I seriously considered not running. The conditions were supposed to be terrible and the others were going to have to wait for me to finish.
We had five people in our car, and I was the only one who didn’t run a sub-eight or sub-seven, or in Ben’s case, a sub-six minute mile.
“What’s your goal?” Anna asked us.
Honestly? Mine was just to finish. My reach goal would be to finish without walking.
I brought sunglasses and my phone. I needed music, but didn’t plan to track my pace or even pay attention to the distance. The plan was simply to run and not stop.
Last year, I didn’t train well either and it was a remarkably busy weekend (I had just done our LTYM rehearsal the previous night). But the weather was perfect. It was the best race I’ve ever run. Not for time (it’s hardly ever for time) but for the experience.
Sunny. 50 degrees. Blue skies. Cherry Blossoms in full bloom, lining the entire course through the heart of the nation’s capitol.
(We were genuinely happy about the race.)
This year? I wore four layers. Freeze and gale force wind warnings started at midnight the night before. Race organizers took down all the signage so no one would be hurt by a “MILE 6” sign flying 40mph through the crowd.
(These smiles are fake. It was 30 degrees and crazy windy. This is my only smile of the morning.)
I can’t put my finger on it, but it was a rough week. If you’ve ever had a few days strung along in a row which seem off, you’ll understand. Sometimes it just happens. The fear, of course, is that this isn’t a rough week, but the start of something with no end.
I feel disconnected, I say to my husband.
That’s what you always say when we get busy.
I know. But I we never talk.
Never. And we need to talk, because we need to make plans.
Plans for what, exactly?
LIFE! We need to talk about things and make plans. We need to be intentional. We need to revisit our budget and we need to get all this [insert: me swinging my hands back and forth and up and down, trying to gesticulate “everything”] all figured out!
[Insert: Husband shaking his head.]
I wanted to quit before the race even started. (Even before I went to bed the night before.) I wanted my friends to bail so I could bail. (It’s so much easier to quit when someone else quits with you.)
Because of the crowds, we couldn’t find each other on the morning of the race, but I got this text from one of them before we started:
Head down. Radio on. Step over step. We’ll get it done.
Okay, we’re not together, but we’re in it together. Through the whole race I returned to: Step over step. We’ll get it done.
Somewhere around what I could only guess was mile 8, there was a seasoned female runner on the sidelines (her slight build, casual attitude, and lightly weathered face was a dead give away) who clapped her hands in the steady beat of her bland but honest encouragement, “Just keep running.”
Simple as that.
I want to make a declaration. I AM NOT A RUNNER.
And to anyone who says, “yes, you are!” I will say, “STOP IT. No, I’m not.”
Runners like to run. They want to run. They think about running without dread and panic. They have little endorphins that live in their body and make them happy. (My brother and those other people in the car are runners.)
I am not a runner, although I do, on occasion, run. (There is a difference.)
That being said, 10 miles a lot of time to think, especially when you know you do your best running (which is any running) when you think about anything other than what you are actually doing.
(Finished. Still not happy. I am not a runner, see?)
It’s nice you two run together, Al says in the car on the way home. Chris and I start to laugh. (We don’t actually run “together.”)
“We’re at the same race at the same time, if that’s what you mean.”
Yeah, but it’s nice you can do this together.
There’s a part of me that wishes we did run together. That we could find a pace which worked for both of us. But until I’m faster or he’s slower, it wont happen.
Then I think, well… we did wake up together, drive in together, and come home together. We were made so differently, my husband and I. It’s easy for us, running at different paces, to be on different wavelengths and get disconnected. But we work hard to be at the same place at the same time. That counts for something, right?
I get lost sometimes. In the pressures and the responsibilities of life. Sometimes I wonder – am I, are we, doing this right? Does anyone else struggle with getting it done? Does anyone else get disconnected from friends, family, spouses? Am I the only one whose feet, step over step, start to feel like lead?
Maybe it was simply doing something hard, in harsh conditions which shifted my thinking. Maybe it was because the only way it could happen for us was to be a part of a group. Friends and family members—watching kids, picking up race-day gear, sending motivational texts, giving words of encouragement. Even strangers with some fierce cowbell shaking—all of it getting us to the end.
Life, motherhood, friendship, running, marriage, parenting, teaching—any experience we intentionally choose to share—takes the disconnectedness away.
I guess that’s why I like to write.
We all have a story. We all want to feel a part of something bigger than just ourselves.
Maybe it took ten miles of thinking to shake me out of my funk. We’re all running our own race, trying our best to finish with the abilities God gave us, thankful for those we get to run with.
Even if we’re not always running “together.”