Crossing the line

My neighborhood is a hilly one.

Over the years, I’ve cursed those ups and downs.

hills are the devil

The truth, though, is that each finish line I’ve crossed has been thanks to those hills and valleys.

another PR

I don’t remember the day I stopped running, but I remember why.

Life stopped me.

Sorry, Fleck

It was sprinting downhill ahead of me and, no matter how hard I tried to keep up, I couldn’t.

Fleck and Life

A week went by.

Then a month.

Then another.

And another month until, one day, it felt like I was in a deep valley looking up a steep hill.

Life and Fleck

Sometimes, I’d stop and look at the pile of old spandex on the shelf and wonder, “how did I do it?”

But it didn’t matter. That part of my life was over.

spandex on the shelf

I don’t remember the day I stopped running, but I remember the day I started again.

It was a dull winter morning.

Strangely, for the first time in months, I felt a twitch in my heels.

familiar feeling

“Later maybe,” I said to myself, and turned on the TV.

The weather girl announced it was -7C with a windchill of -17C, and that a storm was on its way.

Not exactly a good day for a run.

I ate a donut, and thought about my options.

As I did, I felt an ache in my chest.

heart ache

“Now.” I said to myself, and I went upstairs to battle the spandex.

Eye of the tiger

I knew it would be cold, and I knew I wouldn’t get far.

I knew it would hurt.

Still, I laced up my shoes and opened the door.

It's not so bad

It was a cold and windy 4km but, for the first time in a long time, I did some thinking.

I thought about finish lines I’d crossed.

I thought about the short ones, the long ones, the ultra-long ones and, tearfully, the last one.

Getting to them was never easy.

But I crossed them all.

invincible Fleck


My legs, surprisingly, chugged happily along as I worked my way around the neighborhood.

I looked at my feet and noticed my shoes.

They felt good.

old friends

They reminded me of dark, quiet mornings and long training runs.

Which reminded me of watching the sun rise over my sleepy city.

Which reminded me of count-the-buns runs.

My shoes reminded me of good things.

only good things

It was around this time when my lungs started to burn, and I realized I’d passed the valley.

It was time to push myself up the biggest hill in the neighborhood.

gotta get up there

Once, I could sprint up that hill.

That day, it felt like I was crawling.

chewing me up

I felt the wind pick up as the storm closed in, and I could see my breath in front of me.

But to beat that storm, I was going to have to fight the pain and pick up my pace.

So, I did.

no stopping

Some finish lines are crossed at a sprint, and others at a crawl.

But if you stop running, you can’t finish the race.

As for me, I don’t remember the day I stopped running because that day hasn’t come.

I’m still sprinting my way to the valleys, and fighting my way up the hills.

hills aren't badAnd the day I cross Life’s finish line, I know what I’ll be wearing.

I’ll be wearing my running shoes.

don't stop running



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SQUIRT and The Noise

SQUIRT, also known as runrise, is my Super Quiet UnInterruped Running Time.

not about the trots

I love SQUIRT. It means starting a run under the stars, and finishing it while the world wakes up.

It means silence, with only the animals to break my thoughts.

It also means cool, dry air.

little elephant

And then there’s The Noise.

The Noise comes when the world wakes up.

It means traffic and crowded sidewalks.

It means zero opportunity for animal sightings.

It also means hotter temperatures, and hotter tempers.


So, when for the first time all year, SQUIRT encountered a rain delay, you could say I was unhappy.

I had two choices:

  1. Run 19 miles in a rainstorm
  2. Run 19 miles on a dreadmill

Neither option was appealing, so I did what any thinking person would do.

back to sleep

When I woke up a few hours later, nature gave me a third choice.

The rain had stopped.

It was muggy and humid, but I could run outside.

Not knowing how long the dry spell would last, I got on my running gear, and tore out the door.

bunnies can't speak

Half a mile from my house, I looked down and saw my fail.


The thing about SQUIRT is that, sadly, I must take safety precautions.

I carry my smartphone and a bear whistle.

I wear really bright, reflective colors so cars can see me.

That morning’s SQUIRT ensemble consisted of neon orange shoes, neon pink compression tights, a pink running skirt, and my lime-green technical tee.


I carried on.

Cars roared past, and at mile 2, I upped the volume on my music to tune them out.

By mile 3, sweat was (literally) running off my face.

slip n' slide

Soon, I encountered the first weekend warrior. I avoided eye contact, certain that he wouldn’t greet a demented rainbow.

“Long run day?”

I turned down my music.

“Huh?” I asked.

“Long run day?” he repeated.

“Oh, yeah, it is.” I replied.

