I wrote this back when my daughter Ali was just about to start kindergarten. Today I drove her to her fourth grade class. Time slips through out fingers like fine sand in a sieve. But the words I wrote are truer today than ever. We run because we can. We challenge ourselves and our bodies because we can. To back away from hard things is to deny ourselves the opportunity to grown. To turn our backs on the things that scare us is to stunt our progress. We will never see who we are if we refuse to look in the mirror. Tough races force me to face myself- to see what I’m really made of. Enjoy.
Some of the hardest moments in life are also the best.
Like many parents, this time of year brings me great joy mixed with a little sadness. It’s back-to-school time and this go-round, I’m sending both of my kids. My youngest is now in kindergarten and couldn’t be happier about it.
I, on the other hand, find myself more than a little teary-eyed at the prospect of what my husband and I call “The Beginning of the End”.
Ali is more than ready to take this step. She’s ready to be challenged. Her curiosity is bigger than my capacity to fill it. My companionship is no match to her friends who offer the excitement of bug catching and gold digging in the sandbox.
And the truth of the matter is, if Ali weren’t ready, I’d be more distraught. These milestones may be difficult, but they are necessary. She’s becoming more independent and that’s how it should be. While I’m sad that my little bug isn’t by my side all day, I’m thrilled to see how she is growing. It’s all good.
The last two weekends have also been a couple of the toughest weekends I’ve had running. I was able to run both the Epic Relay race and the Park City Marathon, both notorious for their tough terrain and killer hills.
This was my first experience with the Epic Relay. I was a last minute fill-in for someone who dropped out of a friend’s team. Never one to shy away from a free race, I responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” I should have looked at the elevation chart. Up, up, and up we ran. In the heat of the day, in the pitch dark of night our legs carried us as a team from Logan to Jackson Hole.
It wasn’t just the terrain that was challenging. Just moments before we were to start our second of three legs, we were greeted with lightening and heavy rain. I will admit that I complained as I sat in the van watching the skies open up and taunt me. Once I finally pulled on my big-girl pants and started running, though, I realized it truly wasn’t as awful as it seemed. The rain subsided and while it was frustrating trying to find an even pace on rocky trails with very little light, there was tremendous satisfaction for all of us as we conquered each challenge.
Some teammates endured scorching temperatures on steep climbs. Others battled sore muscles. For others, it was their own lack of confidence that was the biggest obstacle.
No one quit. No one complained. If someone struggled, another was right there ready to offer encouragement, water or beef jerky. Everyone finished and everyone felt proud. If the journey had been easy, there wouldn’t have been that satisfaction.
The following weekend I found myself on a more familiar course running the Park City Marathon. Famous for the 16-mile uphill start, this race and I are hardly on good terms. The first year I ran it was my worst finish time ever. Fraught with injury, I walked the last four miles and finished a smelly, sobbing mess. There are no pictures of that finish.
Last year was better, but started with a case of strep throat and ended with a fractured foot and a sore IT band.
Like Taylor Swift’s new song title, I swore “We Are Never Getting Back Together.” Yeah, right.
Like life, running can be hard. But it’s when we face those hard times head on and overcome the challenges put in front of us, we come out the other end stronger and more confident. Plus, the third time’s the charm, so I found myself toeing the start line at the Newpark Hotel once again.
It was a great race. It was hard. “The Hill” at mile 18 never fails to evoke words I hope my children never hear, but I didn’t quit. Not only did I finish, but I did it with all bones intact and all muscles pleasantly sore and uninjured. Victory!
Wandering around the finish line I could hear tales of battles won. Smiles were big even if the legs were a bit shaky. To finish this race is to come out on top and hundreds of us did just that. This was no PR for me. This is certainly not the course for that, but I’m as proud of this race as I am of any of my faster ones.
As hard as it is to see my kids grow up and need me less, I’m proud of the young ladies they are becoming. The ache in my heart is a good ache. And while it may be a little hard on my heart to watch my kids start a new chapter, it will also be one of our happier days. The harder the hill, the bigger the reward.