Tag Archives: running

The Dimensions of Kira Through the NYC Marathon Experience

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Just .2 to go…

Sustained Runner
At 10:40 a.m. EST on Sunday, November 1st, she crosses the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, excited, eager and relaxed, her sister by her side, as they join close to 50,000 runners for the New York City Marathon. They are overjoyed to be on his journey together. They have trained together, planned together, traveled together. They’re doing this together. A light, comfortable breeze greets them on the bridge. It is a bit surreal—after months of envisioning and talking about— it’s finally here. They feel ready for what the day has in store.

As they head into Brooklyn, people line the streets clapping, cheering, waving, holding signs. It’s a sight to behold. The crowd gives off an exuberant energy. The enthusiasm is contagious—runners feed off the upbeat, positive vibe. Spectators see her sister’s Every Mother Counts singlet and respond, their personalities coming across with their changing inflections: “Every mom DOES count, Every Mother COUNTS, Go Moms!!!” The bystanders also provide comic relief by turning her tank top expression into a cheer, which —covered by the race bib— simply reads “She Will” (Endure All Things), happily shouting “Go She Will!” and “She Will…and She Does!”

Up and down the sidewalks, the mood is celebratory, party-like. Music blares from speakers, everything from Stayin’ Alive to Pour Some Sugar on Me to Another One Bites the Dust (which they feel is a questionable choice). Numerous bands rock out. A mini Donald Trump punching bag dangles in front of passersby. People dole out Halloween candy, oranges, pretzels. Kids stand with hands reaching out, ready to high-five anyone. Soaking in the festivities and the camaraderie, she and her sister do what they’ve come to do: run. As they take in their surroundings, they marvel at the people gathered to cheer. The feeling is almost blissful, like a wedding day you don’t want to come to an end. Mile by mile, crowds applaud strangers. It is said that one million spectators come out for this event. One MILLION.

At about mile 14 or 15 she feels something in her legs. A tightness, cramping. “What is this?” she wonders – it’s a discomfort she hasn’t felt before on a run. She keeps going. She guzzles Gatorade and tears into salt packets. It continues. Bible verses make their way into her head, almost random at first. She pieces them together, stringing the words together over and over, changing the pronouns. Focusing. Repeating. A mantra. A giant run-on sentence. A prayer. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak…She Will run and not grow weary, She Will walk and not be faint. Her quads continue to seize up. At about 18, she accepts “This is not going away.” Her legs feel awkward, unfamiliar, clunky, contorted. They’re not the legs that have carried her on miles of training runs. They have become like angry rebels, to be fought, conquered. She wonders for a moment if she’ll have to visit the Medical tent for the first time on the streets of New York City. She walks a few steps to gather her thoughts. Tears threaten, but only for a moment. They’re not welcome here. Tight hamstrings, sore glutes, lower back pain, funky big toe soreness, she would have expected any of the things she’d encountered while training. Not this. This is not how I was expecting my legs to feel. But she continues. She makes her legs run.

She spots a woman standing on a street corner holding a poster board sign. She makes a beeline for her, abandoning all running etiquette as she darts across the street, cutting in front of other runners to this woman. The woman’s sign, held high, reads, “He will run and not grow weary…” She grabs hold of the woman’s hand and squeezes it. She looks in the woman’s eyes and with all the gratitude she can muster says: “Thank you.” “God bless,” the woman answers.

And so she runs, a new resolve, increased power, an answered prayer. Off to find her Pennsylvanian Steelers fan cousin—who she has not seen for twelve years—holding a 12th Man flag somewhere along the street.

Grateful Heart
She and her sister are a few blocks from where they’ll turn into Central Park to finish. She looks up at the tall buildings, some of the statuesque ones that define the city. With blue sky as the backdrop, the late-afternoon sun glistens, bathing the buildings in a golden light. It suddenly hits her, like a bolt, all the emotion of the experience. The magnitude of it overwhelms her. She is in NEW YORK. She is running the Marathon. No hurricane. No cancellation. No Medical tent. She is here, running the New York City Marathon, with her sister.

