Running for Two, by Alysia Backman

When Alysia was working on her personal narrative, she started by making a various timelines of how her story could go. Eventually she settled on this one:

  • Spectator not participant
  • Track training
  • Dressing for the day
  • Wrapped in clouds
  • Pump it up
  • Closing in
  • Snapshot

Once she had her timeline, she just typed right into it, stretching each part out with lots of detail (dialogue, actions, thinking, and images). 

This is the same process that lots of students can benefit from when planning a story, then drafting.

SPECTATOR NOT PARTICIPANT

The humidity helped my already tight shirt cling to my body. In my elastic pant world, I sat knees up hugging my belly as I watched the colors of neon threaded through packs of runners with numbers pinned strategically on their chests and legs. My heart sank. “Hey Alysia!” a teacher from my school shouted. She was running her first half marathon. I cheered for her, as well as friends and strangers who were creating stories in the streets littered with cups and energy packets, but the claps and “Looking good looking strong” words of encouragement felt empty. May marked the beginning of the next leg of my race. I mimicked the runners with my hydration and fuel intake of fig newtons and bananas. In a crowd of thousands, with a baby growing inside of me, loneliness hovered. My identify as a runner was on hold as a created a new one — mother.

TRACK TRAINING

Steam rose from the track as the hint of wind from the lake passed over. The earthy red gravel from the track collected on my shoes and the wheels of son’s stroller. As my husband started the timer, I caught one last glimpse of my son’s closed eyes resting while I started my second round of sprints. “Pick it up, turn it over. You got it!” came from my husband as I rounded the last turn. I pushed into the corner fighting the urge to stop and yell, “Shh.. he’s asleep finally.” Starting the cooldown walk between sprints I laughed in the middle of a memory. “What is so funny?” shouted my husband. I shook off his question as it felt awkward to explain the last time I ran on a track was in 7th grade when I vomited in front of my entire class and I vowed never to run again while I was surrounded by real runners in the middle of a workout.

DRESSING FOR THE DAY

The smell of cider donuts signals the start of dressing in wool sweaters, down vests, and cozy hats. In running, you still need less clothes on race day even if the spectators are wrapped in ski parkas and hooded sweatshirts. My black capris had a stripe of purple like icing edged around a cake. The splash of blue in my tanktop lead right into my arm warmers hinting at a moment of color amongst the gray. “You are wearing that?” my husband dared to ask moments before I left the car for the start. A two dollar purchase at last year’s ski/snowboard swap, he loathed the blue cross country ski hat I had made a staple during winter running. “Yup, see you on the course.” The words were lost as I jumped out of the car and wove my way to the start.

WRAPPED IN CLOUDS

My running season that year had focused on a hot summer of trail running mixed in with two different team relay events each having a range of weather. Runners in Vermont know that the weather is a crap shoot each time you get other there and this day was no different. As the race went off, the clouds floated off Lake Champlain guided by wet wind, but we wouldn’t know their wrath until the course met with lake later. In the first two miles, my hat and gloves felt heavy. As I approached an aid station lined with my own students, I trusted they would guard my discarded clothes, but in honesty I knew they were headed for donation. Moments after worrying hypothermia would set in later, the clouds hugged me like my down comforter on a howling night in February. The wet kissed my face and instantly I thought I should be cold. In the moments that followed, I stayed warm and picked up speed. It was as if the clouds were pushing me to go faster.

PUMP IT UP

The course rolled over hills with farms to one side and white caps to the other. At one point, I transported myself to Cape Cod because where else could the dark of water tinged with white frothy foam like a latte be. Through the course, I heard “Go Mommy!” It may have been my family or someone else’s, but if the shoe fits. In the pockets of runners cloaked in wicking shirts and leaking crusted sweat, I pushed. As I crested the hill, the beat began. Loudly echoes from a mom’s mini-van , Muse spoke to me — ““They will not control us; We will be victorious; So come on.” Next to a gaggle of girls, my family stood pushing me ahead.

CLOSING IN

Turning the corner, the volunteer offered water, but I shrugged it off shortening my stride and looking ahead to to see the last two miles left to go. My family was looming somewhere near the finish, but in a long race like a marathon two miles is forever. As the orchards began to appear and the smell of cider donuts wafted into the air, I began to relax a little. Instead of glancing at my watch, I looked ahead to see Peter, my best friend from college snap a picture. He saw me before my family and gave one last shout of “You got this girl” before I pushed to the end. As the school came on the horizon, my family’s shape came into view. I was done and twenty minutes better than any marathon before. I figured it would tide me over until spring.

SNAPSHOT

Peter, who was like an adopted son to our family, came to Thanksgiving that year. He brought a copy of the shot from the end of the race. Happy to show me my smile and love of racing at that moment. Realistically, two weeks into a pregnancy would not show any change, yet in that picture I seem rounder than the snapshots from my summer of training. In my hips, I see solidarity. My parents say I look fit, but I can see what they don’t. On marathon day, I was two weeks pregnant with Memphis. My identity of runner and mom merging. In my eyes, I see true joy at knowing I succeeded in reachingmy goal. In my heart, I feel it.

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