Lori's Story: By Lori Burt
Growing up, I didn’t participate in sports all that much. Though I tried soccer, volleyball and other team sports, I felt I lacked coordination. In college I participated in track and cross-country. While I enjoyed cross-country running, my coach didn’t put much effort into developing my abilities since I wasn’t his top runner. This was so sad, because even though I enjoyed being a part of the team and the feeling that running gave me, the coach made me feel branded as a person who simply wasn’t good enough. I carried this feeling with me after college. When I would describe myself as a runner, I always added the tagline: “I just run for fun. I’m not fast.” Over the years, my running dwindled to an occasional treadmill run at the gym.
Life happened. I got married. I got divorced. I found myself searching for new horizons. About five years ago, a colleague who was a marathon runner sparked my interest in running again. I ran a local 5k and was re-hooked on the sport, and I signed up for other events as well. Around this time I met a great man (Rob, my now fiancée) who supported my efforts and encouraged me. Even when he wasn’t participating in the events himself, he was still my number one cheerleader.
Though I’m admittedly an introvert and don’t enjoy group dynamics too much, I found I lacked friends with common interests. With a helpful push from Rob, I joined the Dirty Girls Saturday morning trail training group. At first I felt like an outsider. Even though the group was friendly and welcoming, a lot of its members had been running with each other for a while. I found this a little intimidating. I remember worrying that I wasn’t “fast enough” to hang. But Alexa is very good at matching paces and running styles so I was partnered with a group that ran a pace that was comfortable for me. It wasn’t too long before the miles started floating by and I found I was really enjoying myself. Now I didn’t want Saturday’s to end! Rob would always ask me for a recap when I came back from my runs, and he always told me how proud he was of me.
After the runs, the group would head out for coffee and brunch. Everyone was invited. Over coffee, I started to get to know the group leaders better. They’d draw me into conversations regarding training, running destinations, pace groups, etc. and they seemed to really respect what I had to say. One day there was no one to lead my pace group. I knew all the info, and where to go… it just took that extra step to speak up and be the one to lead. It really was a very natural progression.
Alexa talks a lot about the difference between healthy and unhealthy competition, and she’s asked me to write about this topic. By nature I have a competitive spirit so this one is a tough one for me. Having met people from all walks of life, I remind myself often of what it takes to get to certain points. These points might be miles, jobs, marriages, anything really. I have watched people struggle with their health personally and in my profession as a medical assistant. Being able-bodied is something I try not to take for granted. Instead of comparing or competing I try to remind myself to be thankful for what I have and what I was given. I look at others now and wonder about their own struggles. I remind myself that something that might be easy for me might not be so easy for them. And vice versa. It’s a lot more rewarding to congratulate someone on an accomplishment than to belittle them for doing less or having less.
I truly believe the Dirty Girls/Dudes is a very welcoming group for all abilities. This group is very diverse. It’s fun meeting new people and learning about where they come from geographically and personally. Some of my best friends now are people I never would have met had I not joined this group. There is something special about runners, and trail runners especially. We come together and accomplish these “crazy” miles. We spill information about ourselves that no other person wants to hear. We run in ridiculous weather, up and down mountains and participate in competitions to give ourselves the moniker “the dirtiest girl/dude”. Running trails is therapy. The camaraderie that is built out there cannot be matched. So many of life’s problems have been solved amongst those trees and on those mountaintops. You can’t imagine what a privilege it is to witness a person accomplishing something they never dreamed possible before joining this running group. Certainly the Dirty Girls has been my best running experience. I hope you'll join me on a run sometime!