“You have a great one!” he called out as he passed me.

“You too!”


I carried on.

At mile 8, I was greeted by a bald head wearing a feather coat.

Turkey vultures are enormous.  They have freaky pink bald faces and sharp pointy teeth.

Oh, and they’ve got large talons.

Now, one was directly in my path, staring me down.

bird food

Remembering previous fails adventures with his cousins, I slowed down.

He didn’t budge.

I reached for my whistle, but I’d left it in my SQUIRT pack at home.

Not wanting to become this turkey’s sandwich, I did what any thinking person would do.

I made kissy noises at him.

terrified turkey

I carried on.

By mile 15, the humidity got to me. It had yet to rain, but the atmosphere was thick, and I was unhappy.

I was having trouble dodging all things human and machine.

For the first time ever, I considered breaking up my run and finishing my miles the next day.

i'm done

But then, from behind, I heard “You’re doing great!”

Confused, I circled around.

Someone was on the sidewalk, giving me the thumbs up.

demented rainbow encouragement

I carried on.

At mile 18, I was running down my last hill when a car pulled over on the shoulder ahead of me.

I crossed the road to get out of the way.

When I got to the other side, someone stepped out of the car and took my picture.

what the fleck

“I’m a photographer, and I love your colors!” He yelled.

“What? My colors?” I yelled back.

“You just look so cheerful against this dull grey day!”

Stunned, I did what any thinking person would do.

mixed slushie

SQUIRT and The Noise both have a place in the runiverse.

SQUIRT means cool air, silence, and stars.

But it also means solitude.

It means pushing through on your own.

on your own

The Noise means traffic, humidity, and crowds.

But it also means sharing.

It means letting others push you through.

i can do this

And, sooner or later, everyone needs a push.

especially nice people

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Running the hills

Some generations ago, my family scoured the Scottish highlands. By day, dressed in their finest plaids and hose, they leapt along the mountainsides like stags.

chasing the red coats

By night, sitting around the hearth drinking scotch, they told stories about the mountains they loved.

fireside chat

Then one day, someone told them a story about Canada. Jovial adventurers, they adjusted their plaids, rolled up their hose, and sailed across the sea.

But when they arrived, something was missing.

missing the mountains

So, they traveled inland.

After trudging through an endless flat forest, they came across some hills, but they weren’t exactly the highlands of home.

Just wee hills

So they picked up their suitcases and hopped back on the train.

But, beyond the wee hills, all they saw was flat.

prairies and rockies

They turned around, and when they arrived back at the wee hills, they unpacked their suitcases, peeled off their hose, and decided to stay.

They built houses.

They settled towns.

Eventually, the wee hills became home.

jumping the valley

To my ancestors, they were just wee hills.

But to me, the day before an ultra trail race, they were mountains.

It had been years since I’d visited what were now known as “the hills” and, as my husband and I scoped out the race location the night before my race, I was humbled by what 2800ft of vertical ascent really looked like.

gonna have to go monk

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I was scared the hills would break me.

I knew that they could.

death to fleck

As I bounced between fatigue and panic, I thought about my history in the hills.

I thought of my great grandmother who, a century before, refused to say “obey” in her wedding vows, and I thought of my great grandfather who loved her for it.

a mind of her own

They climbed these hills.

I thought of my grandmother who, having little, raised 8 children nearly all on her own while she kept the family farm going.

I can do this

She worked these hills.

I thought about my great uncle who, despite crashing his plane 3 times in two world wars, survived with a just broken nose.

broken nose

He walked home to these hills.

Suddenly, I sat up.

I pulled the covers back, and looked at my feet. I wiggled my toes.

Generations of my feet had scoured these hills.

“You’ll know what to do,” I said to them and, finally, I fell asleep.

my hills

The morning of the race, I put on my running skirt, rolled up my compression socks, and got ready for battle.

i got this


“How do you feel?” my husband asked as we pulled up to the race.

“Hmph,” I replied, staring down the hills ahead.

“You’ve gone monk, haven’t you?” he asked.

“Nay, I’ve gone Fleck.” I whispered.

she's gone fleck

The gun went off.

When the hills got so steep that I needed a rope for support, I climbed them. When my quads burned and my eyes stung with sweat, I worked through the pain.

I dodged wasps’ nests.

yellow jackets

I ran through meadows and jumped over rivers.

leap like the stag


Finally, I jumped the finish line.

beer me

Race complete, I grabbed a pint of beer and walked out into the meadow to look back at the hills.

thank you feet

Soon after, my husband walked over to me.

“Something tells me you’ve got a story to tell,” he said.