With her sister.

With her mom and aunt waiting for them in the Grandstands. Tears come, and this time, they are welcome. They’re ones of joy and gratitude. Her sister sees the emotion, and they grasp each other’s hands.

They’re here.

Almost to the Finish Line.

Ready to finish it.

Together.

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A few hours later she steps out of the elevator back at the hotel and rounds the corner to their room. As her family sits in the lobby with other hotel guests —ones who have roared and hollered when she and her sister returned from the race in their blue ponchos—she’s in awe at how it’s all come to be.

She feels deep gratitude for what the entire experience has held. A city that has welcomed, opened its arms and offered well wishes—everyone from the security guards at Jimmy Fallon to the sales associates in the stores to passengers on the subway and walkers on the streets to NYPD officers along the course. Strangers have become friends, newfound ones who will forever hold a special place in her memories of this trip: the Australian runners on the train ride, the trainer and his candy-eating girlfriend who talked last-minute details the night before, the Halloween partiers with their boisterous, good-natured laughter.

There’s also her family and friends: her cousin who drove from Pennsylvania with his daughter; the friends at home and beyond who have tracked them, sent text messages, commented on Facebook, and been so present across the miles; her husband who has stayed home with her boys this weekend —and for countless long runs — to make all this possible; her mother-in-law who will care for her boys as they return to school; her mom and aunt at the Finish Line.

All the people who’ve taken this dream and embraced it, who’ve shared in the excitement. All the strangers who looked her in the eye as she ran by, giving her strength, saying things like, “You can do it, looking strong, you’ve got this.” Who believed that for her. Who not only cheered for their friends and family, but her, too.

Kira.

She Will.

Again, she is overcome; emotion washes over her. It’s almost a physical reaction, the warmth she feels in her spirit. It’s complete and sheer joy. In that moment, she cannot seem to recall a time when she’s felt so grateful, so honored, so humbled, so utterly steeped in love — so small in its bigness. “That’s grace,” says a whisper in her ear.

And with that, she hurries to the room so she can get back to the celebration—including a Seahawks victory— downstairs.

Competitive Spirit
She expects that it will be her last run through the five boroughs. That it will have the feel of a “Farewell Tour,” a saying goodbye to the New York City Marathon, a thanks for all the memories. Having run it in 1992 with college friends, to running in Central Park after the 2012 cancellation and finally, finishing it in 2015 with her sister.

But it doesn’t.

It doesn’t bring the closure she’d imagined. It doesn’t feel like goodbye. In fact, she feels spurred on. You see, she and her sister had a time goal. Maybe a loose one. But a goal nonetheless. The leg cramps messed with that. “I’m not sure I can live with that time,” she admits the day after the marathon.

Maybe one more shot at it, she thinks.

Maybe just one more.

New York City, and the Marathon, thank you for all the memories.

Perhaps She Will see you again.

Fall, Change & Community In The Air

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.

Community.

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.

On Facebook.

Ragnarian Runner Recollections

This weekend, I took part in my first running relay, the Ragnar Relay/Northwest Passage to be specific. A total of 539 teams participated. Here’s how it works: each 12-person team has two vans with six runners each. (Except Ultra teams, which have only six people to share the running duties, making for more individual miles—hence the word “Ultra”). Van 1 (which I was in) kicks things off. Each runner in the van runs one leg (ranging from about three to nine miles), and then Van 2 takes over and those six runners do their legs. After that, it’s Van 1’s turn again. And so on. Over the course of 24+ hours, each runner does a total of three legs, for a team grand total of 200ish miles, all the way to Langley, Washington on picturesque Whidbey Island.

