Sunday, January 24, 2010

Congressional Congruence

“From the pain, comes the dream.
From the dream, comes the vision.
From the vision, come the people.
From the people comes the power.
From the power comes the change.”
Peter Gabriel

There is this point in every marathon where it hurts. I don’t care if you’ve trained for a year, two years or many. Somewhere between 17 and 23 miles there is this point where things just hurt, plain and simple. The body says no. I’m done. Kaput. It’s over. No more.

This has affectionately been the space most runners call “the wall.” The wall is hard to describe. It’s not a cramp or a decrease in cardiovascular functioning. The wall occurs when the glycogen stores (the fuel in our muscles) we’ve been depleting for 17 or 18 miles are just that…depleted. The fuel we need to ignite neurons to move muscles simply runs out. The best way to stave off the wall is to continue fueling for the first 18 miles. A variety of companies have come up with nutritional products that can be easily ingested. Generally they are goopy, slimy-textured products that go down easily, but may require a good deal of self-discipline to get them into your mouth in the first place. Ick.

I say all this because if you’ve done a marathon, you are more than likely at this moment nodding your head, smiling or grimacing. You know. You’ve been there and done that. If you haven’t done a marathon you are probably, especially after reading what I’ve written here, questioning the sanity of anyone who does. I can remember at one point during the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, when I hit the wall around mile 19 of the marathon, hearing a voice inside my head actually laughing at me. She said, “And you know what Molly, you paid a lot of money to do this.”

I’ve been rambling recently about the back and forth between the left and the right, the conservatives and the liberals, the ‘you said this’s’ and the ‘he said that’s,’ the one side and the other side. And I landed on an understanding where Girls on the Run is in all of that back and forth and coming and going. We are the space, the stomping ground, the vessel, the in-between, the sanctuary, the haven, the settlement where both camps can stand together and share. It is through the sharing of ideas that minds are changed…where critical thinking becomes just that critical.

Without the ability to share, listen and be heard we could NEVER make informed decisions. The beliefs we would land on would simply be the beliefs of those on the “side” where we grew up, hang out and sit in. We have to be willing to listen to the other side in order to grow, evolve and critically use our brains to land on our own beliefs, philosophies and core values.

What Girls on the Run does and why I opened with the marathon experience is provide that “common ground.” It is the safe haven where big, little, tall, short, brown, white, black, and rich, poor, old, young congregate. Everyone who has been there knows the pain of that wall. Every person, whether liberal or conservative, knows the joy of crossing the finish line. Every person, whether thin or not, can appreciate the effort required to train for and show up at the starting line. There is a universal understanding that flows beneath the surface of every running event, whether a 5k or a marathon. Everyone crosses the same starting line, feels the surge of adrenalin there, knows the pain of their own exertion and the exhilaration of the finish. Stories ‘round the finish line are infinite. The shared experience, the common bond, the brother and sisterhood is real, tangible and is capable of bonding people for life.

And so…I land here. Imagine for a moment, our Congress and Senate members choosing a race. Actually let’s not make it a choice. Let’s make it a have to. They must all complete (like an eco-challenge event) the same race in order to keep their office. And…let’s choose something doable. Say…mmm…the Girls on the Run 5k in D.C. Okay…and then they train for it. Every Saturday, when in D.C., a group of them decide to get together and walk/run the mall (the graveled path near the Capitol). They start together, but with all training programs naturally break into groups. The fittest finish the workout first. Those less fit bring up the rear.

Eventually a few gather for breakfast afterwards. Then those that are interested add some interval training every Tuesday and longer runs every Thursday. They shed their suits, don their game face and get out there and train.

In May, they all toe the starting line and finish the 5k. One congressman in particular has some physical disabilities that require him to walk the 5k. Several of his fellow congressmen and women decide to go back and help him through the last mile. They walk together, all cheering him on. Joy abounds as they all cross that finish line together.

I know I’m crazy and I know I’m an idealist…but why can’t this happen? Why can’t we dream that one day the common ground covered by a 5k produces common ground between opposing viewpoints. The truth is it already does. Why can’t the wall of a marathon, when experienced by the left and the right, serve as a reminder that we are all human, all vulnerable, all real and all the same in so many ways! The truth is, IT already does! Why can’t I dream that one day, the leaders of our nation will know what I feel each time I train for a 5k, 10k or half-marathon…how it gently pushes me just outside my comfort zone…where in spite of all my intelligence, education and resources, I still feel the pain of the wall, the anxiety at the starting line and the joy of the finish. I know, as I look to my fellow runners, that we are one in the same at mile one, two three, four five….twenty-five and twenty-six….point 2.

There is common ground. Always. We just have to believe it, then create it and finally have the nerve and the willingness to step onto it. I say we make it the Girls on the Run 5k. Come on. I dare ya!


  1. Absolutely love this, Molly. Counting down the days till I meet you, my idol. :)

  2. Back at you! I know how hard you worked to fill out the application and get a Girls on the Run council "up and running." See you in a few!

  3. Dear Vermont Senator Leahy,

    There is a woman you have to meet. Her name is Molly Barker. She holds the key to the change we really need....

    Mandy Mayer