I adjusted my skirt and looked down at my feet. I wiggled my toes.

“No,” I replied, still looking at my feet, “this story belongs to them.”


time to walk home


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My shadow and me

They’re a funny lot, shadows are.

Always there with us, even when we forget about them.

the gazelle's shadow

As a kid, I liked my shadow.

When I was little, on a sunny day I’d often find myself trying to outrun it. I’d jump side to side, take off at a sprint, or try and spin around really fast.

playing with my shadow

I’d watch it mimic my movements, and I liked how it reflected me.

My shadow was always there, and I liked it that way.

friends forever

But, as I grew up, I stopped paying attention to my shadow.

In fact, I forgot all about it.

sad shadow

Until one, not so specific day, my shadow started to grow.

Angry shadow

It grew and it grew until, eventually, it outgrew me.

shadow taking over

It was always there, and I hated it.

I could jump side to side, take off at a sprint, or spin around really fast, but there was no escape.

time for some changes

I tried to run from it.

But no matter how hard I ran, I couldn’t outrun my shadow.

All I could do was mimic its movements.

All I did was reflect it.

never a runner

And then, one very specific morning, I woke up before runrise for a long slow jog.

Running in the dark, I knew my shadow was there, but I couldn’t see it.

I liked it that way.

But soon the sun rose, and my shadow started to grow ahead of me.

go away shadow

At first, it was just a blob of dark grey at my feet.

But then, it got bigger and bigger until, eventually, it was huge.

It just hovered in front of me.

Suddenly, I realized it would always be there.

Because, like it or hate it, my shadow was part of me.

shadow's always there

I thought about stopping, and I thought about giving up the jog.

I thought, maybe, I should just quit altogether.

go home failure

It was then that I came to a bend in the road, so I slowly turned around to head home.

And, as I did, a peculiar thing happened.

When I turned, so did my shadow. I watched it move around me until, finally, I couldn’t see it anymore.

fighting back

Sun on my face and a clear path ahead of me, I thought about stopping, and I thought about giving up the jog.

But then I thought, maybe, I wasn’t ready to quit.

keep trying

I glanced back.

My shadow was still there.

But it was behind me.

It was behind me because I’d put it there.

Suddenly, I realized I was the one in control.

who's the boss

Now, nearly every morning, I wake up before runrise and watch my little corner of the world change from dark to light.

As I run, my shadow grows ahead of me.

Positive thinking

But I don’t mind that it’s there.

And I don’t ever want to forget that it is.

Now, when it grows too big, I know that it’s time for me to make that turn and run towards the sun.

I'm going to be okay

Because, now, I know that I’m the one in control of our direction.

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The interloper

It took a long time for me to think of myself as “a runner”.

I wasn’t a runner.

Real runners were fast.

Real runners ran distances.

Real runners ran distances fast.

And I just didn’t see myself as part of the club.

not in the club

But then one day, while moving out of a gazelle’s way, something happened that had never happened to me before.

As he passed me, the gazelle turned, smiled, and gave me the “runner’s nod”.

And, finally, I felt like I was in the club.

I'm a runner

A few weeks ago, I found out that a race was happening in my neighborhood. Two races, actually; a 10KM and a 5KM, and the 10KM would follow part of my weekend LSD (Long, Slow, Distance) running route.

It was too late to register, but I still wanted to join in the fun.

So I decided to interlope.


The morning of the race, I laced up my shoes about 15 minutes before the gun time and trotted out in the direction of the start line.

It wasn’t long before the first gazelle pranced by on the road while I jogged on the sidewalk. Then, over the course of the next kilometer, a full herd pranced by.


I knew I had to maintain a slower pace on my LSD run but, lion that I am, I wanted to chase the herd. So, in an effort to hold my pace, after about 3 kilometers I broke away from the pack and changed my course.

running away

After a few lonely kilometers, I decided to change direction again, and turned back towards my neighborhood. As I did, I approached an intersection.

I looked right, and looked left.

To my left, the 10KM herd was approaching, so I stopped and let them pass.

And, as they did, a familiar face glanced my way.

Gazella DeVil.

gazella reunion

She turned and glanced at me, and I blinked back at her.

I smiled and gave her the “runner’s nod”.

But, wait. Was that a smirk? No, it couldn’t be.

It had been years since our last encounter, and I was a runner now. Surely she could see that.

the runner's nod

Failing to return the nod, she just looked away, and increased her speed.

kicked out of the club

I crossed the road and continued on my LSD run, thinking of nothing but Gazella.

I watched as the last of the 10KM herd disappeared over the hill up ahead.

