but I really look forward to reading about you each day, and always hope to hear about good things happening to you.

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  13. June, I’ve been reading you for years and feel like I know you (even went to MSU!). I check your blog like I call a friend just to check in. This post truly touched me. To so honestly and poignantly express your pain in a piece so raw, personal and absolutely beautiful is a gift to us all. Thank you.

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  14. “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”

    Or ex-boyfriends who could not/would not be the man they were supposed to be.

    This was a beautiful and profound post today. You don’t have to be married to be happy but it is nice to be with someone who loves you and WANTS to be with you and only you.

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  15. Thanks for provoking me to look back at things that used to bring me pleasure. I’m older, 74, but not too old to reflect on those things are try to bring them albeit modified into my life. A good cause for reflection. Thank you.
    jud

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  16. Wow June. I don’t comment often, but this post is one of the most inspiring things I’ve read (and I read a lot!). I started running 3 years ago and slowly eeked my way through a half marathon last year. But finishing that half marathon showed me that I can do scary, hard things. And now when that voice in my head tells me that I can’t do something, I tell it to shut up. Another bonus is that my depression is gone, and my outlook is sunnier. If I’m sad, I run. Mad, I run. Happy, I run.

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  17. God, I’d forgotten how much I love that song! There must be something in the air, because I’m feeling much the same way, June. I was thinking this weekend how I am nowhere I thought I’d be by this stage of my life. I’ve never been a runner, but I was a dancer and loved it, why did I give it up? Maybe Ill go back to it. Thank you for your heartfelt, honest post. It meant a lot this morning.

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  18. What a beautiful piece of writing. I love your writing. I’ve said this before — I so wish you would write a book. You have a certain way of nailing seemingly un-nailable and making it totally accessible. Not many writers can do that.

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  19. I was just thinking about you yesterday, kind of worrying. I read this and I can see you are fine and will be fine. Lovely post about self empowerment. There is nothing like running. I mostly hike bike or lift these day with my dumb fallen arch foot, but when I let myself run, it is just magic. It clears out your head.

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  20. Run, June, and write! Run and write like the wind!

    But even though you’ve inspired us all, don’t get down on yourself if you don’t do it EVERY day.

    Something special about London. I found recently that while there I could still walk one to three hours without feeling wrecked the next day.

    What a beautiful summer that was. I can see how later parts of your life wouldn’t measure up to that one.

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  21. Wow, June! This was such an incredible piece. I’m also not at all where I thought I would be at this age. When I get together with girlfriends I’ve had for decades, I somehow have always felt “less” than them because I’m single and have no kids and can’t relate to what their lives are like. But recently I’ve started realizing I like my life the way it is just fine and it’s okay not to be on the same path as my friends. I’ve never been a runner, but there are other things I’ve put off to the side and you inspire me to try them again. I know you hate hugs, but I want to hug you so bad right now.

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  22. Simply wonderful and inspirational. How many of us Joon readers will be lacing up tonight? I know I will, at least push myself to go for a walk. I am also VERY impressed you could start out and go that far after not doing it recently , I think I would have been in an ambulance.
    I always like to just be quiet and listen to my thoughts when I walk, best form of meditation for me. Wonderful job Joon!!! oops, I mean, RIGHTEOUS Joon!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. You, June Gardens, are an amazing talent! Your writing is sublime yet real. Thank you so much for sharing your talent and your life with us. Keep going!

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  24. Sunningly beautiful piece of writing. Good and faithful Edz. Now I will go and read the other comments. Lovely post, pretty Joon.

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  25. This may be the best post I’ve ever read here, which is saying a lot. Go, June. It sounds like running allows you to a space to think clearly and deeply, the way I’ve always felt when I visit the ocean.

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  26. This was one of your better posts, June. I loved it and I know it skeeves you out, but I love you, too. In a never met you in real life, but have known your words for over 10 years kind of way. Keep on with your righteous river skating.

