The words on my arm

I never thought I’d get a tattoo.

But a few weeks before I left Boston, I had this feeling that I never wanted to forget one woman — one experience — and so I wanted a permanent reminder.

On the inside of my left arm, I’ve got the words “it works when we work it.”

The words came from Florence.

I met Florence through Back on my Feet Boston, a program that  uses” running to help those experiencing homelessness change the way they see themselves so they can make real change that results in employment and independent living.”

That’s the official boilerplate language of course. To me, the organization is much more than that.

I found out about Back on my Feet Boston through a friend: A woman who followed my blog, and who started running around the same time I did.

I started following her blog in return.

We were eerily similar this woman and I. Our split times for races were seconds off from each other, we’d lost nearly the same amount of weight, eventually we wound up both training for our first triathlons around the same time — literally a week apart from each other.

She started working for Back On My Feet. She was a runner. She asked me if I wanted to join the team that they were starting out of the local women’s shelter. I said yes, having a history with that shelter she didn’t know about.

I met another mutual friend, who was the team coach — a kickass woman in her own right. Another friend joined — a crazy enthusiastic gal with the same kind of energy I have.

We started showing up regularly, this group of women and I.

My first date with the ladies, we ran/walked to Dunks for coffee and hot chocolate in the snow. We bonded over how frigid and crazy we all were for being out in the snow and ice.

Some days, we talked about our kids or how cold it was — we seldom talked about our personal struggles, though.

There was no need to, really. We all learned quickly that we each struggle with our own thing: And that it doesn’t matter what it is.

One woman was there the day I started running with Back On My Feet, and she rarely missed a day: That woman was Florence.

At the end of every run or walk, she’d say “keep coming back, because it works when we work it.”

It struck me, that in a way, that phrase acknowledged that everything we each had to tackle was hard — training for a marathon, trying to raise a child, trying to navigate life…

And, if Florence ever wasn’t there, inevitably, someone at the end of our run would utter Florence’s phrase… “it works when we work it.”

During the Heartbreak Hill Half, during the women’s panel, we touched upon the topic of mantras: Shalane Flanagan mentioned a few she’s held in her brain over the years and miles.

Most people say their mantras to themselves, in their heads during training or a race when things get hard.

Me? I’ve got mine permanently inked on the inside of my left forearm.

I put it on the inside of my forearm so that I can see it when I run — on the same arm as I wear my watch that shows my pace.

It makes me smile when I think of all the women — my friends — I’ve shared a Friday morning Back On My Feet Boston run with. They are the toughest, kindest ladies I know.

They put in the work. Every day.

They work it, and never seem to let “it” work them.

That’s something to be proud of.




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