We met at 4 a.m. Friday and headed North to Peace Arch Park right next to the Canadian border in Blaine, Washington. Our first runner was to take off at 6:30. As a newbie, I got my first taste of the fun, personality and creativity that were in store for the weekend. Colorful vans, mini-vans and SUVs were decorated and painted with team names and phrases, like “Sole Mates,” “Van Haulin’ – Running from the devil,” “I think I just PR’ed a little,” the Marshawn Lynch-inspired “I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” “Running better than Congress,” “There’s No ‘I’ in ‘Beer,'” “In Pain Since Blaine” and the “Honey Bucketeers.” People were also dolled up in various costumes —everything from Alice in Wonderland to Elvis to beavers—and flashy (think leather, and sparkles) running attire. Everything had a lighthearted, festive feel to it, including the safety video we were required to watch. Runners left in half-hour waves, and soon my friend was on her way. We hopped in the van when she left so that we could meet up with her at our first “exchange” approximately five miles away. This is where she would hand over the bracelet “baton” to our next runner. I was the third runner in our van and thankful to witness a couple exchanges so I knew what to expect. At about 8 a.m. my 8.2-mile uphill run began. A light breeze accompanied me and I was happy to be on the road. Another good-natured yet competitive part of Ragnar is keeping track of “kills” – when you pass another runner. Kills are then tallied on van windows for all to see. I started mentally noting my kills, although they weren’t astronomical.

Our van finished up at Bellingham High School, where Van 2 took over. We hit the road for some lunch and rest time before our early-evening running would begin. I was most concerned about my second leg. I have never run twice in one day. I do not run at night. And I wasn’t sure how my chicken ciabatta sandwich, fries and pint of beer would feel when I did so. It was a warm 76 degrees when I finally set out for my 6.7-mile run. I had one simple goal for this leg: to make it to the exchange by 7:45 so that our next runner —a speedy Ironman athlete — could take off before 8 p.m. so he wouldn’t have to wear safety gear (head lamp, tail lamp, vest). I had roughly 70 minutes, give or take.

As I hit a quiet country road, I settled in and found my groove. I was feeling pretty good. Thankfully, my lunch wasn’t coming back to haunt me. I looked out across the fields, cleared my head, and decided I was just going to think about my dad, since the day marked the anniversary of his departure from earth. A couple miles in, my legs started feeling tired. I was hot. I didn’t feel like I had much left in the tank. “That’s OK,” I told myself. Even if I slowed way, way down, I would make it back in time for our Ironman to go safety gear-free.

Out of nowhere, with about three miles to go, a runner appeared over my right shoulder. “Uh-oh,” I thought. “Someone’s going in for the kill.” I glanced over. It was a woman. Surprisingly, she didn’t pass me. In fact, we fell in step together. We struck up a conversation. She asked if the pace was OK and I said yes. She agreed, and said she felt like she’d started out a little fast.

She was 64-years-old, doing her sixth Ragnar. She’d been running for 38 years. “What team are you on?” I asked. “The Matriarchs,” she replied, a team of women in their late forties through sixties. Her name was Francie. “My mom’s Fran,” I said. We chatted about running, where we lived, and our families. She said she used to run with her husband but his knee started giving him trouble so he biked. Her GPS watch beeped in the background. I felt myself slow down a little. “You can go on if you need to,” I assured her. “I’m afraid I’ll get discouraged if I don’t stay with you,” she answered. I smiled, thankful and relieved—I felt the same. We continued on, the watch beeping, more time passing. True to her team name, she was a comforting presence. Maybe there was something about the peaceful setting that prompted me to share.

“My dad passed away four years ago today,” I said, my voice catching. She expressed sorrow and understanding. I could hear the strength, wisdom and compassion in her voice: “It’s so hard to lose a parent.” She talked about losing her dad; we talked about loss for a little awhile. Another beep. A few minutes later she announced “We’re gonna finish this thing together, holding hands.” I was moved by the thought. Actually, I could think of nothing better.

We turned right on Fir Island Road and ran single file across the South Fork of the Skagit River. She looked back to see if I was still behind her. As the sunshine blazed in the distance, behind the small white building of Fir Conway Lutheran Church — with its cross set beautifully against the golden sky — the Matriarch took my hand in hers and we raised them together triumphantly, in celebration.

