We are at a beach: a big, beautiful one in central El Salvador. I decide that I absolutely must run today. I am a runner, and sometimes runners simply need to run. I need to move. The wide-open space of the nearly-empty beach calls to me. I turn to my friends, all of them women, and announce where I am going. Voy a trotar.
They exchange glances. Tenga cuidado. Be careful.
I am careful. My bare feet pick around the shells and sand dollars on the hot sand, my feet pushing in deep. The wet grains resist me, forcing my legs to work harder. I relish the discomfort, as all runners secretly do. My hair streams out behind me. It feels like flying. It always does.
“Look, there’s a girl running!”
“Hey, girl! Where are you going so fast!”
“Hey, don’t you want to stop and talk to me?”
This is what all female runners know: many men assume that our moving bodies exist to be the object of their attention. That I might be using my body in my own freedom, to feel the wind in my hair and the sand beneath my feet as I breathe in the warm but fresh Pacific air is beyond the comprehension of these men. I am running in front of them, therefore I am there to please them. That is, after all, why female bodies exist. That our bodies might have their own strength and power separate from male pleasure does not occur to them. I doubt it ever will.
A group of men is dragging a boat farther up onto shore. They do not notice me at first, but one of them catches my eye by accident. I run faster, but he has already hit is friends playfully on the shoulder and pointed at me. They start dragging the boat faster. I run faster. I calculate that we will run into one another if I do not change course.
“Look, a girl running!”
I make a quick left turn, making a wide arc behind them. They are too far up the beach now. They know that coming back down to where I am, down by the water, would cross some invisible, metaphorical line in the very real sand. They simply stare at me as I pass behind them, looking over their shoulders with an uncomfortable combination of curiosity and hunger.
Women are not supposed to run in El Salvador.
She stumbles through the dark, her feet slipping and struggling to stay in her sandals. Over steep rocky paths and through empty streets she runs. It is already hot. She uses one hand to hold up her long skirt, the other held at the ready in case she needs to brace herself for a fall. She is fast, but she wants to go faster. She was faster as a girl. She is strong now from carrying water from the well every day, but slower in these heavier adult clothes, more restricted, out of practice.
“Hey, there’s a woman running!”
“Look at her go!”
“Where are going, girl? What’s the rush?”
“Don’t you want to stop and talk to me?”
But she is not running for pleasure. Or for exercise. She runs out of fear. She runs out of sadness. She runs out of an excitement, a tiny door-crack’s-worth of hope, a wonder. She does not completely understand why she is running, but she knows that she must. Deep in her bones, she knows they will write about this. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” She knows that they will forget the part about how hard it is to run in shoes like hers. She laughs.
She passes a group of men leaving their homes. To begin work? To visit their families for the Passover? They watch her with a mixture of surprise and dark, twisted thing like wanting. They point and stare. They grin in a way that is the opposite of friendly. She ignores them. She knows that they will forget this part of the story, too.
Women are not supposed to run in 1st-century occupied Palestine.
Women are not supposed to run in El Salvador .
Women are not supposed to run in West Philadelphia and East Garfield Park and the North Side and the Bronx and Southie.
Women are not supposed to run in Rio and Belfast and Lagos.
But run we do. Together, we run. Together, we propel ourselves forward, our eyes vigilant, our ears always hyper-aware of every sharply drawn breath, blown kiss, leer, or insult disguised as a compliment. Together, we are trying to be stronger. We are trying to be faster. We like the feel of the wind through our hair and our feet hitting the sand, the dust, the road. We run because someone is chasing us or because we have someone or something to chase.
We run because know something amazing has happened and it cannot wait.
Leave us alone. We have stories to tell.
Blessings and best wishes for all those running the Boston Marathon today, especially the women. May your feet safely find the finish line. Run your story. Mary of Magdala did, and generations have remembered her name. And someday, may we all be able to run without fear, our whole bodies, our whole selves. That would be a beautiful kind of Resurrection.