winning

I have run more than my share of races. My tennis shoes have more miles on them than my parents' new car.
But. 
I still don’t really see myself as a runner.  I have friends who train for races by signing up for nutrition classes, printing off their run schedules and following them religiously. I think burbees and fartleks sound like intestinal distress, not something I want to do in a workout. I consider training making a really good playlist and getting out there and running until I want to throw up. pass out or both
Doing that a few times a week logging as many miles as my knees will take.
I carb load (read eat an entire box of girl scout cookies), drink plenty of water (read coffee) and buy expensive socks.
The end. 
Show up race day and try not to finish last. Or die.
So far this has worked for me. Although not well enough for me to start sharing my finish times.
A few months ago I had some friends sign up for a running training class. It was cheap. I had hit a wall. I figured it was a good idea even though most exercise classes stress me out, but chances were good that this would better than what I was doing. Running has mostly been something I have done solo and think that an 8 mile run would pass a lot faster with a friend. And Ira Glass doesn’t count.

I have tried running with people. But for the most part it just hasn’t worked out. They have been too fast. Or too slow. Or moved away. I either wanted to die, was worried that I’d wet my pants (again) or it just wasn't the pace I wanted. Usually it is ok. I can run far and kind of like the time to myself. My brain is always going in about 20 different directions and there is pretty much no way to stop it. But run 4-5 miles and suddenly it has focused on just one thing.  Breathing. 
And that kind of quiet is a rare and good thing. 

But in the last year I have kind of hit a wall. I had some medical stuff that put the running on hold for a while. To treat the issue I had to start taking some medicine that makes me exhausted.  I’d start running and just want to fall asleep. And I promise I wasn’t listening to sleepy folk music. Again. I’m sure it was equal parts medicine, mental block and the new love in my life: cheese fries from Rodeo Goat (almost as good as Snuffers). Regardless of the reason I have struggled to run more than 5 miles at a time for the better part of a year and I need to find a way like Taylor Swift to “shake it off”.
The answer has been to run in community.  To show up to the track and run with a group instead of trying to struggle through by myself. Let's just say I didn't win any perfect attendance or speed work awards but I hit the track more than I ever would have alone. Most nights I even found someone about my pace. Once after a tough workout I even split a nice cold bottle of Moscatto with some sweaty friends.  If that doesn't get me training harder then nothing will. (Our waitress however, might have wished we had showered first though...)

I know most people don’t understand how someone can “like” running. I always try to say that no one likes the first two miles. I spend at least 15 of the first 20 minutes of any run trying to convince myself to not quit. The trick to any long run is just to get past the first two.  And then for a while my legs just know what to do, my brain clears and everything about me feels strong. At least until my knees start to ache or I start sucking wind. And then there is something fun about pushing yourself further than you think you can. Just lately, my furthers are getting shorter and shorter.

I have run lots of races and halfs no longer intimidate me. But today I was a little nervous. After all, it has been over a year since I have ran 13.1 miles (or anything over 10). This race is in my town- meaning lots of familiar faces at the water stations and blowing past me. Not to mention my husband who had tried to “encourage me” more than once to get my long runs in.  Let’s just say I didn’t thank him for the advice. I just mumbled something about having it under control and rolled over and went back to sleep.  I am also a teensy bit competitive. I know I am not winning, but I like to beat certain people. Like the 80 year old in front of me. 

The temperature was perfect. I had plenty of gu and a pretty awesome playlist. Just as I started to get exhausted my husband and kids surprised me on the course with funny signs.  I was not on track to PR but I was pacing ahead of my goal (and last year’s time).  Until mile 9 when I hit a wall.  At this point it was very clear that I should have spent a little less time on my playlist and more time logging miles.  I considered throwing up more than once and every single bone in my feet seemed to hurt.  There was even a brief moment that I thought maybe I could call someone to pick me up and drive me back to my car.  Thankfully a) I never run with my phone b) my husband would have refused to help me quit unless I needed to go to the Emergency Room which ironically was exactly where the finish line was  and c) some well timed Meghan Trainer came up on the playlist.  The last four miles were long and hard and painful but eventually my blistered feet made it to the finish line. (Because we were all about that bass).

All along the way people cheered, high fived me, handed me water, offered me their snacks, and gave me the thumbs up.  And some of those people were on the sidelines but most were people running the race too. People faster than me. Ahead of me. People whose names I didn’t even know, encouraging me keep going. To push through. To finish. 

When I finally did, I quickly I grabbed a bottle of water and a snack. Slipped off my sneakers and walked my blistered feet in the opposite direction of my car.  For the last 2 hours and some minutes I wanted nothing more than to stop running. To go home and take a nap or at least put on yoga pants and eat some cheese fries.  Instead, I headed to the corner where some of my family and friends had been cheering, so I could do the same for friends and strangers who were still running. This was a small local race. There were few signs or rows of people. Most of the cheering section at the finish line were wearing medals around their neck. These people were tired and hurting just like me but instead of going home they were cheering on everyone else.

I know there are lots of verses in the bible about running the race. Pressing on towards the prize.  Recently my church even did an entire sermon series on it.  Which I think is kind of weird, but maybe there were not so many sports analogies to draw from in biblical times. But I couldn’t help but think that maybe this was it. This was the prize. 
Not the medals around our necks. 
But the community of people who had already been down your path encouraging you to do the same. 
To press on.

And I think that Paul got it wrong when he said that that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize. This morning it seemed like we all did.


