Two days ago, on a 16 mile run, I encountered a beautiful holy relic. It was lying on the ground by a trash can, gleaming up from the pavement in all its plastic pastel glory.
Of course, it wasn’t a sacred talisman when I first saw it. I passed it right by, focused on my aching knee as I went into mile 11. But my steps faltered, slowed, and then… I turned around to scoop that treasure off the trail.
Recently, some people have been helping me figure out why the last month was hell. The smartest thing any of them did was demand that I play more. It wasn’t a suggestion: I was actually charged to spend the weekend entertaining my 8-year-old self, with a report due after the fact. Of course, no 8-year-old ever wanted to run what feels like the length of Nebraska, so I’d been trying to placate Lil’ Jenn during my marathon training by pumping happy jams and running off the road a few times to inspect wildflowers. When I saw that charm bracelet, though, it was undeniably clear I’d found the winning ticket to self-babysitting success. The Jennie of 1992 would have been infinitely pleased by free swag with a dolphin bead on it.
The plastic loop didn’t fit around my wrist, so I held the thing in my hand to ponder as I ran. Almost instinctively, I found myself rubbing one bead between my fingers, thinking that its color and shape reminded me of picking wild blueberries on a hike in Virginia years ago. That thought moved me on to the purple butterfly bead, next in line and reminiscent of my mother and how she swears she sees a butterfly every time we chat on the phone. And on and on. The green triangle bead? My three dogs. That other one? The time J and I sat and talked at the hookah bar for hours. And this one – how much I love fresh grapefruit sprinkled with sugar. I pounded down the trail, transforming that lost little loop into a rosary of good memories.
By the end of the run, there was no doubt this talisman will be with me when I race in five weeks. But there was also a lot less doubt about how I’d endure the 35 days until then. My thanks are due to the mystery child who lost her bracelet, to the therapist whose words made me pick it up, and to everyone who played a part in those recollections. You should all know:
Even though current Jennie doesn’t go to church like Lil’ Jenn did, I definitely haven’t lost the faith.