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The Sisterhood of the Traveling Cape

SarahRunningWith age comes responsibility. With leadership comes responsibility. With parenthood comes responsibility. Responsibility is important and is something most women take very seriously. But too much of it sometimes can create a life full of “to do” lists, guilt, fatigue and crankiness. Personally, I have an internal barometer that starts to clang when I’ve had too much. Usually I try to ignore it, like the occasional beeping of a smoke detector battery or the change oil car light. But in the end, too much responsibility has the effect of vacuuming out spontaneity and fun from life, leaving in its wake the person my teenagers affectionately call, “naggy mom”.

One of my best antidotes to responsibility is my annual run with the “Cape Girls”. While the typical “girls’ weekend” includes sleep, manicures and wine, I have managed to find a group of overly responsible type A women who agree that a girls’ weekend should also include costumes, a van, sweat, Gatorade and cowbells. I’m convinced that inside all of us is a 9 year old girl who wants to have a sleep over, be part of a team, wear sparkles and feel totally silly and completely accepted. Jan, Kate, Samantha, Liz, Stacey, and Susan (aka the Cape Girls) are the women in my life who help me find that inner girl.

How? Well, we run a 200-mile relay. What? To explain, an ultra team relay means that you have a big van that becomes your home for 32+ hours. You spend your time dropping off a runner, cheering on a runner and switching out…and also not getting lost, talking and snacking. All the other crazy people around you also wear costumes, play games like “tag the van” and cheer each other on. After a while, when the adrenaline kicks in, you dream up all kinds of innovative ways to encourage your runner and rediscover that indeed you are still a funny, creative and carefree spirit after all! And, even better, that it is possible to escape the work world where one has to think a lot about relationships and doing things the right way, and be in a circle of women who totally like you exactly how you are and somehow make you feel better about yourself. I love the contrast of the van full of laughter and conversation with the solitude of running and the chance it gives me to dream and imagine. Put the two together along with a cape and it is my perfect vacation.

While spending a weekend running is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, I strongly encourage everyone to find a way to rediscover her inner girl. Organize a sleep over with your friends. Go out dancing. Go on a church retreat with people you love (where you are NOT in charge). Camp and get really dirty. Get our your hot glue gun and art kit and make your own tiara. Sing karaoke. Let go of responsibility just a little bit and have fun. Perhaps you’ll find, as I do, that letting go sometimes makes it easier to carry on.

Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH is the Director and Co-Founder of the Every Woman Southeast Coalition. She is also the Executive Director for UNC Center for Maternal and Infant Health and the CDC Senior Consultant to the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative.

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