Of running.

Of accomplishment.

Of dads.

I suppose as I went into Ragnar weekend I expected things like painted vans, goofy team names, new friends, camaraderie, kills, lots of laughs and questionable digestion.

But I could not have imagined that in the midst of all of that, along a quiet country road, a Matriarch would find — and run alongside — a girl remembering her dad, and take hold of her hand.

The Case Of The Iron Gut & A Runner’s Perspective

For the second time since I’ve been the lone female amongst three males in the house, the stomach flu has bypassed me. While my boys and husband have retched, heaved and bolted to the bathroom, I’ve been left relatively unscathed. Sure, I’ve been a bit headachy, had an appetite for crackers, etc, but overall I’ve felt good. However, it has not left me totally unaffected – in fact, the effect of this particular bug has shown up in my running routine.

In 2013, my sister and I did our first running streak. We ran every day – a minimum of one mile – from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. We both continued on after that, too. At the time she told me of an instance or two when she ran her daily mile in jeans. What? Jeans? “That’s just weird,” I thought. How busy can you be that you don’t have time to put on running clothes? Who, besides someone in an airport, would run in jeans? Running down the street in denim? No thanks. Note to self: never run in jeans. After enjoying the commitment and accountability that the running streak provided, we decided to do it again this holiday season.

Round one of the flu hit last Sunday, as the Seahawks played their home field advantage-clinching game against the Rams. My pale, pasty, puking 11-year-old sprawled out on the couch, covered in a blanket, noticeably quiet. Not the usual officiating that echoes his dad’s, “Whaaaat? That’s not pass interference!!!” Silence. The air was flat. Germs seemed to hang there. Watching him “watch” a game with his eyes closed was torture. I needed to get out for my mile but didn’t feel like changing clothes. Just to the bend and back, I told myself. Who cares? Who would see me? I headed out in jeans and my Hawks long-sleeved shirt. Close to home I saw our neighbor. I explained that I was on a running streak and just needed to do a quick run, hence the attire. “I thought you looked a little less prepared than usual,” he observed.

One mile. Done.

Round two of the bug hit two mornings later at 3 a.m. My six-year-old stumbled into our room with a warning that he felt like he was going to puke. He did. And kept going. Although, impressively, he went ten-for-ten, making it into the toilet or a bowl each time. My mom escaped back to California with only a cold.

Feeling like we were in the clear and contagious no longer, we headed over to my in-laws in Port Townsend on New Year’s Day. I woke up January 2nd cold, achey, and ugh— I was certain it was my time. I rested, refrained from eating and even belted out some “You Give Love a Bad Name” karaoke. I also contemplated the idea of abandoning the streak. I reminded myself that technically it was over anyway, that my sister and I were just the ones who wanted to keep it going. There’s something about ending on your own terms.

As we hopped out of the car at my in-laws that afternoon, I said “I’m just gonna go run.” “What? Now?” my 11-year-old asked. “Yes. I’m just gonna get it over with.” I hurried off, not wanting any time to change my mind. As I clomped down the driveway in my green cords, bright pink LL Bean winter boots and white parka, Rassy yelled after me “You look ridiculous.” “I know,” I hollered back. “I don’t care.”

One mile. Done.

We returned home Saturday morning, after Grandma had unfortunately been making her own visits to the bathroom.

I awoke Sunday at 3 a.m. to find the downstairs bathroom light on — and Mo on the floor. “Oh no,” I cried. False alarm. He returned to bed. “Maybe I just have an iron gut,” he theorized.

Maybe not.

Three hours later, male #3 was officially hit.

That day, all six-foot-four of Mo stretched out on the couch, dozing. Reminiscent of the previous Sunday, the germs seemed to hang in the air. Stale. Sleepy. Sickly. A downer. I sent my sister a text: “Thinking I may not run.?!?”

She replied: “What about a brisk walk? Fresh air will feel good” and then reminded me “It’s a mile.”

