Running for My Life

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By: Tynan Power/TRT Columnist*

Last December, I ran my first 5K. I came in a proud 2649th.

Although it was my first race, Northampton’s annual Hot Chocolate Run for Safe Passage was nothing new to me. In fact, over the years, I have acquired a collection of Hot Chocolate Run mugs, each sporting polar bears and penguins in a design by cartoonist Hilary Price, creator of “Rhymes With Orange.”

The mugs hold precious memories of dragging my sons out of bed early on Saturday mornings to go watch the run and participate in the two-mile family walk. Every year, we’d comment on the runners’ skimpy clothes — “They must be freezing!” we said, shivering in our own heavy fleece and colorful scarves. We’d take off with the crowd of walkers down Main Street. When we got back to the start point, there would be mugs full of unlimited hot chocolate and mini-marshmallows.

The runners seemed like an elite breed. Whether fast or slow, lean or paunchy, in technical running gear or sweatpants and hoodies, they seemed confident and focused. They seemed to be listening intently to their bodies. It made them seem alien — and made me want to join them.

I’ve often struggled to feel connected to my body. For many trans people, our bodies are understandably not our best friends; sometimes we’re not even on speaking terms. Yet the fact remains that we only get this one body in life. We can dress it and change it so it feels like a better place to hang out, but on a much more basic level, we have to take care of it. A lot of us do a poor job of taking care of our bodies before transition — and years of bad habits don’t magically improve with an injection of hormones.

I’m no exception. Over the years, I’ve eaten more than my share of junk masquerading as food, skipped medical appointments, and avoided working out. I’ve also been a victim of domestic violence. And though that was no choice or fault of my own, I think my disconnect from my body and belief that I didn’t deserve better led me to stay in that relationship when I should have left.

That’s what makes the Hot Chocolate Run so important to me. Each year, it raises funds for Safe Passage, which serves victims of domestic violence. It’s a great opportunity to get moving — to walk or run — and it’s a fun event for the whole community.

In 2009, when I promised myself I’d be one of the runners the following year, I worried that I’d look ridiculous — the lone fat guy huffing and puffing along the road. When I gave myself permission and time to run, though, I found I didn’t care if I looked ridiculous. I actually don’t huff and puff. Whatever seems “more important” than my run on any given day is actually better handled after I run, when I’m focused and energized. Every time I run, I’m making a choice to take care of this one body, and this one life.

Last year, I wore my first race bib and a sticker that read “Another Man Against Domestic Violence.” I was excited and nervous at the starting line. When I crossed the finish line, all that remained was focused self-awareness. My body, with all it has been through, is strong and whole. I am strong and whole: a runner, a survivor and absolutely another man against domestic violence.

For more information about the Hot Chocolate Run and Family Walk for Safe Passage, visit www.safepass.org.

*Tynan Power is a parent, a writer, a progressive Muslim leader, an interfaith organizer, and a (very slow) runner. He will be at this year’s Hot Chocolate Run on Dec. 4, challenging himself to come in 2,648th.

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