My favorite new addition to the playlist......this girl is singing my song....

sharpies

I pick things up quickly.
Usually.
Well, except for conjugating French verbs, derivatives and any type of aerobic step.
But, for the most part I am a quick learner. At least that is what my teachers used to write on notes they sent home. Right under the part that said I talked back. I could rush through my school homework while watching Full House, talking on the phone and listening to the radio.
School came easy.
Life lessons however, I mostly preferred to learn the hard way. 
Sometimes over and over again.

After a particularly trying afternoon…I finally got Tess to sit down and eat. Just as I was getting her a drink I watched her tag my kitchen table with a sharpie. She was through with the T and moving on to an E. I dropped the drink and quickly wrestled the permanent marker away from her and hid in a drawer that I suddenly considered buying a lock for. She gave me a look that seemed to say, "What is the big deal already. This is art."
I told her it was permanent and wouldn’t come off. Something about me saying it was forever seemed to sink in her little unbrushed head. You could see the panic creep over her face. She went through the four stages of getting busted.  First, I told her it doesn’t wash off and she asked me if she could try anyways. Complete denial.  She scrubbed straight through the two-ply. The quicker picker upper has nothing on a Sharpie. Her next stage was to try and limit who found out. She smiled at me sweetly and asked if we just wouldn’t tell dad. I said that I wouldn’t tell him but I was about 100% sure he would notice. Maybe not today but eventually. Third she moved on to the cover up. “Ok” she asked, “Can I just put my plate over it”.  “Well, sweets that will work for a few hours” (ok, lets be honest a few days)…"but eventually we will have to wash that plate.”  And then began stage four: a complete and total inconsolable meltdown about “how the table is ruined forever and that it is all her fault.”
“Well Tess, both of those things are true. But I don’t love you any less.”

By the time she had hit stage 2 I recognized this little pattern of hers: denial, damage control, cover up and shame.
Tess is just 6.
I am 36.
I go through pretty much the exact same steps when I screw up. First I try desperately to fix it. I pray that no one will notice or make some weak attempt to cover it up. And then I finally land on I am a horrible terrible person who really fucked up big this time and now everyone will know. In other words, some serious shame spiraling.

Tess was inconsolable over this table. And I was still pretty pissed about it too. However this is a good time to mention that this is the dining room set my father bought me for my first apartment at Sears when I was 19. It has paint stains. Glue stains. More marker stains. Wax stains. Stains I can't even begin to identify and chipped paint and loose screws. This table is literally on its last legs. If I didn’t hate allen wrenches so much I would have gone to Ikea and bought a new table ages ago.  It also happens to be parent teacher conference time at my kids' school this week and her teacher told me a similar story. How the other day, Tess made a minor mistake on a paper and was in tears. Terrible, awful inconsolable tears over accidentally using a crayon instead of a pencil. 

I am not the biggest rule follower. I am also (this might shock some of you) not perfect.
Which means I screw up lots. I am slow on the uptake for life lessons …. remember….so sometimes I even make the same dumb mistakes over and over again.  Since I am loud and a terrible liar I almost always get caught. Unlike Tess, I can keep the tears from spilling down my cheeks (at least until I get in my car) but I still hate it. I hate getting speeding tickets, being late, forgetting something important, saying things I shouldn’t and even dumb emails that tell me I forgot to turn my lights off when I went to the bathroom. I hate the ugly gnawing feeling inside that I haven’t just screwed up but that I maybe I am a screw up. That is an inner monologue I don’t want my kid to have. Even if it means graffiti on my dining room table.

Tess kept crying. Horrible red faced snot pouring down her chin crying. It is hard to punish someone who is doing a much better job punishing themselves. I tried to talk sense into her. Assure her that I was frustrated that the she drew on the table (again) but that no matter what she does or draws on or tags that I still love her. I tried to find some balance between discouraging the behavior but consoling her.
She kept crying.
She was still afraid of what her father would say when he came home.
She was afraid I was going to tell her teacher and something about this would go in the folder.
I think she was also crying a bit because she knew I had eaten the last Oreo.

Now keep in mind, just a mere 30 minutes before there had been no remorse for punching her brother or talking back to me that had ended up with her being sent to her room.
She mumbled an insincere sorry to her brother and me when I finally freed her like it was no big deal. For some reason physical violence and sass were things she felt like I could overlook but drawing on the table brought on inconsolable shame. 

So I did the only thing I could think of. 
I went back to the drawer where I had stashed the sharpie.
I called Tess back to the table, I uncapped the marker and I wrote an M next to her T.
My own initial.

She kept crying but was totally puzzled by my actions.

Remember that, I told her….
Remember the grace in me not sending you right back to your room or banning you from sharpies forever. That sometimes we don’t get what we deserve. 
Remember that I can be mad at what you’ve done but that I can never love you less.
But mostly remember …
I did it too. Now it isn’t just you.
We all screw up.
We all make mistakes.
We all do things we wish we can take back that aren’t so easily erased.
And if you forget just look at the table. 
At my initial scrawled next to yours.
You are not alone in this.

Me too Tess.
Sometimes that is the most grace anyone can give you.
Me too.

M.T.
Forever on my kitchen table currently hiding under a dirty dinner plate.


(editor’s note. Tess stopped crying and asked if she could at least finish writing the rest of her name. Or if we could paint over it. She missed the point. But she is only 6. Sometimes I think these points are mostly for slow learners like me.