Ah, perspective. Already a breath of fresh air.

I put on my running shoes and called out to Rassy, “You thought the other day was embarrassing? Check this out,” and headed out the door in my purple snowman flannel pants, a hoodie, down vest and earrings.

One mile. Done.

Over the past week, while all the males in my house have been overtaken with the flu, thanks to my sister, I’ve been out running —just one mile— in jeans, cords, flannel pants, boots and hoodies. With no embarrassment in the least.

The streak is alive.

As I begin the year in which I will return to New York City for the marathon – my guaranteed-entry for the cancellation of the one in 2012 –  I am hoping beyond hope that my sister will win the lottery to get in – or we’ll figure out another way for her to do it.

Because just when I needed it, she’s the one who…

… made me see that, sometimes, running in jeans isn’t so bad.

… reminded me that fresh air feels good.

And that “it’s a mile.”

One more mile.

Done.

 

 

From Snow To Sawdust: Where Angels Trod

The official Snow Day notification came at 5:56 a.m. Friday via a school district phone call. A couple inches had fallen in the early morning hours, kicking off Winter Break one day early. While I’m not one to venture out for a run in slick, slippery conditions, it promised to be an action-packed day, so I decided to try and get it done early. As I headed out in my oversized, Rocky-inspired sweats, I was immediately struck by the quiet, peaceful conditions. I was the only one out on the roads, my footprints leaving the first marks on the snow-covered sidewalks. It was not slick or slippery, in fact, it was powdery, light and delicate. I continued past houses with Christmas lights still on, in the morning darkness they cast a beautiful glow across the peaceful surroundings. I kept running, slowly, almost mesmerized by the beauty. I was thankful for the serenity and the solitude; it was quite different from some of the chaos I’d created for myself in prior days. Like desperately ordering a Seahawks jersey online — quite possibly from overseas, I’m still not sure — and wondering not only if it would arrive for Christmas, but if at all. But that snowy, quiet morning I was able to let go of all of that. That slow, steady run through the stillness helped me to focus on the simplicity of Christmas that had somewhat fallen by the wayside.

That evening, our church opened the doors to the Bethlehem village we’d created. Through building, painting, sewing, creating, and a variety of talents and resources, we worked together to help bring the birthplace of Jesus to life Friday through Monday nights and for a large part of the day Christmas Eve. Families don robes and costumes to tend blacksmith, pottery, jewelry shops and more. Roman soldiers saunter. Animals bellow. Visitors roam the sawdusty streets and are taken back to a long-ago time.

My family and I worked there last night in the stone-cutting shop, where folks decorate their own stone with an inspirational word, name or picture. An older gentleman hung back a bit as kids worked on their designs. He then moved to the front and carefully took his time selecting a stone from our wooden bowl. He didn’t want to design it, he simply wanted to take it with him. We chatted briefly and then he stepped away, toward the temple and live nativity. I wondered, Was he alone? With family? Was he missing someone? As he left, I thought I noticed a far-off look in his eyes. Maybe even a few tears. “This is quite a celebration,” he said.

From that quiet, snowy run to the sawdust-covered streets of Bethlehem and the simple words of a stranger, I was reminded this weekend that, as we get ready for Christmas, Angels still do tread here. Heaven often meets earth — when we just take the time to look around, we can see it, and we can feel it.

This IS quite a celebration.

Merry Christmas.

The Cheerleader In All Of Us

She stands on the sidewalk in front of Starbucks around 8 a.m. Sunday, a couple of miles into Portland’s 9.3-mile Shamrock Run. It’s a chilly morning— she’s wearing long sleeves and pants, her long salt-and-paper hair flowing. She’s not holding a sign, she’s not in green, but she’s cheering. Loudly. At this early hour, she’s enthusiastic and encouraging. “You guys are inspiring!” she yells. To a tutu-clad runner to my left she adds, “You look adorable!”

Me, inspiring?

