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In My Shoes

Let me start by saying something that will surprise no one: I LIVED for the Women’s March on Washington this weekend. It took everything in me not to hop on a plane to DC or New York and walk in solidarity with so many fearless, determined (and did I mention creative?) human beings. Nothing breathes life into me like seeing people put their beliefs into action, and this movement is a compelling example of the power of peaceful opposition. It still gives me chills.

That being said, I needed a way to feel like I could participate from California. On Saturday morning, not unlike any other day, I woke up, slipped on my leggings and bright blue sneakers and stepped outside for a run. The best thing about being on the central coast in mid-January is that the weather, though rainy this past week, stays just warm enough to help motivate me to get out of bed. I chose a path I hadn’t taken before, up a hill toward an orange grove and then around the engineering buildings on campus. The air was cool, just a bit humid, with the sunshine barely peeking through clouds that had been lingering overhead for several days. I, of course, was so taken with the landscape that I almost forgot my way home.

Anyone who knows me well is probably familiar with my love affair with running. I write about it often because it remains a source of constancy and focus for me, no matter my outside circumstances. Running is something I will always have; it is uniquely mine and an expression of the power of my physical body. Though I love it for many reasons, maybe the most important is that it makes me feel strong, both mentally and physically. And on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think about the parallels between running and the values this Women’s March espouses: equality, resilience and strength.

As women, we are taught from an early age to be delicate, graceful and charming. We wear dresses, curl our hair and change our last names to match our husband’s. While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things, I don’t think women are encouraged often enough to appreciate the fortitude present in our bodies. We are expected to be beautiful, but strong? Not always the case. I took up running because it made me feel powerful in a society where I am expected to compromise my ambitions simply because I am female. If I couldn’t out-earn the men in my life, I knew without a doubt I could outrun them.

What if my method of speaking up, of expressing my frustration with political leadership that does not protect my interests, starts with putting on a pair of shoes? What if my singular act of resistance could be as simple as placing one foot in front of another on the ground?

I run because I am a woman, because I am courageous and purposeful and strong. I run because I live in a world that might have me choose between raising a family and working in an office, then immediately offer criticism about the path I designate for myself. I run because I am taught to be wary, to keep an eye out for predators, to present myself in a certain way because although I should strive to be desirable, I could also be asking for unwanted attention.

I run because I refuse to let society dictate my worth. My hope is that the Women’s March inspires many to speak up for what they value, and I know for certain it makes me feel proud to be part of this democracy. At times when the political climate feels more divided than ever, it is refreshing to watch a showing of such solidarity, spirit and support.

As for me, I will continue to practice this one thing I know best… to run.

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