When my family and I moved to the Bay Area from Chicago in December, a lot of things, obvious and not-so-obvious, changed. I will be the first to admit that I was a bit terrified about the move, and at the core, I was (probably) most anxious about essentially being the new kid at school for the first time in over a decade.
While I consider myself a pretty outgoing gal, and a fairly gregarious one at that, I also think I’m a bit goofy–as many of my people are–and wondered how the hell I’d meet people, make friends, and basically, figure shit out here in the absence of working outside the home and having lots of facetime with adults daily. Seriously, I have sometimes wondered if my being a SAHM has affected my abilities to seamlessly interact with other adults… but hey, being awkward can be kinda fun… the operative word here is “kinda”…
Anyway, shortly after we made the move, I began putting myself out there way more than I had in recent history in Chicago, again, in no small part because I felt like it was in my best interests to do so here in order to make friends. Of course, the easiest way for me to put myself out there, by being a stay-at-home mom, was through social media. I started writing more here and posting weekly training recaps for Oakland, stuff that I never thought anyone would have any interest in reading; I played on twitter more than I had been (but as usual, typically only during toddler downtime, or pre-predawn runs); I not only got on but also joined some groups on facebook (which, if you know me, is a BFD because I loathe facebook and deleted my account many years ago); and on a whim, I applied to be a social media ambassador for some Bay Area races, including TSFM, the 408k, and the ZOOMA Napa half marathon/10k.
When the various races (surprisingly) selected me to help promote their races, I immediately thought cool! Free race entry! Easy way to meet other runners in the area! followed by fuck! I’ve gotta come outta my cave! As I’ve written about elsewhere, it’s significantly easier to keep your (read: my) life and training and goals all clammed up in a space that you (me), and only you (me), is privy to; however, the challenge, and subsequent growth, I’d argue, lies in laying it all out there for people to take in for themselves–judgement be damned.
I’ve gotten to thinking about this stuff again recently because I’ve been thinking a bit more about the ZOOMA half marathon in Napa at the end of June. Though I don’t know for certain right now, it’s fairly probable that I’ll race it (!!!) and use it as a tune-up/gauge for TSFM a month later. I haven’t truly raced a half marathon all year (and really, in a long time… maybe since January ’12, if memory serves). I’m really excited about the ZOOMA race because I’m looking forward to seeing where my fitness is, post-Oakland and post-Newport (21 days from today, yeessh!), and more importantly, I’m also really looking forward to meeting the other Napa ambassadors with whom I’ve connected via social media over the past few months. These women seem awesome, and I’m excited to meet more social media buddies IRL…and yes, I went there with the internet acronyms.
Admittedly, I don’t often run women-focused or women-marketed races like ZOOMA, but when I do, I find them to be incredibly empowering and motivating. What stands out most to me about women-centered races is that, while they’re not necessarily a crazy-ass-competitive environment–and that’s cool, and really, totally a-okay–they’re quite supportive and downright celebratory of their participants and the work they’ve put in to get there. Every racer matters, regardless if she’s throwing down 6 or 16 minute miles. And personally, women’s races like ZOOMA are really awesome reminders for me to reflect on how far I’ve come in my running, as I witness so many women participating in their first endurance event, and I can get downright teary (no surprise) and giddy cheering for the other runners, just about as much as I do running it, myself.
For me, the running community is about so much more than just my racing; supporting and encouraging others is a big part of the puzzle as well.
Another distinguishing characteristic for me with all-women’s races, and probably the biggest selling factor, is the general lack of cattiness/stupid judgement/bullshit between female runners. I notice this shit all the time when I run and race. Rarely do I get a wave or an acknowledgement of my presence from other female runners while I’m running, regardless (especially) if I initiate the communication. Men, on the other hand, seem to have no problem whatsoever to reciprocate communication with me. I’m not entirely sure what the root of this is, but I do know that, based on the all-women’s races I’ve run in the past, women are generally way more supportive and encouraging of each other in this environment than in others (and, sidenote: during Ragnar SoCal a couple months ago, I distinctly remember that it wasn’t until my final relay leg, when I was running against other women on the roads–women who weren’t running Ragnar but were just out for their morning runs–that they were suddenly encouraging and acknowledging of my presence and communication. During that final leg, I can’t tell you how many fistbumps, looking good, sister!, thumbs-up, and the like I got from these other, non-Ragnar women. In contrast, the women I passed, talked to, or ran near in Ragnar, the ones actually running the relay, couldn’t have given a damn about me or my efforts to connect with them. WTF, women. What. The. Fuck).
Anyway, suffice it to say that I’m getting excited for Napa. There are lots of cool sponsors who have been really great to the other ambassador ladies and me–thank you, Altra, Ultimate Direction, Cytomax/Muscle Milk, Ultima Replenisher, and more!–and I’ve since learned that RunningAddicts, one of the South Bay running groups to which I belong (and the folks responsible for my fun pacing gigs recently) will also be serving as the pacers at the race, so it’ll be fun to see some familiar faces up north. I’m expecting nothing less than a runnah love-fest.
More than anything, I’m looking forward to being in a community of (primarily, though not exclusively) female runners and being surrounded by a lot of “sisterhood-driven positivity” (that sounds horrendous, but I think you get what I mean) for a change, instead of the same ol’, same ol’ inter-lady bullshit negativity and cattiness.
Goes without saying that, while I’m an ambassador for ZOOMA Napa, these views are mine and mine alone.
During your training or races, have you observed any notable differences between how men/women interact with you? What do you think accounts for the differences/similarities? Surely I can’t be the only one who experiences this…
And hey… join me in Napa. NAMB8 gets you 10% off the 10k or the half. As my three year-old says, it’ll be “like super fast” or “like super fun!”