finishing strong

A year or so ago I read Born to Run.
I didn’t go out and start running barefoot, or even buy those weird looking Vibrams (although I seriously considered it).
I didn’t sign up for a marathon or even a half. But I probably have run more since I read it. It was mostly stories about ultramarathoners and was really interesting and easy to read. Even if you aren’t a runner and just like a good story. The most intriguing thing I read in the book wasn’t that we are wasting all our money on expensive shoes, or that I should run on the pads of my feet or eat salad for breakfast. But that these runners going 100 or more miles often have pace runners. Friends or volunteers that are allowed to run the last 30-50 more miles with them. To keep them going. To encourage them. And because it is always easier to run with a friend. (Well, unless you are sometimes like me and talk so much you use up all your oxygen!). But these “volunteers” often run in the middle of the night for long stretches for nothing. No free t-shirt. No race swag. No medal. They don’t even get to cross the finish line. They just run for support. And that is a beautiful thing to me. Someone willing to go along beside you with nothing but a decent workout in it for them. Just so you don’t have to do it alone. Just in case you were thinking about quitting or slowing down.

And I know first hand how helpful that can be. Obviously, in life. But also just in a race. Last year about this time I ran a Sprint Tri. I was not used to the swimming or the biking so I was beat before the running part even started. And to make it worse, no one was allowed to wear headphones. But not too far into the run I caught up with a few friends. And we talked and jogged and I hardly even noticed the last two miles, despite the fact that my knees were creaking and I was exhausted.

Yesterday I decided to run another race this morning. And I’m no ultramarathonner, or even half marathoner. It was just a 5K. But they also had a kids fun run right before and my son had a friend who was participating so I thought we could both race. So we got up before the sun. We carbed up – him with donuts, me with a power bar and pinned on our bibs. And Owen runs laps around our living room, and up and down the street and plenty on the soccer field, but…I wasn’t sure how he would actually do in a race. Some parents ran with their kids, but I was racing next and Shaun was watching Tess so he was on his own. And I worried a little about what would happen when he got tired or wanted to quit. I wondered if he’d just start walking or if he’d just stop entirely. They blew the airhorn, I snapped a few photos and he took off at a dead sprint. Which is a bad idea. They didn’t go very far, but most of the time he was out of sight…and as kids started to round the corner towards the finish line I kept looking for his little blonde head. My race started in less than ten minutes, but I walked around the curve, around the building and finally spotted him. He wasn’t walking but looked tired and slow and ready to quit. So I hopped in and joined him. Kept telling him to run faster that we were almost there. And he did. I ran him to the finish line and saw him prouldy grab his trophy and almost wanted to tear up. Which is silly. He runs that much on a regular basis and he was no where close to first or second or even twentieth. But he is my kid. And he finished even though he wanted to quit and I was proud. Before I could get all gushy, I had my own race to run.

I run 5Ks a lot, and actually prefer a 10. But the weather was really nice and I was hoping to knock a few minutes off my last time. This was not the case. My runs lately have gotten shorter and further apart. And it was showing. So I stopped looking at my watch, turned up my ipod and just kept following the crowd in front of me. Not allowing myself to stop. I often run these with friends. But today it was just me. And I am not a fast runner or a strong finisher. I’m not the kind of girl that saves much for the end. I have never learned to pace myself when I’m running or pretty much any other area of my life. The rest of my family is usually still asleep or at least at home watching cartoons when I cross a finish line. And I wasn’t even sure they’d be there this time (seeing how there was a Chick-fil-A and a bounce house close by), but I looked for them anyways. And about a 200 yards out I saw them. I held my hand up to give my son a high-five and he did something that surprised me. He took off sprinting beside me. Until we finished.
For the second time that day.
And again I wanted to cry.
And my time sucked. And my right calf hurt in a weird way it never has before.
But I’ve never had a better finish.


Kate said...

You just made me cry. That's one awesome young man you've got.

jenniferlovescoffee said...

Anytime we teach our kids by example instead of words-- it's a very good thing. Especially when they get it! Good job O!

redheadreverie said...

That was the BEST post I've read all day. Seriously, I've done 5Ks and sprint tris and each time I see my family I dig deep and find something in me that keeps me going.

It's so awesome that you're instilling that same fortitude in your son...RUN LIKE THE WIND MOM...because you've done good. :-)

samskat said...

you just made me cry too. what a fantastic kid you've got!!! (but i'm sure you already knew that)

katy said...

Loved this.