The turnaround began on an ugly late-August day. Not ugly outside, just inside — my head. It was a Saturday, to be precise, the morning I was to do a 17-mile run for my New York City Marathon training. As the miles built, and the time seemed to drag – so did my body. Negative thoughts and self-talk gripped me, soon overtaking everything positive about the quiet morning. By the time I got home, words like “pathetic,” “misery” and “stupid marathon” escaped my lips. I grabbed the trusty Louisville Slugger from the garage, and like a grown-up version of Whack-a-Mole, started pounding the lawn. My husband stood by, quietly offering words of encouragement. “If I was a quitter, I’d quit,” I declared. Upon which I berated myself even further for the poor word choice: “If I were a quitter, were a quitter…”
I didn’t recognize myself after that run. More to the point, I didn’t recognize my feelings about running. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t fun. I questioned why I was even doing the Marathon, wishing I’d simply gotten my money back from the one cancelled three years ago. Instead of keeping the negatitivy to myself though, like any good sister, I shared it with mine. Every pessimistic thought and emotion, I dumped on her. I was brutally honest. In talking about solutions to work through my crabby mindset, the idea popped up to run 18 miles with her the following weekend. Secretly, I rejected it. “Why drive all the way to Portland to be miserable? Why slow her down? And her friends?” I thought of every excuse in the book not to go. But the idea of one last summertime Hurrah for my boys won out and we planned to head South.
It was clear to me after that run that something needed to change and that my training couldn’t continue like it was. The peaceful solitude that had once carried me through my solo runs had been replaced by dread and defeat.
Upon arriving in Portland, my sister directed me to the guest room where a book awaited me, Tales from Another Mother Runner. I opened it to find an inscription from one of the editors: “When the going gets tough…lean on your sister and draw strength from her and other mother runners.” I swallowed hard at this reality check. I realized I wasn’t going to get through my downward running spiral alone.
The next day we set out for 18 miles. We picked up some of her best running friends early on. Wonderful and inspiring ladies that I’d met and run with before, they listened to my recent travails. We talked cross training, over training, moon phases. They got it. They understood. They offered insight and encouragement. And just like the words in the book, I drew strength from them. After that 18 miles I was like a new person, a renewed person. Hopeful. Positive.
When I returned to Washington that week, I carried on with my newfound community-seeking skills. I asked a running friend, the captain of our Ragnar team, if I could meet up with her and some ladies two Saturdays later to do part of my training’s longest run, twenty, with them. She replied with an enthusiastic “yes.” I asked my dearest running friend if she was available at any time that same morning to do a couple miles with me. As it turned out, she unselfishly skipped her spinning class to do the last three with me. And stood there afterwards, coach-like, reminding and encouraging me to stretch.
My training changed after those runs in which I called upon my community. I no longer viewed myself as a slow, sluggish old snail. I no longer saw myself finishing with the 80-year-olds. Once I leaned on and drew strength from all those mother runners, I saw myself through their eyes: strong, capable, ready.
In two days I’m taking off for New York City, flying 2,082 nautical miles away from my husband, boys, and my immediate community. I get to run the New York City Marathon alongside my sister, with my mom, aunt and cousins there to cheer us on. “Grateful” doesn’t quite cover the emotion—in every ounce of my being I feel blessed.
There are also friends and family in Washington, California, Florida, on the East Coast and beyond who I want to share it with. Ones who’ve offered encouragement, prayers, support. The community I’ve relied on stretches far and wide; people I’ve leaned on when the going got tough, who I’ve drawn strength from through the years.
We have a doctor friend who doesn’t have a fax machine. Doesn’t use one. Doesn’t seem to need it. He sticks with phone, mail—the more traditional modes of communication. I admire that about him—that he conducts his business in the tried-and-true ways that have worked for him through the years. I suppose there’s the flip side: faster records, more instantaneous communication. But he’s not swayed by the changing tides of communication, and like I said, I respect that.
I, too, have been comfortable sticking with more traditional modes of communication: email, texts, phone calls—it has always felt more personal, more real, more about talking and checking in with people than “liking.”
But I have ever so slowly come to the realization that there’s only one way to share this New York City Marathon experience with my community—and to continue to feel everyone’s presence and support while I’m there. A way to keep in touch across the miles—to share the Mets mania, Halloween in Manhattan and the Finish Line in Central Park. In a sense, it’s like taking everyone with me. And it’s no longer by lurking, eavesdropping, stalking—or hiding behind— my sister’s or husband’s accounts.
So thank you, to my community, for accompanying me on this journey.
I’ll see you in New York.