How running has been a gift

Tracey Running on Trail

If you’ve met one person who is a runner, you’ve met one person who is a runner.

By Tracey Cohen

Without a doubt, running, like autism, can be full of challenge, even painful at times. But the willingness to embrace difficulty is giving oneself the opportunity to flourish, to live a fulfilling, colorful life no matter how many times we fall.

My life, living undiagnosed on the autism spectrum for thirty-nine years and continuing to navigate the neurotypical world these subsequent eight to my present age of 47, has not been easy, but then I know few whose existence is truly carefree. And to wish that I was not on the spectrum would be to deny the person I am and strive to be. For better and worse, my autism is a part of me, and ‘we’ learn and grow and fall together. To deny this would be to reject myself and the person I aspire to be.

My running is also a very important part of my core. A magnificent ability recognized and bestowed upon my soul at a time I needed it most. With my autism unknown to my young self and the authorities in my life, professionals determined that institutionalization was needed to ‘whip me,’ an eleven year old child, ‘into shape.’ Afraid, alone, mystified as to what sins I had committed to be locked up miles away from anything and everyone recognizable, I remember that first run, excruciating and exhilarating leaving me begging for more. This simple sport transfixed my life opening doors to unimaginable opportunity – athletic, social, professional, charitable, all enriching my days and years.

But no matter my pleasure, not every run is easy or pain free. I have endured my share of injury, success and defeat, elation and despair. My commitment though has never wavered.

However, by no means did I ever intend to author a book. So when my supportive publishers encouraged me to do so not long after my first book, Six Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome (Pacelli Publishing 2015) was published, I expressed my gratitude but resisted the notion.

While my passion and experience is clear, I bear no misconceptions regarding my talent, dedication notwithstanding. But after the Pacelli’s gentle prodding and continued confidence in myself, I came to realize that I did not have to be an Olympian to offer advice on ‘my’ sport. My years of diverse training, racing and working in the sport’s industry were valid enough.

But ‘recreate the wheel’ I would never do, and so I waited until my thoughts were clear on how I might create an original piece that would benefit runners and non-runners, veterans and newbies, interested individuals and those who still consider running a punishment to be used for transgressions in gym class.

The intentions of my book, Six-Word Lessons on the Sport of Running: 100 Lessons to Enjoy Running for a Lifetime (2017) are to inspire naysayers to give running a chance; to provide an avenue and inspiration for those who have left the sport, to return; to help those who have reached a frustrating plateau or decline, take their running to new heights; to provide continued and very necessary validation and motivation for every runner, no matter our skill or age. And while not every lesson may ring true immediately, the lessons are meant to be resources to come back to and apply as we evolve as people and runners in a world that is forever changing.

Running is a truly multi-faceted sport that can be enjoyed at every phase of life, on many different levels. In one hundred concise and informative lessons, my book provides tips and reminders on training techniques, essential equipment, mindset, injury prevention and management and more, but with the intention of empowering each individual to take that information and use it in a way that benefits your own unique needs and desires.

Just as the saying goes, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism,” the same holds true for those who run whether you deem yourself a runner or not.

Coordination neither here nor there, I encourage one and all to consider my sport. Just as the autism spectrum is diverse and varied and full of potential, so is the sport of running, and I wish one and all to reap the many benefits, that have been major blessings in my life.

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Tracey Cohen

Tracey Cohen is an experienced ultrarunner, author and speaker, and has competed in thousands of races around the world, including two Boston Marathons and two 100-mile competitions. Tracey has been running for over 37 years and seeks to share the simple pleasures of putting one foot in front of the other and beyond. She is also the author of Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome.

Tracey can be contacted at http://www.growingupautistic.com/tracey and runtrace@hotmail.com

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