Friday, May 6, 2011

Running Away From Home

This weekend I ran the Broad Street Run, an animated ten-mile race down the center of Philadelphia. I was one of 30,000 people out bright and early on a Sunday morning, pushing myself to my limit, high-fiving total strangers lining the course, and trying to keep Gatorade from spraying out my nose as I attempted to drink while running (by far, one of the hardest components of racing).

I started the race with two running companions. I've been regularly running with a team for about a year and a half now and never once in all that time have I ever run alone. A big draw to the activity for me is the companionship--that, and the freedom of being away from my kids for a little while, the thrill of doing something just because I want to do it, the satisfaction of setting goals and meeting them and not having to answer to anybody.... But somewhere around mile 6, I lost one and then the other companion. Everyone was fine, but we realized we no longer wanted to keep the same pace as each other, and so each of us ran on to finish the race in our own time.

Luckily, this unplanned split occurred just shortly after I got an energy boost from seeing my husband and children cheering me on from the sideline. For the next mile or so, I was powered by the love of my family.

Running blind with my Secret Service escort
But somewhere around mile 8, the euphoria their smiling faces supplied me with started to fade and I, running at the fastest pace I ever have in my life, had to draw on something else. Something within. On a normal day, the voices inside my head are usually sarcastic. They provide a humorous perspective, but often not very much productive. I knew that if I was going to maintain my pace and finish the race, I would need to talk to myself more the way I talk to my children. And so began the voices of encouragement.

It's pretty funny the things we think to ourselves when we struggle. Too strained to conjure deep thoughts, I mostly kept it simple and light. ("You're almost there, just keep on doing what you're doing," or "You've been through labor. This is a cakewalk compared to that!") But then I started looking for a deeper meaning. Why on earth was I out there sweating like all get-out, pounding my feet against the asphalt, weaving through a sea of runners, pushing and pushing, trying to sustain this breakneck pace?

I went back to the image of my enthusiastic children cheering for me. I was running this race to lose the pregnancy weight they saddled me with. Oh wait, no, there was more. I was running this race to prove that I can. To show my kids how to set goals and achieve them. To remind them that a person has more than one dimension. While I am their mother, their home-maker and teacher, I am also a pretty strong woman capable of some amazing things. We are all that way. And they are, too.

I'm glad they got to see me sweat (and subsequently spend the better part of the afternoon laying down). I'm glad they got to hold the medal every one of us 30,000 participants received at the finish line. I want to set the example that motherhood is not the end of the line and that as adults, we continue to learn and grow and push ourselves to new limits. And, frankly, I want them to know it's not always about them. Sometimes they have to be the cheerleaders, the enablers. They, too, have to give of themselves to help others be the best they can be. I was truly grateful for my children as I ran that race. And I am hopeful they were having some equally positive thoughts about me.

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