Every runner knows how easy it is to get “caught up” in any number of things. Am I running at conversational pace? Are my tempo runs long enough? Am I doing myself a disservice if I don’t speed train this week? Am I a bad runner if I shave a mile off of my long run? Did I meet my goal? Did I PR as I’d hoped?
Trust me – the list goes on.
I’ve always been “caught up,” more so this year. I’ve run two half marathons and plan to run my third on September 24th, but this is the first where I’ve set a challenging time goal. This year, I’ve dealt with over-training, injuries, burnout, anxiety over training plans…you name it, I’ve been a basket case over it.
And then, my two year old ran her first kids run yesterday.
We lined up in the “5 and under” group and she was silent. Other kids were jumping around and ready to roll, but she was unusually focused. She squinted her eyes and she stared forward. Gracie! I said, aren’t you excited? It didn’t break her focus.
When we took off, she held my hand and we ran together. When she got tired, she walked, but she didn’t stop. The atmosphere around us filled with whines and cries and screams, and yet, she still moved forward with focus.
Halfway through, she took a spill and started to cry.
“When we fall down, we get back up and we keep going. You can pause to brush it off, but we keep going. We finish the race,” I whispered in her ear, her tiny, soaked cheek resting on mine.
Her focus returned, and she was off. She didn’t want me to carry her; she didn’t want to quit. She trotted all the way to the finish line and put her medal around her neck with a smile of satisfaction, not just joy.
In the midst of at least 15 miles per week, I lost sight of the greater message I was sending and continue to send. I didn’t realize how much little eyes are watching.
Every time I strap her in the jogging stroller and she listens to my rhythmic, tough breathing, I send her a message. “Mama, are you ok?” she asks. “Yes, just making sure we finish what we started, honey.” And there we go, up that hill near Newport Lake.
When she stands next to the treadmill and her eyes move back-and-forth as she focuses on my stride, she isn’t just watching – she is understanding. She learns the art of repetition that forms us as runners.
As she sees me tape and wrap and ice and heat and foam roll and stretch, the tears in my eyes recognize the newly found compassion in hers. “Have a running boo-boo mama?” “Yes, but it’s ok. I’ll be ok.” “Mama, just keep going,” she says, as though there’s no other option (and sometimes, there isn’t another option).
I knew the time would come when she would venture out of the jogging stroller and make her way to a course on foot. I always imagined it would be a mix of chaos and carrying and pleading. I was wrong about that: Her debut in her running shoes has been a spitting image of the runner that I forget I am becoming.
Of course, I’ll continue to get “caught up.” I’ll silently scold myself when I hit 9:08/mile instead of 9:00/mile. I’ll double over when I suffer from horrid side-stitches, yet I will force myself to keep going. I’ll tear up when I realized I hit a goal; I’ll tear up when I realize I didn’t.
And all the while, I’m running with a purpose that is larger than pace and time and records. I am running for her.