This picture was taken after I completed my half marathon this past Saturday. You’re probably thinking, aww, look at the little one admiring her medal. Uhm, actually, she was looking for the quickest route to her milk supply.
I left at 6:15 that morning to make the 7 AM start time, before the girls were even awake, which means Thumper didn’t get her usual morning nourishment. When she saw me approaching after I crossed the finish line that day, she was thrilled to see me, not so much for my accomplishment, but for the milk she saw walking towards her.
Nonetheless, I was incredibly happy to see them at the end of my 13.1-mile run. They were, after all, the reason I ran. And on that sunny April morning, they were also the reason I finished the race.
You see, I’d like to say that, because of my training, it was an easy course for me, but I would be lying. Months of running in frigid weather left me ill-prepared for the 50-degree sunshine that the cheering spectators welcomed. I was sweltering in my two-layer outfit, and, on more than one occasion, I was tempted to just stop and walk away from it.
But I didn’t. I was determined to share a proud moment with my family at the end, even if it meant crawling to the finish line, and that was pretty much the only thing that kept me going.
Here’s the progression of my thoughts as my feet pounded the road for two hours:
- Ooh, I need to check out this restaurant later. Looks pretty good.
- Aww, what a lovely tree-lined street.
- Sunny day...glad I wore my hat.
- Wait, is that a hill? That looks like a hill.
- Okay what happened to the breeze?
- Prairie land! Nice.
- Oops, I’m hunching. Shoulders back, midfoot strike, breathe breathe in, breathe breathe out
- What does her shirt say?
- Look at those two older ladies in their chair giving high five’s. I should give them one too.
- A bridge over a creek! How romantic. But where are the trees? Some shade from the sun would be nice.
- Uh-oh, another hill.
- Sheesh, is this sun ever going to let up?
- Water. Water. Water.
- Where are the %#*&@#* leaves?!
- Why the hell did I sign up for this again?
- Photographer. Should I smile? Don’t be ridiculous. Concentrate.
- Shoulders back, midfoot strike, breathe breathe in, breathe breathe out
- What the heck is he wearing?
- Yay! Half way!
- This hat needs to come off. I’d rather be blinded than melted by the sun.
- Is that guy grilling? Right by a marathon? Now that’s just cruel.
- 10 miles should be coming soon. Come on 10 miles. Come on!
- Oh my god, it’s only been eight miles???
- Water. Water. Water.
- Where the @*$# are you 10 miles?
- Hill? Again?! (It was a small incline, but it felt like Kilimanjaro at that point)
- This heat is killing me. Look at that smart woman in her tank top. I feel like an idiot in my outfit.
- Note to self: Dress better next time. Next time? What next time? $@&# that.
- Oh look, another one in her tank top. Bitch.
- Hey isn’t that the same guy holding the same sign from Mile 1?
- Am I starting to hallucinate?
- Focus! Shoulders back, midfoot strike, breathe breathe in, breathe breathe out
- Yes! 10 miles! I made it. Last leg!
- Wait, didn’t I already hear this song in the beginning?
- Are we there yet? Where the #@^& is the next mile marker?
- This sucks. Why am I doing this again?
- Oh right, the girls. Couldn’t I just take up knitting? What’s wrong with me?? #$^@*&$!
- I see Mile 12. That’s 12 miles right? Please tell me that’s 12. Please please please…
- TWELVE!!! Oh my god, the end is near.
- Come on feet, let’s go. Hello? Feet? You there?
- Forget my time goal. I just want to finish. And see my babies. And never run another race again!
- Are #%&^@ we %@* there #%*#% yet??
- Hey people, stop saying “you’re almost there” - you’ve been saying that for the last 15 minutes!!! Where the #$)@*&@ is “there”?!
- Where the $*@# is this path leading us? Where is the #%$^%@ finish line?
- Another turn??? Come ON!
- Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god! FINISH LINE!!!
2 hours, 9 minutes and 2 seconds after I started, I finally reached the end. I made it just under my goal time of 2:10. Since it was my first half marathon (and perhaps my only), I wasn’t very ambitious; I was just aiming to finish. And that (insert big sigh of relief) I did.
I spied my friend, who ran the race with me (“with” as in she was way ahead, and I didn’t even bother trying to catch up) cheering for me at the end, but I didn’t see my family. Blocked by a million others and prohibited from the stadium field, where the finish line was, they couldn’t see me from the bleachers either.
So much for the grand finale.
I received my medal but skipped the water and refueling stations and went to look for them. When I spotted my favorite faces in the crowd, I was breathless with gratitude - they’re here!!! And the smiles I received in return were priceless. Almost made the grueling two hours worth it to me. Almost.
I handed Little Miss the medal so she would do the honors of placing it around my neck. She probably had little clue as to the significance of this moment, and both girls will most likely not remember this race, but it didn’t matter. I will remember it.
13.1 miles. I did it. I accomplished what I had set out to do. And the best part was that my girls were there. Along with the man who made all of this possible for me.
As someone who only started running seven months ago, completing a half marathon was a big accomplishment for me. It’s my way of saying to my girls, look what you can achieve with hard work and determination.
But knowing how little that moment meant to them at that time, it’s also my way of saying, in the grand scheme of things, you may not always be remembered for all the things you’ve done, but it doesn’t mean they’re not worth doing.
Just like parenting.
As parents, we are familiar with the unglamorous life of planning meals, scrubbing vomit, making doctor’s appointments, and researching summer camps, but we all do it because we hope that someday, all this will add up in helping our kids achieve the life we think they deserve.
After my friend and I took our official marathon pictures, she, who’s also the mom of two girls, got in her car to take her 10-year-old to her violin lesson, and I carried my fussy toddler, who was demanding milk, all the way up the bleachers on Jell-O legs.
While other runners and supporters crowded the Illini stadium to cheer and celebrate, we rushed to the car so I could nurse Thumper. The medal I just earned - something that took months of training to acquire - only got in the way of what she needed, so she pushed it aside. Oh, the irony.
On our drive back, “Wonderwall” by Oasis, a song that My Guy and I sang together during karaoke once (and if you knew him, you’d know how rare that was), came on the radio, and I turned to my girls and belted it out to them, much to their utter delight and amusement.
Watching them giggle, I realized that there may not be pomp and ceremony for this mama, but my spirits were high and my heart was so full of love for this family that I couldn’t possibly want for anything more.
Well, other than the celebratory monstrous burger with bacon, fried egg, cheese, grilled pineapple, and caramelized onions. With fries. I’ve certainly earned it, that’s for sure.
My Oscar-speech moment:
Thank you to my dearest friend, R, who ran with me, who got me to sign up in the first place, who was the first person, nearly 20 years ago, to get me to work out so I could lose my freshmen 20 (and I did!). I thought it was only appropriate to run with someone who has not only inspired me in fitness, but also in motherhood. She is a wonderful woman, and an even more amazing friend.
Thank you to my girls for being exactly who they are, inspiring me to become who I’d like to be.
And, saving the best for last, thank you, My Guy, for believing in me even when I doubt myself, for bringing me everything out of my arm’s reach as I was nursing and elevating my sore legs, and for letting me go as far as I can - sometimes even pushing me to get there - but always being right here when I get back.