I wanted to chase them.

I wanted to beat them.

I knew that I could.

I was about to speed up when, suddenly, I noticed the road had become crowded.

I was so focused on my thoughts, I didn’t see that I was overtaking the back of the 5KM group.

back of the 5km

Many of the runners were fatigued and slowing to a walk.

Some had even stopped.

I looked up at the hill.

There was still time to chase the herd.

But, then I looked at the tired faces around me, and remembered a kind face and a friendly nod from long ago.

pay it forward

I knew what I needed to do.

I let go of Gazella.

“You’re doing awesome! Keep going!” I said to the first runner I passed.

I repeated the phrase to each person I saw who’d slowed to a walk.

When I got to the crest of the hill, I looked back and smiled.

A few had started jogging again.

jogging again

I crossed the road to get out of the way, and watched as runners from both races approached the finish line.

Some devoured it at a sprint.

Some comfortably trotted their way through, enjoying the warm sunny morning.

Some crossed it in agony.

the finish line

But they all crossed it.

They were, all of them, runners.

And we, all of us, were in the club.

Interloping complete, I blinked back a few sweaty tears, nodded to them all, and jogged happily away.

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It’s time to lose the judgey tights

The first time I saw a running skirt, my husband and I were driving around town while running errands on a hot Saturday afternoon.

“Wow, look at her go!” my husband exclaimed, pointing at a gazelle on the sidewalk.

I turned to get a better look.

Posture – excellent.

Relaxed upper body – check.

Speed – at least Gazelle Mach 1.

I was about to (jealously) give her a two thumbs up when I noticed something strange about her shorts.

They were a skirt.

no running in skirts

My husband, bewildered by my silence, turned to me expectantly.

“So?” he asked.

I slowly pivoted my head toward him and snapped the waistband on my judgey tights.

“Not a runner.”

“Wait. What? She’s running!”

“Runners don’t wear skirts. WE don’t wear skirts.” I replied.

runners wear pants

After that, my husband did what a husband should never do. He pointed out every person he saw working out in a skirt.

“Tennis players wear them.”

“Not runners.”

“Golfers wear them.”

“Not runners.”

“Field hockey players wear them.”


Eventually, he gave up on his game, and assumed my hatred of running skirts was just another quirk he’d have to live with.

scroll of quirks

Over time, my distances grew longer and I got pickier about what I wore while running. I got too hot in tights, but I hated the lack of coverage running shorts provided.

I just couldn’t find the ideal thing to cover my lower half.

pigs in a blanket

One day, my friend and I went shopping on our lunch break.

“Oh, wow! Look at this!” she exclaimed, holding up what looked to me like a mini-skirt.

“Aren’t we a little old for mini-skirts?” I joked.

“No, silly, it’s a workout skirt. I wore one when I taught spin classes. They keep you cool, and they’re really modest. See?” She lifted up the front to reveal a set of shorts tucked underneath.

I blinked, flabbergasted.

it's a skort!

“Know how annoying it is when you have to adjust your shorts mid-spin class?”

I nodded.

“Well, the skirt keeps you covered if they bunch up. I’m surprised you’ve never tried one!”

speechless on the inside

So I bought one.

hot pink one.

don't judge me

“What’d you buy at the store?” my husband asked when I got home that night, hot pink running skort hidden deep in my purse.

“NOTHING!” I barked, and scooted upstairs to hide the skort.


The next morning at runrise, I snuck out while my husband was still sleeping.

It wasn’t long before I felt “slide-age”. Still skeptical of the skort’s magical coverage powers, I pirouetted a few times to see if I was still covered up.

ballerina dog

To my surprise, I was.

I went on to have a great and, most importantly, comfortable run.

the joys of skorts

When I got home, my husband was awake. He met me at the door with a smirk.

“Is that what I think it is?”


The smirk became a smile. “Did you run… in a SKIRT?”


“That’s a SKIRT! Did you lose a bet or something?” The smirk was now a toothy grin.

Flecksplosion countdown

I sighed and whispered, “I was wrong.”

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

He leaned in a little closer.

This time, I replied a little louder.

“I like running in a skirt.”

“I still can’t hear you… you’ll have to raise your voice,” he said grinning ear to ear.

“IT’S A SKORT AND I LOVE IT!” I exclaimed.

I pulled up my humble skort and ran inside, my figurative tail between my legs.


Sometimes, we need to try new things.

Sometimes, we need to look beyond the surface before making assumptions.

Sometimes, we just need to lose the judgey tights and put on our humble skorts.

humble skort

So judge me all you want, runiverse. You don’t know what you’re missing.

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