by Tori Christie

As I was driving back to my house recently, after my daily run, I noticed the stickers plastered on the rear windows and bumpers of several vehicles. Folks certainly like to adorn their automobiles with various messages, opinions, memorials, accomplishments, affiliations, and the like, don’t they? Don’t get me wrong; I know full well that many of us have stickers on our rides, too, including several 13.1 and 26.2 stickers, so I am not passing judgment. I formulate a bit of judgment when the volume of stickers exceeds the real estate parameters, though, and formulate a bit (or an abundance) of judgment when the owner’s opinions either differ from or align with my own. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I am incensed, and sometimes I am perplexed. Of course, there are days like today when I went ahead and discreetly took a photograph of one of them as the SUV idled in front of me at the stoplight. No, not the one that read, “Whoever said diamonds are a girl’s best friend never owned a pug,” but the one that read, “I hope something good happens to you today.” I like the message. I like the positivity of it, as well as the simplicity and neutrality of it. There is empathy in those words. There is genuine concern for fellow humans. I relish the power in those simple words to potentially transform someone’s day.

I have had a sticker of one kind or another on my car for years. Of course, the only stickers I have ever chosen to display relate to running. My inaugural 26.2 sticker went on just days after completing my first marathon back in 2010. It was a rite of passage, really, one that brought me an intense sense of pride and joy. I replaced it a couple of years later. I had to because I sold the car and got a new one. New car, new sticker. A more recent sticker, the third one, was peeling pretty badly, so I had to replace it a few months back. It saddened me because it was a 26.2 sticker from the 2014 Boston Marathon, which was obviously meaningful. It was a year after the bombing, and that particular event was significant to me, as it was to many other runners. Anyway, I engaged in relentless pursuit, the search for the perfect replacement sticker for the Subaru. I completed my first 50-mile ultra last fall, so I considered adding one that reflected that distance. The volume of options paralyzed me. My problem was that I would end up going down rabbit holes when I started looking at the wealth of choices I had available to me. I liked the one that says, “I’d Rather Be Running.” I was humored by the one that says, “First I Run the Miles…Then I Run More Miles” (that one is also on a shirt a running buddy gave me). Still, then I find myself adding “You Literally Mean Figuratively” and “Don’t Look Back, You Aren’t Going That Way” to my cart, right along with “I Didn’t Come This Far To Only Come This Far” and “drink all the coffee. run all the miles.”

After much contemplation and deliberation, I settled on one that said “Run” because that felt inclusive of my accomplishments and simultaneously reflected my passion. I also see that sticker as a pronouncement that I am part of something bigger, part of a community of runners connected by a single activity, sure, but who have so much more in common than fast-paced bipedal locomotion. It serves as my membership in this inclusive, supportive, delightful, expansive group of runners.

Of course, I should also add that my predilection for stickers and magnets that commemorate my race history and extol my commitment to running extends beyond my vehicle. There is a rather large appliance in my garage that serves as a gallery for the ever-growing collection. I am not sure why, besides a much-coveted medal, many race organizers began doling out stickers and magnets to finishers, but I am so glad they did. One of my Des Moines Marathons earned me a sticker, and it is certainly part of that curated collection. Among my intentions (a word I have come to prefer over goals) is to completely cover the front of the freezer with stickers and magnets from races. They are trophies of sorts, to be sure, but they are also memories of the many times I have put in the work and reaped the rewards. They marked occasions when I accomplished a personal triumph, sometimes despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They represent months and months of training. They represent hours and hours and hours of running. They represent many happy occasions with friends and family. And they never cease to bring a smile to my face. I am looking forward to adding another 26.2 sticker this fall and for many years to come. There is an awful lot of real estate left to fill. More importantly, there are many more miles to run.

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