Hitting your Stride

August 21st, 2008

Run, woman, run!

This weekend I watched Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania as she competed in and won the gold medal in the women's marathon at the Olympics. About midway through the race, she sprinted ahead of the pack and created almost a minute of running space between her and the rest of the runners. As I watched, I found myself awed by her commitment to running her own race, to setting her own tempo, and thoroughly staying on purpose.

The accompanying commentary was an interesting social experiment, as the pundits took bets on whether she would crash and burn-out or prevail. There were dire predictions of Constantina's falling by the wayside or of collapsing in the final moments. I was very glad that she could not hear the commentary, because it almost certainly would have taken her off her stride. The comments reminded me of the old "crab in the barrel" syndrome - the pattern of keeping people in place by reminding them of what they can't do, of possible horrific consequences, or by banishment or censure. While it is true that Constantina had failed in previous races when she broke away from the pack and ran her own race, her past failure didn't stop her, nor did the fear of criticism from others. In my mind, this makes her race all the more amazing.

Constantina is a woman who knew what she wanted, who set her own pace and ran! There were times she obviously struggled, she almost faltered on several occasions, but she kept her wits about her and wow, she ran! She didn't look back until the very end -- she stayed mindful of what she was about and kept her vision clear. I found myself cheering her on with every step, this woman I'd never heard of, but whose grit and determination I knew in my own bones. I've never run a marathon, but I know what it takes to stay on purpose when the world tells one to stay in line, to hang with the group, not to take a risk or to run one's own course. Staying on purpose is never easy, but can be oh so rewarding.

Now, I'm not espousing that we all be frontrunners. Not everything is a competition and the stakes are not always so high. There are, in fact, many times when we need to stay with the pack, create good partnerships, and not leave each other behind. Occasionally though, we need leaders who are willing to break rank, willing to not be held back by expectations or the fears of others. Your great-grandmother may have been one of those leaders, or perhaps you've been one yourself.

The world is asking us to step up in new and untested ways. It is the only way we will survive and evolve. Where are you holding back? What would you need to find your own rhythm and stride? What might you do if you ran your own race? I'm quite interested in this. Please let me know.


August 2008

THE GOOD FIGHT: What, in your life, is worth fighting for?

THE GOOD FIGHT is a new web series from Sundance Channel that looks at the places where environmentalism is a necessity, not a luxury.

This multimedia series sheds light on the activists and grassroots organizations -- including Rockwood community members Ludovic Blain III, Clayton Thomas-Muller, Majora Carter and Van Jones -- that are striving vigorously and resolutely for environmental justice for all.

Environmental rights are civil rights, and climate change has no boundaries.