I poured a glass of Spanish tempranillo and took a seat. I couldn’t wait to dig in. No, I didn’t have company. I had reading to do: a new book, a new blog entry, a new article in Runner’s World. It was an afternoon with one of my favorite writers, Kristin Armstrong.
For some, the name may ring a bell of slight familiarity. She is the former wife of the cancer survivor, multiple Tour de France winner, yellow bracelet bearing Lance Armstrong. For others like me, she is an amazing writer of humor, insight, and brutal honesty. I first came to know her when I, along with everyone else, had caught the Lance Armstrong fever in the midst of his early millennium Tour de France frenzy. In 2000, I was living in the western suburbs of Minneapolis. It turned out that Kristin Armstrong had once lived in the area and had graduated from a local high school. Minnesota likes to hold on to its own, and there was an article about her in the Lake Minnetonka newspaper in the summer. I remember pictures of the cute, young blonde family, the wife with child hovering near the Texan bicyclist. I read the two Lance Armstrong memoirs and wanted to know more about the wife, referred to as “stud” and “Kik.” Like many, I remember the headlines of divorce and Lance’s soon-to-follow engagement to Sheryl Crow. I wondered what had become of the former wife.
A few internet searches over the years linked to a few articles, but they weren’t enough to curb my curiosity about the woman. I wasn’t sure why and felt embarrassed by my mild celebrity infatuation. In 2004, I was delighted to read her first article for Runner’s World, “The Next Big Step.” In it, she shared her adventures of a marathon and running as the path to recovery from heartbreak and a path to finding herself. Over the years, I enjoyed reading Kristin’s articles in Runner’s World and her earnest, first-person approach.
In the fall of 2006, she began a blog at runnersworld.com, “Mile Markers.” It is a chronicle of her running life, but she covers much more than that. She talks about her female friendships, her faith, her family. She found the metaphors in running, and in her eloquence I found a new running voice to cling to. With the intimacy and frequency of her writing on the blog, I have found a false sense of knowing this woman. She is four years older than I, but I could sense some similarities in her faith, her passion for running, and in finding herself in her thirties. However, in most ways, we must be completely the opposite. She is a mother, I am not. She has written six books, I have less than six entries in a blog no one reads. She has run multiple marathons, I can barely run to the front door. She has friendships with women that have built strength and I am mostly a curmudgeonly hermit. She has stayed steadfast and true to her Christian faith, I have denied mine and have struggled with coming to know God.
Her blog,”Mile Markers” has been one of the true joys in my life that I look forward to weekly. It’s like waiting for a letter from a good friend, in the days before e-mail and Facebook. Her posts are generally weekly and with the ease of her prose, she inspired me to start writing and running again.
My sister Kelly will say that I am a cyber-stalker. I will say that I am an enthusiastic fan. I even printed out her entire blog, starting with the first post in October 2006. The pages now fill a 3-inch binder and I return to it like comfort food. I enjoy reading it chronologically, as I see her finding her footing and as I find meaning in her searching. When she started the blog, she had written a few articles for Runner’s World, a children’s book about Lance Armstrong and other articles for Glamour and USA Today, and had run four marathons. Now, 4 1/2 years later, she has run three additional marathons and an ultra marathon, on the brink of her third Boston Marathon in April, with five more books under her byline.
The latest book, Mile Markers, is made up of previous posts of her blog by the same name, regrouped and organized, not in a chronological fashion, but by themes, the “26.2 reasons women run.” The book came out last Tuesday and I ran to the Longmont Borders to pick up a copy the same day. They didn’t have it in stock, so I waited until my payday Friday to pick up a copy at a Boulder bookstore. My April issue of Runner’s World was in the mail box the same day. Like always, I scour the table of contents to look for her contribution and was excited to see a new article, “The Wingman’s Dilemma.” She had posted to her blog on Friday, “Quiz Me.” It would be a good weekend of reading.
Saturday, I was signed up for an all day environmental educator’s workshop, so Sunday would be the day to immerse myself. I have already scoured the book several times and I recognize many of the posts, but am pleased to see a new clarity, a new resonance as these essays are regrouped by those themes of why women run. The chapters of “Fear”, “Friendship”, and “Beginnings” are some of my favorites and I admire her ability to weave the familiarity of daily life and the monotony of daily runs, with the universal truths and metaphors that come to a runner. She is a runner and writer in her prime. I am truly grateful that she bravely pursued this path as a runner and as a writer. I take stock and begin my own journey.
The new article and latest blog entry didn’t disappoint either. She asks uncomfortable questions like what do you do when you feel like running the fastest marathon of your life and your friends aren’t feeling quite so fit. In the blog, she shares the difficulty of mothering and running on your own and still finds a way for us all to yearn to be better in the lane of running on the track and in the lane of life. I admire her for sharing vulnerability and weakness.
I realize I may not have the avid followers on my blog, or the strong female friends as I pursue my plodding running steps alone, but there is comfort. I may not be a writer in profession, but I can be a writer and runner due to passion. I can find the familiarity and the bravery in the attempt. I, too, can find my voice, even in journals and in prayers to God, and in the solitary footsteps pursuing a life of fitness, balance, health, and faith.