I am a runner.
Wait…what’s that? What is that sound? Is that…stifled laughter?
Perhaps you need to excuse yourself and grab a glass of water.
Don’t laugh at me. So I don’t look like a typical runner. So my legs are short and stubby. So my upper half resembles Winnie-the-Pooh bear. So I could be outpaced by my crawling 10 month old.
I still run.
In high school, I ran cross country and track. I was the laughing stock of the entire track team. People would seriously laugh and point at me as I rounded the corners of the track. Nobody laughed at me in cross country (well, besides my coach…) because nobody cared. We only had 4 female runners. You need 5 to qualify as a team. So I ran free, no pressure whatsoever. I loved running through the woods, around golf courses. Oftentimes, I would find another straggler and we would strike up lovely conversations. Apparently, talking while running cross country is frowned upon. Who knew? My best memory of running cross country was a race in Harbor Beach, Michigan. It was so peaceful. It was a gorgeous, warm and delightfully breezy day, and the trail wrapped through the rolling woods and around the lake, sunshine glinting off the blue waves. I loved it. In fact, I ran my best time ever that day. 27 minutes flat baby! Yeah!
In my typical track meet I ran a total of 4 miles. I was so slow, my coach put me in all the events that no one else wanted to run just to gain points. This was not a secret. He openly told me and the rest of the team that I was a filler. I would start off with the 2400 meter relay. I usually ran the second 800 meter leg. There is a strategy to who runs which leg. They put me in second leg, hoping I would cause the least amount of damage. It was hoped that first leg would gain a significant enough lead, while third and fourth could catch up from my shortcomings. Then I would run the open 800. Next, came the 1 mile race. And to finish it off, the 2 mile, a popular point-filler race. In running the two mile, I again found out that talking during running races is frowned upon. In fact, I think it is downright illegal. I still talked to people. In fact, my proudest race is one in which I talked to a fellow runner, who was so distraught by her failures on the track that she was running and crying. I talked to her through the whole thing, made her laugh, and challenged her to sprint with me to the finish line. I didn’t let her beat me, of course, but still, she finished with a smile on her face.
To me, that what’s running is about. It is about challenging yourself. When I run, it is a place in my life that I can set a visible goal and actually do it. In the day to day, I feel like I am just surviving. Wake up, get the kids, get dressed, cook breakfast, clean breakfast, clean the kids, get the kids dressed, clean the rest of the house, lay Mya down for a nap, cook lunch, clean up lunch, play with Ada, lay Ada down for her nap, get Mya up, feed her, clean up, play with Mya, husband home, work, cook dinner, clean up, bathe the kids, put the kids to bed, work a little more, take a shower, collapse, do it all over again.
The hard part is that it never really feels like anything gets accomplished…my days are a lot alike, one running into the other. I love it, I do, but it does get a tad monotonous. The same things to do every day, and although it is challenging, it’s not always an invigorating challenge, one that you can feel like “Yeah, I did it!!”
Running is like that.
Getting outside, starting your run, feeling your muscles work in a way that haven’t in a long time, feeling the sun, the wind, the dirt, the sweat, your breath coming in ragged jerks. It makes you feel alive.
I like setting a goal and reaching it. I haven’t really measured my road, so I don’t even know how far I run. I set goals like “I will run to that blue house” or “I will sprint to that weird tree.” I love when I am so tired that I feel like I can’t go on…and then I do. It’s a good practice for motherhood, actually. When you feel like you can’t possibly get up one more time in the night, when you feel like you will scream if you have to wash your toddler’s sheets again, it helps to remember that, just hours ago, you were running. You are strong.
I especially like the analogy of finishing strong. No matter how much I suck at running, I always finish my run with a sprint. I realize calling it sprinting is a generous term, but I don’t care. The point is, I don’t let how tired I am at the end of the run determine the ending. I determine it. I run my heart out. And when I am done, I am left with the satisfaction of knowing that I gave it my all. A nice life lesson, I would say.
Running is solitude. For a mom, you know that is heaven. To just be by yourself for a few minutes, to hear nothing but quiet, to feel an inner peace. I crave that solitude, always have. I’m kind of a loner person to begin with, but becoming a mom has made “my” time even more precious. I am thankful that I can use running as my time. Very convenient that I feel healthy, sneak some exercise in, and actually get mentally and spiritually recharged.
Yesterday I had a great run. The weather was perfect. It was the weather right before a thunderstorm. I love that weather. Of course, I enjoy pleasant sunny days, but there is nothing like the tumultuous weather preceding a thunderstorm. The air is charged. I love it. And it makes for superb running weather. I gulped in the fresh air, feeling like I couldn’t get enough. Ada is sick again…she has been sick for like a month straight, I swear, and we have been cooped up a lot. I felt wild to just be outside. I ran by the lake, which is always my favorite part. I love water. I read a book once in which the main character is told that she must always live by water so her soul would never thirst. I feel like a bit like that. Just seeing water calms me. I looked up at the dark clouds rolling in and I felt connected. I felt like I could feel the presence of all the people I have encountered in my life who have gone before me. Lily, the baby Maddie I have never met, even a boy in high school I knew who committed suicide. I felt with certainty that they are happy, and I felt that they wanted me, wanted everyone to be happy too. It was a great feeling.
I enjoyed my run so much that even after I set my goal and finished strong, I kept running. I didn’t want it to end. I cooled down by walking to my house. I thought it would be lovely to sit for a bit under our big maple tree, to stretch and just think. Prolong my “me” time for just a time longer.
And then I got closer to the house. I tried to pretend I didn’t hear it, but I did.
Both children, screaming at the top of their lungs.
Opened the garage door, to find my husband on the couch, attempting to contain both screaming children as they tore out of his arms. The story went something like this: Ada had slammed the bathroom door on Mya in indignation when Mya had unassumingly crawled into the bathroom to see what her sissy was up to. How rude. Ben held Mya’s poor crumpled fingers and scolded Ada. She was so distraught about her actions that she then jumped off the toilet and in the process, somehow stubbed her toe on the same door.
I took Mya from my husband. She looked up at me, her little face pleading for me to understand the unrighteous plight she had just endured. I smothered her with sympathy and kisses and she buried her head in my shoulder. I felt her little body relax in my arms as she sighed, one of those lingering, ragged sighs after a good cry.
I will run again.