July 19 2018
Professor Jennifer Golbeck uses running to balance a full roster of work, travel and her pack of famous pups.
In my closet, you’ll find a shelf of old running shoes. They are shoes that have enough miles on them to not be useable for my double-digit runs anymore, but still have enough wear to protect someone else’s feet through many more miles. When I look at that shelf, I am flooded with memories and indecision. Donating an old cocktail dress is pretty easy. Each dress carries a memory of some party I wore it to, where I laughed, danced and drank with other people, but each pair of shoes carries with it memories of a personal journey it took me on….journeys that have all connected to make me the person that I am today.
There is the pair that carried me through my very first half marathon, showing me that actually what I thought is impossible is possible; you can go from not being able to run one mile to running 13.1. It’s the pair that led me to cross my first finish line and know immediately that what I thought would be a one-time occurrence was just the beginning of more finish lines ahead.
There is the pair that I wore during my very first run in the rain, when I splattered through puddles and realized that I have become one of those people whom I considered a “crazy rain runner” before I became a runner myself. I was no longer the casual runner, but the serious one, who will go out no matter what the weather conditions are, no matter how soaked she gets, to get her sanity run in. That first rain run reminded me of that time in college when we went out in our PJ’s in pouring 3 a.m. rain and made me want to try to find my old college roommates again. It made me remember the value of throwing caution to the wind and taking advantage of the times when I can pretend to be carefree even if for just an hour.
There is the pair that I wore in the San Francisco half marathon; the race that I dreaded for 6 months, because this girl does not do hills. She’s got the endurance to run on flat roads forever, but don’t have her do hills or sprints because she can’t do those…until she did…in those shoes…up and down through San Francisco…finishing the race exhilarated and realizing that if she could run that course, surely she could run a full marathon as well.
There is the pair that I wore on all my early morning runs during our trip to Italy. I would sneak out of where we were staying before my husband and kids woke up to discover what Rome, Venice, and Florence sound and feel and smell like early in the morning as the sun is rising. Those solitary morning excursions made me remember vacations past as a little girl and appreciate as a mother now all the planning that my mom must have done for our childhood vacations in the days of no technology, when you had to actually call travel agents and book hotels without a wealth of ratings and reviews at your fingertips on your phone.
There is the pair that was sent to me by Women’s Running as a thank you for some of my contributions to them. They came along with other goodies in a box that I opened in disbelief…that the girl who was picked last in PE and couldn’t run a mile at the age of 38 had transformed into not just a runner but a contributor to a running website. That pair told me that the definition of who you are can change at any age if you want it to. That pair said you are both an athlete and a writer, and made me wonder what other roles are waiting in my future.
There is the pair that I wore in my very first full marathon; the marathon in which I decided that I was going to carry my late aunt for 26.2 miles and then finally let her go…let go of all the regrets and sorrow I had about her death and only hold on to the beautiful memories and lessons she taught me…the pair that carried my aunt and I through 26.2 miles of Los Angeles neighborhoods and made me a first-time marathoner mother at the age of 42. It proved that I can do anything once I decide to commit to the work involved, once I have the right motivation, once I care enough. It is the pair that makes me think of my aunt every time I see it.
Do I keep all these shoes, or do I donate them? Do they continue to occupy a shelf in my closet, or do I let them go? Do I keep just the one pair that carried me and my aunt through that first marathon, or do I donate them to Soles4Souls, so they can protect the feet of another mother and help carry her through her own journey across the world, so they can provide the wings to help her take some steps from her impossible towards her possible? I think I know my answer. Do you have a shelf of old running shoes? See how you can help at Soles4Souls.