I remember the smell distinctly; a sweet mix of sweat, pine and grass--the fresh kind that lingers when spring starts to sprout. The mix clung to my mother’s damp, cotton tank top as she slowly walked up the driveway, breathing hard. I was playing outside and, immediately overcome with joy that she finally finished her run, bound up and into her arms. A child simply seeking comfort in the embrace of her parent, happily rubbing my face into the pine-stained tank top. She quietly looked at me while she gently wiped some drippings from her nose.
This image has played across my mind for years; mostly sauntering in when I’m getting ready to go run. While I tie up my shoes and gently stretch my tired muscles. As I take the first timid steps down the drive. The image slowly drifts off as I pace into my run, almost as if it melts into the air.
Because of her, I get to be me. Wild and full, always seeking freedom outside, beneath the trees. Magnolias wow me, honeysuckle smell enchants me, and that little breeze across my damp skin enlivens me. And so, even the most mundane of days are filled with gratitude.
My mother was out running long runs right around the same time Katherine Switzer was being heckled and harassed during that fateful Boston Marathon. It was not a warm and inclusive time for women in sport; particularly women taking up space in public outdoor spaces, running independently. And yet, my mother was. Through the streets of Baltimore, winding through old cemeteries and into the state park. She found freedom.
This freedom and passion carried with her as she grew, started a business, fell in love, and eventually had children. My siblings and I were lucky to grow up with the parents who practiced, rather than preached. So as I grew, my mom would head out for her runs, taking time to prioritize her health and happiness. I had an example of a woman who used running to care for her body, heart, and brain. She did it with a smile on her face and gratitude in her heart.
I believe we need to honor those who came before us. Particularly those who fought for the rights and freedoms we walk with today. There is an entire population of women who said to hell with social expectations and pushed forward to create open space for us to dream bigger. They expected more from themselves so that today, we can do the same.
It feels wildly poetic to embrace my mom’s history as my own. Literally as I place one foot in front of the other, the left/ right rhythm adding a comforting pace to my thought, down roads eerily similar to those at home. To know that I am running free because of the values she instilled in me. What a privilege it is to know so much of myself, both athletic and otherwise, stem from the freeing spirit of one woman.
Syd is an advocate and creative who believes in love, equity, long runs up big hills, and community.
As a huge consumer of our outdoors she believes in cultivating conversation around protection, conservation, movement, and women within our mountains, deserts, and oceans. she is driven to create a space where stories about running, outdoors, activism, and creation could be shared from the lens of a gal. Her work is influenced by sensory memory and wild color. You can view more of her work HERE or purchase her book HERE