I’ve never been drawn to stories of fleet footed maidens like Atalanta, or athletic goddesses like Artemis. Even at the occasional peaks of my fitness, I lean more toward a rigorous yoga practice than intense cardio, and I’ve always said that I hate running. I remember being forced to run the mile in gym class growing up, and cursing every sweaty step as I fell farther and farther behind my classmates. When I played tennis in high school, we ran briefly every day as part of the warm-up, but the only time I remember having to run a two-mile circuit around town was one Friday when we’d pissed the coach off somehow, and running was our punishment. I’ve had friends who’ve run, and I’ve always cringed at the thought of voluntarily racing around, but I tried to be supportive even though I didn’t share their idea of “fun”.

But then, two years ago, I sustained what would become a chronic wrist injury, which limits my ability to do weight bearing yoga poses like downward facing dog and plank, and which made me kiss my rigorous vinyasa practice goodbye for the time being. And then, almost a year later, when I realized that I needed to replace my fast-paced moving meditation with SOMETHING (for both my physical health and my sanity), I spontaneously decided to start running. I made a playlist of my favorite music, laced up my walking shoes, and started jogging in the living room, using the Wii Fit to “train”.

That’s when something crazy happened: I started to enjoy running.

I was too self-conscious at the start to run “properly” (outside, around the neighborhood, tracking mileage and tackling hills), but I really liked jogging treadmill style without the treadmill. I started to try on a runner’s identity, and I found that I liked it…quite a lot. I’m a naturally competitive, goal-oriented person, so it wasn’t long after I decided that maybe I liked running after all that I decided to sign up for a 5K. Becoming a mom postponed my race goal, but last month, I ran my first 5K, a Color Run, and even though it was cold and rainy, and even though I ran slower than just about everyone else around me, I did it, and when I pushed across the finish line, I felt exhilarated and I just knew, deep in my bones, that I could do anything.

I’m still starting out as a runner, but I AM a runner. I finally understand why Atalanta happily ran, outpacing every suitor who tried to win her hand, until Aphrodite intervened. I like to think that she didn’t race the men out of spite, but that she knew her own strengths and joys, and refused to settle for a mate who couldn’t keep pace with her (both on and off the track). There’s deep strength to be found in the stories of the wild maidens who knew their own power and weren’t afraid to do what they loved, and now that I’ve begun to run, I am gaining a deeper respect for both the power and strength of my body and for these strong, autonomous women and goddesses. I could have used their guidance while I was growing up, but I won’t push them away now that I’ve found them, even if I am not fleet of foot (yet) or a maiden any longer.