Sometimes we go on epic adventures in far away lands. And sometimes we venture much closer to home. Or return home, as the case may be.
It was early, early spring in Montana. Which really means that it was still winter but we just couldn’t stand the thought of winter any longer so we decided that it was spring. In early spring we hatch a lot of great ideas. More on that later.
In one of our moments of isn’t-winter-over-yet desperation, my daughters and I decided that this year we really ought to participate in a June race known as the Governor’s Cup. This race is held annually in my hometown of Helena, Montana. Every year my brother runs the 10K. Sometimes my dad has run with him. They always talk excitedly about the race, the training, the course. As soon as registration opened this year, my brother signed up. His enthusiasm must have been contagious because my daughters were inspired to sign up for the 10K, too. Not to be outdone, I thought I had better sign up for something as well. As a runner who has completed a few marathons and a handful of half marathons I thought the 10K sounded, well, too short. But the marathon sounded just a touch too long this time around. So, the half marathon prevailed and I signed up.
If you have ever run before, you know that there a few moments associated with running where you get this little endorphin hit. Somehow, that really rare and really fleeting hit is enough to convince you to run mile upon mile, most of which are really just a lot of drudgery and nothing amazing at all. One of those endorphin hits occurs after you hit the “Complete” button on your race registration and before you realize just exactly what you have done. Another of those hits happens at the start line when you are all caught up in the amazing potential of the race before you. The next hit usually happens for me at the finish line. Everything in between…..well, it can get kind of ugly.
Usually, I only have to worry about my own training before a race. This time, however, I had a 9-year-old and 11-year-old who were training for their first 10K. Left to their own devices, I’m pretty sure they would have toed the starting line without any training what so ever. Which, in retrospect, would have been an amazing learning opportunity for them. But I am here to temper, to some degree, their learning opportunities. So, we made a training plan, sprinkled in a few local races and set about meeting our goals.
Those first few training runs were brutal. Always, someone had an ache or a pain. There were side aches, stomach aches, foot aches, headaches (those were mine). We stretched and warmed up (goodbye side aches), talked about fueling properly (see you later stomach aches) and bought new shoes (au revoir $95.00). The foot pain, by the way, is just my youngest’s way of saying she’s over this. And she was over this by mile 1 of the first training run. But, she had committed to this and I was there to make sure she honored her commitment. Because if you aren’t accountable on the little things, you probably won’t be on the big things, either.
So, yes, there was some complaining. There were doubts and second guessing. There were bribes of hot chocolate and lemonade. We’re only human after all.
There was also some magic that happened in the midst of the hard and ugly. As we were running (complaining), my girls talked to me. They talked about things that were frustrating and things they were thinking about. They talked about things they wouldn’t have talked about if we were busy leading our usual lives. We spent time together in a way we wouldn’t have otherwise. We solved problems, we encouraged each other, we got through some tough stuff and we were okay on the other side. I don’t know if either them will embrace running as a life long sport but I do know that, as always, the journey was totally worth it.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I did not “make” my children train for or run this race. They wanted to do it, we talked about how long 10K is, we talked about how hard it would be and during the training I reminded them multiple times that they chose to do this. I also, multiple times, gave them the option to reconsider their participation in the race. When push came to shove, they didn’t want to back out.)
On race day, I handed my little bundles of race ready children with expensive shoes and a propensity for side aches to my sister. Somehow, she had also got caught up in the early, early spring excitement and had come home to run the 10K with our brother and her nieces. I felt like my children were in good hands as I departed for my own start line that morning. Luckily for my children, my sister does not possess my Type A personality. She really didn’t care how they got from the start to the finish. In fact, the slower the better as far as she was concerned. I’m not entirely sure how the race went down but I do know that my favorite Instagram post of the day from my sister shows a photo of my brother and my daughters with the caption “A rare moment of actual running”. So it seems that they might not have really run that much. I’m pretty sure they didn’t “leave it all out there”. But I think they did a difficult and brave thing. They committed to an adventure, they started down the path, the path got rocky and rough but they kept going. They cried and laughed along the way. They grew closer to their mother, their aunt and each other. And they crossed the finish line, affirming that they are capable and strong and tough when they need to be.
And then we got lemonade and coffee, because, really, maybe that’s what it’s all about.