April 4, 2011

Ode to Shoes

After 9 months, 1,139 recorded miles and probably at least another 230 or so unrecorded miles, I have retired my recent running shoes. (Trust me, this is blog-worthy.)

This time last year I challenged myself to run 12 miles in the Appalachian Mountains outside Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. It turned out the trail was only 9, so I ran the 9 and then challenged myself to run 12 in Lorton, Virginia 6 weeks later. I did it, solo, feeling incredibly accomplished. Two days later I ran a 5:53 mile for a fitness test. Two days after that my knee gave out and while in Louisiana for 6 weeks, I didn't run a step.

Up until this point running had been an escape. When I didn't want to see people, didn't want to be interrupted, when I had too many thoughts and feelings to know what to do with, I ran. In Lorton I often woke up before anyone else and ran 4 or 5 miles before work, worked all day pulling junk out of the woods in the sun, and then ran another 6 to 8 at night. I avoided dinner with my team a number of nights. I escaped the morning breakfast rush, opting rather to do these things on my own, in quiet. My soul was raging and my spirit was confused. Very little made sense to me at this point in my life, so I ran. When I was running I felt quiet. My thoughts made sense, and though I ended in the same place I started, I knew I had gotten somewhere.

One of my first runs after my 6 week haitus in Louisiana was a "Technical Trail Race" in Pennsylvania. For 6.2 miles I ascended and descended a mountain of rough, rugged terrain.

Exhausted. Depleted.

I was hooked.

The following 6 weeks I woke up almost every morning and ran to the Camden waterfront or into Philadelphia. Crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge I had this intense sense of touching down on ground that held knowledge of things I would never know or understand no matter how long I lived there.

What I was experiencing in Camden brought a rush of audacity to everything I did, including running. Was it smart to run alone at 6am through the streets of the most dangerous city in the US? No. It wasn't. But I did it. Without a phone, without a knife, without pepper spray. Early morning was the only time Camden felt quiet, but even in the quiet it never felt calm. There was always something stirring, an eeriness to the quiet for me on those mornings that I would step off my porch onto the street, say goodmorning to the man who was always sitting on the porch across the street. He didn't have legs. Every morning he said to me "go go go! run!" And I ran. Strange as it is, the thing that brought me the most peace on those runs was running past the homeless asleep on the benches by the river. It was their world. Did I exist?

I didn't run for a week after returning to Maryland. I spent the majority of every day for a week in bed, sick for no logical reason other than that for the second time in my life, a city had wrecked me, leaving my happy healthy world in shards.

And then I met The Guys.

The guys who released me into the world of adventure running. We met outside building 9H at 7pm and returned 14 miles later, well past dark. I couldn't sleep that night. Or the next after yet another night of running into the darkness, pausing along the water, running roads I had never run into towns I didn't know existed. They ran to explore, to discover, to be together and alone, to be a part of something and untouchable. After three days of this we met the "Trail Dogs" in Delaware at 6am and I ran my first marathon, trails. This would be an entirely separate entry. Suffice it to say I hit a state of bliss, a place of flow, that changed me as both a person and a runner. 3 hours in I knew this was something I was made to do.

26.2 miles later, soaked, mud-covered, spent and beaming, I was officially a Ratty One.

I spent the next two months running to explore, running to enjoy the company of another person, running to find lakes and rivers, running to breath the air, running to arrive. I ran to the ocean, along the ocean, to see the sun rise and feel it set. I ran to be alive. One day we ran 18 miles in pursuit of a lake we knew had to exist.. no power bars, electrolyte drinks or energy gels. No water. We just ran.

The body is an incredible thing. When you let it go.

These days I'm learning to run by feel. I don't have a number of miles I want to run in a week. I'm not training for anything in particular. But every time I run something happens in me. I don't have friends to run with right now, but I'm not bored, and I don't feel alone. Sometimes I find new roads, a trail I didn't see the last time.

But the most incredible thing is when I hit that point.. the one I barely recognize because it happens in a state of unawares.. but I hit a point of flow, a point where nothing exists but my breathe, my heart beating, the air around me, in me, and the stirrings of my spirit. Sometimes I find myself whispering in a language only God knows. I am an agent of change in a world I don't belong to, a passerby believing life isn't something we make but rather something we find when we finally, finally let go.

To the places I ran through, the people I ran with, the faces that smiled and the hands that waved. To the rivers I crossed, the sand my feet printed, the birds that sang to me, and the roads that truly do live in my memory. To the girl I was, the girl I've become, the girl I'm becoming. And to the shoes that shared it all.


Ponder, Wonder, Love & Learn... on April 4, 2011 at 1:27 PM said...


Anonymous said...

I feel refreshed after reading this and forgot (until now) how your writing makes me want to invest and support you if ever you do take on a book in the near future! Secretly praying that my dream of that book on my nightstand, with author's name 'Kendra Chamberlain' printed so humbly on the front cover, will come into fruition! When I meet someone who's heart is numb I will give them your writings, they will feel their heartbeat again.

Painting Tips and Tricks on April 10, 2011 at 8:50 AM said...

I like your blog. Great Article....Daniel

Anonymous said...

Oh Kendra, I absolutely LOVE this post! You are amazing and I love you!


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