By Jessica Seaberg
Updated: February 29, 2008

“If you have never been called a defiant, incorrigible, impossible woman… have faith… there is yet time.” — From Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

As I sat down to write, the notion of “pack mentality” was in my head. Ive always been what I thought of as a solitary runner. I look forward to the ritual of getting up with the sun, enjoying a morning cup of coffee with open windows and a quiet house, going through all my pre-run motions, and then running and returning while half the city is still asleep.

This past Saturday, however, I got a taste of what its like to run with a pack—I passed a running group that was stopped for a bathroom break at the Lake Calhoun boathouse, and a few minutes later, they very easily caught up to me. Instead of letting them pass me by, I pushed hard and ran alongside them for about 10 minutes, what I estimate to be about a mile.

They were familiar with one another, their chatter and laughter punctuated with sharp breaths and the staccato slapping of their feet against the pavement. I felt like I was a part of something big—a team, a group effort. As a non-athlete most my life, this was a new experience for me, and it changed the way Ive been thinking about running. Now Im thinking its high time to find a running group to get me through some of the long, hot days of marathon training.

My mother has a circle of extremely close girlfriends (and really, that is an understatement—they are like sisters, and have been best friends since something ridiculous like 7th grade). Over the years, Ive witnessed their many “girlfriend getaway” weekends to Northern Minnesota, but one sticks out in my mind—when my mom came home, she was talking about this book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. One of the books many themes is “the psychic bond (women share) in their fierceness, grace, and devotion to mate and community.”

Next Page: Finding the perfect balance [ pagebreak ]This morning, as I sat down to write this entry, I searched the title on the Web and was directed to the blog of track and field Olympian Joan Nesbit Mabe. Reflecting on a passage from the book, Mabe says:

“My running moms are serious runners seeking to enhance their already meaningful existence(s) ...not one-dimensional fitness freaks who ignore the IMPORTANT things in life in order to be thinner or faster. Some of us do happen to be fast, but not at the expense of children or husband or REAL self. Its a delicate balance...sooooooooooooooo much harder than when I was simply, single-mindedly, training for the Olympics.”

Im not a mom, but this passage reminds me of the balance I strike between all the different roles I play in life— girlfriend, daughter, sister, friend, granddaughter, employee, business-woman, volunteer—the list seems endless at times. The identity of “runner” or “athlete” often seems to come last. Thats what we women do —we so often put our true desires and needs last on that list, and when we actually have the audacity to put our needs first, were difficult, selfish, unwilling, defiant, bitchy, or manly.

Losing weight and getting fit, Ive quipped over the years, has basically been a second full-time job. To achieve success, Ive had to learn to go against my natural inclination and put myself first. I have offended people along the way. Ive stopped saying “yes” so readily and easily. Im not as compliant as I once was. It has not been easy, but its been the smartest and healthiest thing Ive ever done, in ways that have nothing to do with the numbers on the scale.

To me, this marathon isnt necessarily about being thinner or faster, its not about beating anybody (except my own brain), winning, or making a specific time. For the first time in my life, its about doing something I really truly never even conceived was possible—running with the wolves.

(Thanks Mom)