If only she were inside my head. After an ugly outburst with my family earlier, I trot along with a serious Eeyore complex. “Hip don’t fail me now,” I think, scoping out my surroundings for Honey Buckets along the course, hoping that Nature doesn’t beckon. My sister has come into this race with one goal: beat last year’s time. My goal is far less ambitious: hobble, walk, crawl or drag myself across the Finish Line before noon so that we can make it home to relieve the babysitter. I listen to my sister and her friend/running partner chat easily and nonchalantly about kids and training runs. I instead, go inward, trudging along.

We make it six miles, to the top of the Terwilliger Hill, where bagpipes are playing. This is where I give myself permission to walk. “You’ve made it this far, you can stop. You can walk now and it’s still a 6-mile run. This is where the hip/knee/IT Band (fill in the blank) might start to feel funky…just walk if you need to. You can hang back and let them finish without you. They run together all the time. It’s fine.”

And this is where the switch is flipped.

“No,” I scream to myself. “Your sister has a goal and you are going to be a part of it. You are just running. You can do this. Keep going.”

This is where I start to believe.

The course starts its downward slope and I know that the last three miles have a nice trajectory. Our pace picks up. With two miles to go, I call to mind runs at home and say out loud “To the church and back.” I know I can do that.

With one mile to go it sets in that my sister is about to reach her goal.

Our pace quickens again.

We are sailing, soaring.

We are running, together.

The ghost of races past seems to show up, replacing the ho-hum Eeyore from before. I remember that I’m the mom of a determined 9-year-old boy who practices dribbling and lay-ups over and over again before and after school to improve.

We are doing this.

My sister and I cross the Finish Line hand-in-hand. I hit the stopwatch. I look down at the time—it’s a blur without my reading glasses—but  I can see it: 1:28 something.

She’s beaten last year’s time by five minutes.

I’ve beaten mine by three.

*           *          *           *             *           *            *           *          *           *             *           *              *

Sometimes we don’t know how far our words of encouragement can go, even to people we don’t know. Sometimes our words are just what someone needs, right when they need it. Sometimes we might be rooting for a donkey who’s just lost his tail, and we might help him pick himself up again.

So, thank you, Starbucks lady, for standing outside on a cold St. Patty’s Day morning to shout your simple words: “You guys are inspiring!” They gave me some extra oomph when I needed it.

Seeing you on the sidewalk Sunday, encouraging and cheering for strangers, was inspiring, too.

Running To Remember

This morning I, like many, participated in a Virtual Run for Sherry Arnold, the Montana mother, teacher and runner who was kidnapped and killed in January 2012. Last year, my sister and I ran together through the streets of downtown Seattle to honor her. This year, I ran solo in my neighborhood to remember her. I printed out my bib, which reads:

2nd Annual Run for Sherry
Courage. Strength. Grace.
Be Safe. Run On.
Never Forget.

To be honest, courageous is not something I’ve been feeling lately. Quite the opposite. Wimpy, insecure, doubting, questioning, struggling and uncertain are more like it. I’ve also been babying an IT Band/knee issue which has left me feeling totally sorry for myself and the fitness I’ve lost since the marathon training.

But this morning was different. As I pinned on my bib front and center, I left that Kira at the door. I took off with the spirit of Sherry. As I ran, I thought about teachers. About the ones who showed up on a Friday night to hand out books at my son’s Bingo night. I thought about his glowing report card, and the words written with such great detail, love and commitment to his success. About teachers who give their all, heart and soul, for our kids. I thought about and prayed for Sherry’s family. For that massive, unfillable hole. For the life lost. For the ache that doesn’t go away.

I headed up a hill and heard someone running behind me. I glanced over my shoulder and saw a guy in a beanie. I picked up the pace. I wouldn’t let him catch me.

I ran with shoulders back, with courage.

I ran without stopping, with strength.

I ran without self-pity, with hopefully a little bit of grace, and a whole lot of gratitude.

This morning, I ran with purpose.

This morning, I ran for a person.

Thank you, Sherry.

We are running on.

We are not forgetting.