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  27. Wow! Just wow! To say you are a gifted writer and storyteller is an understatement. I love this post.

    My neighbor started running at 50 and now runs a couple of marathons a year. I admire you both.

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  28. Yes, this was a lovely and inspiring post. Running is not my thing at all but recently I started hiking for similar reasons. It helped my outlook immediately. I gave myself a goal to do as many different trails as possible. Acquired a real raincoat and real hiking boots, got out the hiking stick my father made me and I document each hike. It really is healing and energizing.

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  29. That was a great not-blog. I am also not where I thought I’d be at this age. I’m 45, I’ve been married over 20 years, and I’ve never owned a house. I’m working at an entry-level job with dismal pay. My husband and I have a reasonable plan that should get both of us much better paying jobs in 2 or 3 years, but after all this time struggling I can’t completely believe that things are ever going to change. Maybe I should go for a run!

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  30. Yes.

    All last week I kept wondering what was happening with you. Your tone wasn’t the same. I’m so glad you shared. I get it. Completely.

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  31. Lovely post, Joob.

    That stuff about “feeling your feelings” is a thing my therapist says. I like it.

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  32. Well, I am currently on sick leave after having foot surgery and this just made me, also a 52 year old slightly chubby woman, want to lace up my running shoes and go for a run. I too used to be a runner, not a great one or a fast one, but I could keep moving for more than a hour at a time. I didn’t think I missed it, but I do if the tears streaming down my face mean anything. You just kill me, you are so insanely talented. Wow.

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  33. You have matured June. I can say that because I’m old. Now you don’t need a man, you are enough for you. Your talent will sustain you. Friends are wonderful to have, but as you age, you realise that a couple who would take a bullet for you are all you need. Growing old gracefully, few of us want that. I want to continue to age on my terms, not society’s dictates.
    Beautiful beautiful post June! Welcome to the world of mature women who are determined to have it “my way”!

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  34. I’m so damn proud of you, girl! I bet Edsel had a blast right along with you.

    By the way, you’re beautiful just the way you are, no need to change a single thing.

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  35. What a great post! There are so many reasons to be happy, and I think it’s easy to sink into those sad moods, but believing that you have good things in your life helps to make your life good. My first husband left me with a 5-year-old and a 13-month-old in 1995, and I believed I’d find someone fairly quickly. I even felt like I’d HAVE to find someone pretty quickly before my kids grew up and weren’t so cute to anyone except their mother. I dated lots of men, then I’d quit dating altogether, then I dated lots of men again, and 10 years after my divorce, I was still single and no longer even looking to be coupled. I happened to sit down at my son’s high school football game next to a lady I didn’t know who was extra friendly and found out I was single and decided I needed to meet a friend of hers. I tried not to meet him, because I didn’t think I wanted my life to change at that point, but I did meet him, and six months after I met him, I married him. I was 45, and he was 55 when we married. We are about to have our 13th wedding anniversary, and I still think about how incredible it is that we found each other.
    The best piece of advice I can give you, and you might not be interested in advice, so if you want, you can just spit this out like SD, (I won’t pick it back up and shove it down your throat.) is to have this prayerful outlook: I’m happy with my life, I’m happy being single, and if that’s how I’ll be forever, that’s great. If my story includes falling in love with a wonderful man who loves me completely in return, help me be the woman in that story.
    Somehow that attitude helped me relax a little. I didn’t feel like I had to be always looking for that special someone or always rejecting men completely. There was another option. I could be happy and content with my current situation and still be open to a change that might come my way.
    I think you are beautiful and strong and smart and funny. Keep running!

    Liked by 1 person

  36. I am transfixed. You described those moments in London so perfectly it’s like they were my own memories.

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  37. I’m a chubby meddle aged woman who runs most days for similar reasons. But I never could have expressed it as beautifully as you have.

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  38. Wow, that just made us all stop in our tracks for a moment. Why you don’t have some regular column in some New York paper somewhere is beyond me. I think you just inspired me to – wait for it- start walking. Thank you Joon for sharing “you”.

