Running is my ‘thing’. My escape. My way of keeping myself fit enough to chase around the people who populate my household.
And one of my brothers had this insight; it’s one of the few things in my world that represents the opportunity for a ‘closed loop’ each day, a goal I can complete.
Wise, that brother of mine. And right. I didn’t realize it until he said it, but life as the facilitator of this super -size family calls in large part for me to accept that there are so many things left undone at the end of the day. The laundry is never caught up, the kitchen is never closed. And I’m fine with that. Those are the sign posts of a full house.
But it is nice. To set my little training check list for running. And to click off those miles.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
I can’t, ironically, let running become a crutch, become a way of avoiding the stress and challenges and choices in a busy life. A way of coping with stress, sure. But not to literally and figuratively run from it.
I have a little hiccup in my personality. I’m super easy-going, for the most part. I can ignore a mess and deal with a bombed spelling test. I can improvise on the spot if needed. I believe in extravagant grace and believe in handing it out freely.
I’m pretty darn hard on myself. In several areas. And even in running. My running partner, JT, was one part appalled and two part giggles when she realized I would practically dash into traffic to avoid ‘stopping’ running until we had completed our mileage. She’s watched me run through water stops, slopping myself with water as I go. She’s been working on me, to my benefit. Take it easy. Enjoy the run. Walk through the water stops.
Stop running into traffic.
We ran a race this past Sunday, the inaugural event of the Austin 10/20. The race concept was fun and unique, a 10 mile run with bands located every 1/2 mile of the route, a concert in motion. There were thousands of fellow runners at the starting line, music blaring and spectator cameras clicking. JT and I had added another runner to our party and had been training as a trio for this race. We were laced up and ready, visors down.
But I was carrying a little something extra with me. A lower back injury that was fired up and murmuring, not giving way to the quieting effects of lots of Advil. I had signed up for this race. I had trained. And I was going to do it, back pain or no.
And off we went.
JT and I usually talk breathlessly through our training and our races. I actually keep a little mental list going of recent events and trivia bunny trails, all in reserve for race conversation. But not this race. I was quiet. Concentrating. Thankfully, our third running partner was up for keeping the chat going.
By mile 8, my ability to ignore my back was done. D-O-N-E. I waved JT and our other partner on, telling them to go, go, go. And I slowed myself to a hop-a-long jog crawl, churning internally, knowing my time would be shot, frustrated and scolding myself.
It went on for a while.
And then I started looking around. Surrounded by the slow pokes.
But what a group.
Determined. Not elite athletes, not lithe, not natural runners. Just a band of folks out to accomplish a hard goal. Knee braces. Sweat-slicked foreheads. Jogging a few paces and then dropping to a walk. Then jogging again.
And loving it.
I could see in this group that nobody was taking it for granted that we were now approaching the nine mile mark. For several of them, this was the furthest they’d ever gone. They were thankful the forecast thunderstorms had staved off. They were thankful for walking through every water stop. They weren’t worried about their times. They cheered the bands, stopped to dance a few dance steps, hobbled and jog/walked to join the pack again.
They were finishing the race.
And they were having a good time.
I chatted with a few folks. I quieted the mental naggings in my head. I took in the scenery.
Finally, the finish line came in to view.
I kicked it in, searing back pain and all. I made up a few seconds, maybe. It wasn’t pretty. It was an ugly run.
But JT and our other partner were there at the finish, waiting for me. I crossed, we grabbed hands. We accepted cold water bottles and received our medals.
It was an ugly run.
But a beautiful thing.
Because, at the end, I was proud of myself. Proud of the folks who I met in those last two tough miles.
Proud because we finished.
And sometimes simply finishing can be a beautiful end to an ugly race.