Here is where the sidewalk ends. “It’s not passable this time,” I think as I stop short at the edge of the water at about mile three of my regular seven-mile loop that takes me through the state park and around the lake. It feels so odd standing on the road and watching water gently lapping over the double painted lines, and hearing new sounds of wildlife confused by the sudden change in their ecosystem. I’m amazed at the great chaos caused by just a few unseasonable rain storms over just a few short days. I’m amazed at all of it, every day, actually.
Before I turn to run back the way I came, I am struck with a nihilistic thought triggered by the impassable flood waters: This is the end of the line. As I start getting back into stride, the movie of my mind clicks through frame after frame of failures. My failures. Those moments where – no matter what I tried or how I strived – there was no alternative left but to pack it in, to accept that it was the end of the line. I don’t want to think about this right now as I push myself to get back up to pace and in sync with my music. Not today. I can run through this. But today is one of those days when running will likely provide no reprieve from the crushing voices in my head.
I am a failure. I am a failure. Oh God, I’ve gone from simply pointing out my failures during this run to “now I am THE failure.” Sometimes when the thoughts become too much to bear, I can reboot my mind during the run by running harder or stopping completely to focus on the grasses swaying in the breeze. Okay, I’ve got this. No, no I don’t. Unfortunately, this is going to be the day that I hyper-focus on the one thought that I just want to bury for now. I’m wound up like a spring as I push up the hill – not sure if I need to scream or simply fall apart. Ugh, “Please help me” I utter into the air.
I cannot push down the cold, hard truth. It’s the end of the line for RunningPretty – the women’s running apparel business that I started out of a genuine desire to help women feel more confident when they exercise. I had dreams. I had designs. I had functional and fashionable outfits to share. What I didn’t have was money. When I realized I couldn’t really get the business going on my own, I looked for a partner or VC or an angel investor. No luck there. What was missing? Ah, yes. I needed someone to put their faith in me and my dream, but that wasn’t going to happen unless they could relate to the power of RunningPretty. They needed a good story.
I feel like I’m running in slow motion now. I look to the west and notice that the sky is slowly clearing with every footfall since turning from the flooded impasse. The clouds are thinning and the sun is shining through them creating magnificent crepuscular rays – or Jesus rays as I fondly call them. I just needed a good story. A blog. That was my last resort. I’d build a brand identity through storytelling. I figured, if I could write about what RunningPretty means to me and what it could mean to other women then maybe the brand would be valuable. So, on the advice of a friend who said, “It’s all about just being real and authentic,” I published “Running Pretty, Writing Real.”
I shared so many stories from the road – all of them flowing through and swirling within me as I ran mile after mile, day after day. I don’t know if I ever built a brand, but I definitely shared a journey. Maybe I shared the journey with no one else but me, but it was a valuable a journey none-the-less. Out there on the road it was my time to make sense of love, life, and God. In fact, it was out on the road one blissful Thanksgiving morning that I rekindled my relationship with God and realized that I never actually run alone. I am divinely protected and always have been. For years, I would run and I would pray – even if I never knew who or what I was praying to. My eyes were opened to the beautiful truth that the love of God flows from Him, through us, and then into others. It’s the only thing that can possibly hold together the human race. I wrote about that morning run, and how I’d finally been freed from trying to save myself, but words could not do it justice. What I experienced that morning was a feeling like none I’ve ever known.
Farewell, adieu, goodbye to RunningPretty. You were my hope of creating something better. Changing the world. It’s the end of the line for you. Sadly, this will be my last blog post under the RunningPretty brand and banner, and I’ll soon be disabling my website. Failure is a bitter pill to swallow.
I’m cruising down the last small hill of my run when I catch a glimpse of myself as a long shadow and out of strength I think, “No, this isn’t over.” RunningPretty may be over, but I’m not. I’ve got a lot of stories left in me and a lot of things I still need to share. Maybe after all, I did create something better. Maybe I did make a difference. My shadow is still following me and it’s a bedraggled silhouette of long arms, longer legs, messy hair flying straight back, and oddly large shoes. I am quite the picture of a ragamuffin.
Is it the end of the line or the beginning of a new journey – a journey in a slightly different direction? I am patched together, mismatched, and beat up. I’m a runner who runs to clean herself up. I run to organize all the things that are so pathetically unorganized in my life. I’m a ragamuffin. But aren’t we all in some way. No, this isn’t really the end of the line because maybe next time, it’ll just be you and The Ragamuffin Runner working through things together. One big glorious mess.