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  39. Wow. This is one of my very favorite posts. I’m in awe of your talent and the way you remember things.

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  40. This post was one if your best. I started running again several years ago (when you were training with Sleeping Beauty!). You inspired me once & I think you just did again. Thank you.

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  41. Awesome post! Very inspiring ~ I’m going to do the thing on my list that I’ve been unconsciously avoiding for months, maybe years. I CAN accomplish this on my own.

    Happy Monday, all.

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  42. Great post, Joob. I’ve been thinking of running OHSHUTUP, of course, starting out by walking, carefully and slowly. I can’t take The World’s Laziest Dog (TM) with me. She will tire and plop down and REFUSE TO MOVE. My kids have tried to take her on longish walks and she has done just that and has had to (a) be carried home or (b) be picked up by car if there was another human home to do so. Even just a few feet past her usual walk and she’s all, “Whoa. Enough.” And plop.

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  43. I’ve not been into running or even exercise for a coon’s age. Wanna train for something and do it with me? No longer than a half marathon, maybe something shorter. I can come to a “race” near you if you pick one. I remember you developing a “line” down your leg when you took that gym class – showing that you had developed some muscle tone you hadn’t had before.

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        1. Sorry, this “you wanna pick one near you?” comment was from me – Sleeping Beauty.

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          1. If you guys want a third in that 5K, let me know. I’ll come down for it!

            I trained for a marathon alone, and what that man wrote to your group made me well up. I can only imagine the kind of bonding that happens during that intense time. I learned a lot about myself – I explored a lot of my head – training for that race that is now 5 years past.

            The part that really made my heart thud was Eds, running with you like it’s something he does every day. That just tied the whole experience you’re having right up to me: that you are where you are supposed to be right now.

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  44. This was a wonderful piece. I felt empowered just reading it. Thanks for sharing your heart so eloquently! Off to run…….

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  45. I loved this post.

    And for what it’s worth you are important to me! You have made me laugh on days when the ugliness I usually keep at bay rears it’s head and I don’t feel I can hold it back. You’ve made me cry and touched my heart on days when holding back that ugliness has made me a mean bitch. I am always grateful.

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    1. Yes Jan. Exactly. I don’t know you and I don’t know June but you are all so important to me.

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  46. Loved this post … so vulnerable, honest and reminds me that it’s ok to just be who I truly am. I hope you have many more wonderful runs like this!

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  47. For the love of God, that was wonderful. It’s hard to feel like you’re allowed to just BE whatever you’re feeling. I always try to brush it off. But then it comes back twice as nasty as it started out. Thank you for this.

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  48. I am so proud of you! You and Edsel deserved a wonderful fun like that. I’ve seen shirts out there that say “running changes everything.” Maybe it really does. What a beautiful post – thank you!

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  49. I absolutely loved this post! I admire runners. I am jealous of your ability to persevere through the lung-burning phase into the clarity-of-thought phase. I wish I had a river I could skate away on, too.

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  50. This is a great reminder for me to get back into exercising. After my mom died over 10 years ago, exercise really saved me. Those endorphins are for real. So glad you got your run on! Run June Run!

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  51. Beautiful. I hope you & your run buddy keep going.
    I felt I never deserved to be happy, coupled or secure. I have become what I felt I deserved. It’s tricky to undo that.
    I’m glad Regent’s Park got you running in the first place 😊

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  52. Good grief, you made cry before 9:00 in the morning. I have a feeling I am going to need to read this again. I didn’t know I had it in me to get weepy over something that wasn’t all about a dog. That was beautiful. Thank you.

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  53. This is one of your best posts ever. It made me tear up a bit and smile at the same time. It made me want to get to the end to see where you were going with it, and not want it to end too. It made me wish I lived near you so I could go running with you (and I don’t like running). Great writing, June.

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  54. What a wonderful post! Very well done, I just finished reading it and sat here and said to myself “Wow!”.

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