Seven months and 28 days ago I had my third baby. Four months ago I signed up for my third half marathon.
Right around the time each of my first two children turned one, I ran half marathons and wanted to do it again after this baby. I don’t know if I was trying to prove something to myself, or to the rest of the world, but whatever the case, I seemed to need to say “Three babies? No problem, life can’t slow me down!”
Can anybody guess where this is going?
A little over a month before the race, I officially “quit” training. I couldn’t very well justify that this was about self-care when I didn’t feel like I was taking care of myself particularly well. I didn’t really have enough time to train, so when I did sneak in a run I didn’t stretch enough. I wasn’t eating well enough to make up for the calories I was burning by both training and breastfeeding. And it wasn’t fun. Looking at a schedule every day that said “7 miles” or “interval run,” and trying to finagle how to fit that in to the rest of my chaotic life felt like a chore. I constantly felt like I was failing. The relief I felt when I decided to stop was palpable. Sometimes quitting is the right choice. I continued to run, but on my schedule.
Life can slow you done. And maybe sometimes it should.
But this isn’t about that.
On the day of the race I felt fairly zen. I wasn’t going to run fast and I wasn’t trying to beat anyone; I’d long since given up on the goal pace I’d originally set, and I told myself that I was just going for a lovely (albeit it very long) run along the water. And the run was lovely. The course ambled along the ocean in Falmouth. The weather was perfect and my spirits were high. I ran the first mile a full minute faster than I expected, and finished with a time I was proud of and without injury.
It turns out that I am stronger than I think. I am faster than I believe. My body can do incredible things.
But this isn’t about that either.
This is about my village. This is about all the people who came together and supported me in ways both large and small, allowing me to cross that finish line with something resembling a smile on my face.
This is about my father. At 65 years old he trained for this, his second half marathon, right along beside me and was my cheerleader throughout. He watched the baby while I went on long training runs. When I had an unexpected spare 1/2 hour and wavered about whether or not to go out for a run, he urged me on. He picked up my race bib the day before the race while I worked. The morning of the race, the mornings of training runs, heck whenever possible for the past 15 years, he woke me up with a hot cup of coffee.
This is about my mother, who was my champion when I decided to quit training. Who validated my decision to slow down, and told me again and again that I was making the right choice. My mother, who also woke up at 5 am the day of the race and drove up with me so I could nurse the baby before running, and then hung out in a minivan with said baby to keep her out of the cold until it was time to cheer me on from the side of the road.
This is about my husband, who didn’t groan too loudly when I announced that I was registering for yet another race. Who woke up early and dragged two little boys out of bed, driving over an hour so that I could see their proud little faces as I crossed the finish line.
This is about the women in child watch at the YMCA who patiently took my baby day after day, even as we both knew that within a half hour they’d be coming to get me. “She’s crying” they would apologize. I hope they know how much I appreciate them NOT toughing it out. Knowing that they would fetch me rather than letting my baby cry gave me peace of mind in leaving her.
This is about Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote a musical long enough and fabulous enough to get me through the entire race (yes, I’m claiming Lin-Manuel Miranda as a part of my village here, leave me alone).
This is about the countless spectators and volunteers on the side of the road the day of the race ringing cowbells, holding up signs of encouragement, and handing out cups of water. This is about the parents who stood alongside pajama clad babies waving and cheering us on. I didn’t know any of you, but on race day, you made up a piece of my village.
This isn’t about quitting. And It’s not about how surprisingly strong mamas are. This is about people. Whatever is in front of you, whether it’s time to slow down or speed up, it will be people who get you across the finish line.