Final Thought


You may recall, Dear Reader, that last month we talked about how popular running has become among women. I mentioned a report that women made up 57 percent of the finishers in running events in 2013 and 2014. By contrast, they made up merely 25 percent of race finishers in 1990.

Then I ran out of space and was unable to work in some comments from a longtime Little Rock Marathon coach. We’ll get to those comments soon, but I wanted to branch off onto another subject for a sec: trees.

Growing in flowerpots in our living room are two oak seedlings I intend to plant in the backyard. They’re from acorns I picked up last fall while visiting some Tennessee universities our daughter Abby is interested in. The nuts attracted me because they were far bigger than the fruit of the oaks now growing in our yard. I don’t expect to ever see these new trees bear acorns, but I’ve heard that an optimist is one who plants a tree knowing he will never sit in its shade. At the very least, maybe these trees will someday make a squirrel very happy.

When I think about trees, I often recall Mamaw, my grandmother Leila Sinclair Rhodes. She died in 1983, some 23 years after my grandfather Ira’s passing. For years, she lived modestly in a house on Pine Bluff’s southwestern outskirts. Tacked to her bedroom wall was a picture of Grant Wood’s “Arbor Day,” a 1932 painting that depicts a tree planting outside a rural schoolhouse. The picture was not a print, simply a page that had been removed from a magazine or book (on the back side are photos of a sycamore and a redwood).

I don’t think I ever asked her about that picture. I wish I had. Maybe it made her wistful about her childhood: the school, the woodshed, the rutted roads. Her father worked for a lumber company deep in the Southeast Arkansas woods in the 1800s. Or, maybe it made her think of springtime and refreshed hope.

After Mamaw moved to a nursing home, her old place sat empty for years and fell into decay. One day I went back to reminisce. The house was dank and empty. Everything with monetary value was long gone. But, amazingly, that picture was still on the wall in her old bedroom. It was a treasure to this sentimental sap.

I’m looking at the picture now. Enveloped in a plastic sleeve, it’s on the wall next to where I’m sitting. When I finish this next ‘Thought,’ it will be about time to head outside, plant those seedlings and think about Mamaw.

Hobbit Singleton and her husband, Tom, began coaching runners and walkers training for the Little Rock Marathon when it started back in 2003. I emailed her for insights about running’s growth among women. Here’s part of her reply:

“With a little help from my daughter, Jennifer Miller, these are some of the reasons we feel so many more women are embracing the sport of running and walking:

“1. The invention and refinements of the jog stroller. Jenn said when she had our granddaughter there were a lot of things she couldn’t do for exercise because she had a baby, but she could always put the baby in the stroller and head out the door and run.

“2. Running and walking groups where the emphasis isn’t so much on speed, but on getting out and moving. A lot of women — and men too, they just aren’t as vocal about it — don’t want to get out and run until they are as ‘good’ as they perceive ‘real’ runners to be. Groups like Women Run Arkansas, Black Girls Run, and the Little Rock Marathon Training Team get a lot of women involved with the sport. It is a less stressful, more welcoming environment for them, because they don’t feel they are being judged on how fast they are or how they look when they’re training.

“3. Mostly, sometimes I think it’s just that we can. It wasn’t too far back in … history that a woman was knocked down to keep her from competing in the Boston Marathon.”

She added a lot of women train for distance races, thinking it might be a one-time thing, and then find it’s “something that not only makes them stronger physically, but also mentally, and before they know it, they’ve completed 25 marathons, 60 half marathons, and are eyeing the 50-mile or 100-mile distance.”


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