Friday, April 8, 2016

Rebellious Running

By: Maggie
(with a big nod to Gerald P. Lopez - all quotes are from his article, linked)

"I tried to piece together my own contrasting 'philosophy' . . . one that could embrace the lessons of experience and the insights of imagination, one that could both appreciate and challenge life as we know it in pursuit of a future we might currently be able only to prefigure."

At Lake Sonoma last year, I heard a group of shoe company employees talking. They were talking about the fast field and predicted finish times for the professional runners repping their products. Someone brought up an “average” finishing time for the 50 mile race – maybe 10 hours or more. They laughed and one of them said, “Why do those people even run?”

It stung. I wasn’t even running that day, but it stung. I’ve run two 50-mile races. The first took me just shy of 14 hours. The second took over 12 hours. That off-hand comment burrowed into my mind. I’ve thought about it a lot since (obviously, as I write about it a year later). Why do I run?

The last few months, I've focused inward in search of my foundational beliefs and motivations. Life is cyclical: as I've approached various thresholds (when I got my first job, headed to college, when I was traveling alone in Europe, and now as I approach the end of law school), I instinctually revisit the meaning of my life and my mission. Running is a central part of that. The call to live, lawyer, and RUN rebelliously resonates with me, and I'd like to share my thoughts on why :)

I finished my first 50-miler, Overlook, in 13:52:47 - one of only nine women.

I don’t run for a living. So I don’t run for money. Running used to be punishment when I played soccer – and I hated it. When I did track in high school, it was a social activity. I remember the first time I ever just “ran.” I was a freshman at USC, and a running group at the rec center planned a “little” 3 mile route up Figueroa and back. I remember wondering if I could even finish.

I finished the three mile run - although, not having any idea about pacing - it was painful. And the practice of running didn't stick.

It wasn't until I found myself engaging and trying to understand the world around me that running stuck. Away from home, just a couple years into college, I found myself in an unhealthy, abusive relationship. I didn't know if I had the strength to leave, to survive on my own. At home, my family was in complete upheaval. I felt stranded at sea, isolated, alone. I ran.

Running gave me structure, affirmation, and courage. While running, a tackled two separate degrees from top programs at USC while working as a waitress and a teaching assistant to support myself - and volunteering 20 hours a week at a homeless shelter. Instead of being consumed by the pain, I found a fire to fuel me. I finished a 5k - and felt like an Olympian.

"Rather, in her exceedingly radical and practical way, she was insisting we should all think in very concrete terms, 'What's the next step in actually trying to live out what we dream for ourselves, for our families and friends, and for the world we aim to make fundamentally a better place?'"

About a year later, I was assaulted on campus by a convicted sex offender - it was minor, and I was ok, but it was also terrifying. Just a month earlier, a high school classmate of mine had been raped and murdered in Reno. I ran.

I dove deeper into myself and my studies - I studied up Eastern philosophy, understanding the idea of suffering through a Buddhist lens. I read the Bible, the Koran. I swam an hour every morning, followed by an hour run, followed by 6 hours of class, and then worked. I continued to volunteer and realized I was fortunate to have the opportunity for self-exploration, and I wanted to make the world less painful for others, not just for myself. I finished a 10k - and renewed my resolve.

The challenges have continued, as has my running. Life is good, and so is running.
My second 50-miler, MUC, took 12:43:22.

Running requires us to see potential - both good and bad. Running requires hope - and it requires pragmatism. Stephen laughs when I stop on runs to move newts and slugs off the trail - but running is my time to live in the world I want ... to create the world I want to live in. And it has given me the strength to do the same in my daily life. 

I chose to practice law because I want to make this world better. I don't want any more women to be assaulted and killed. I don't want our veterans to be homeless. I want the mentally ill to receive the treatment they need. I want animals to be treated with kindness and compassion. I want racism and sexism, fear and hatred to be relics of the past.

And I will work towards these goals the same way I worked towards my first 5k. One step at a time, rebelling against the way things are and striving for improvement.

The first all-female honors class of law clerks at the Santa Clara DA's Office.

"We had to recognize that knowledge can and does come from anywhere, that you're nothing short of a fool if you can't appreciate that fact, and that you're the biggest fool around if you think for a moment that you're an expert who already knows everything there is to know about whatever course of action you or others have charted."

All of that is a circuitous and emotional way of saying, running is personal. And flashing back a year ago to Lake Sonoma, I'm sure the running shoe company employees didn't mean anything by their comments, and they definitely didn't mean to trigger an existential hop down a deep rabbit hole. But unfortunately I think that attitude - that running is defined by your results, your ranking, your CRs on Strava - has been magnified and embodied on a larger scale, and it makes me a little sad.

Our community's strongest "ambassadors" aren't just those at the front of the pack - they fall throughout. They are those who love the sport.
Who volunteer and cheer.
Who lend a hand (or a Gu).
Who show their soul when they run.
Who define running for themselves.

Who run rebelliously.

Over 65 miles into my first 100 mile attempt. I dropped about 10 miles later. It was still awesome.


  1. From a 13-hour finisher really excited to run tomorrow, thanks. Actually hoping for about 11:20.

  2. You are awesome and an inspiration! Keep running and living rebelliously :)

  3. As another person who clearly shouldn't run, that really does sting! I like your take on it but I'm also pretty bummed to hear that people in the industry were talking like that. It kind of makes me wonder who else is thinking like that. Then again, there is nothing we can do about it except do what WE enjoy and run anyway!