My baby woke me up at 6am on Sunday. This wasn’t shocking. His sleeps have hardly been long over the past few weeks. Sometimes, he even graces me with his presence hourly.
The difference between this morning and every other morning was that my baby woke me up right before my alarm was set to ring. My alarm was set because a few months ago, I signed up for a half-marathon relay race. Because it was a relay, I only needed to run a third of the half-marathon, or 7km. Considering I had run a 5k in August and was planning a 10k in September, a 7k in November should have been no big deal. What? You say it is cold first thing in the morning in mid-November? Don’t be such a wuss!
(Who was I kidding?)
As I sat up in bed, desperately trying to nurse my baby back to sleep so I didn’t need to hand him off to my sleeping husband before running out the door, I marinated in my negative attitude. I haven’t slept well all week! I haven’t run in two months! It is freezing outside! Grumble, grumble, grumble!
Upon laying my whimpering baby in bed, I got up, put on my tutu and wings, and entered the FREEZING cold. Like, it was cold enough that my car was covered in ice for the first time this season.
Sigh. This is so not going to go well.
I arrived at the race to watch my teammate finish the first leg of the race. She kicked the race course’s butt, clocking her 7k in around 30 minutes. And then, it was my turn.
Normally I start a race with a goal in mind. Sometimes it is to get through the distance without walking breaks. Sometimes it is to beat an arbitrary time I have set in my mind. Sometimes, it is to achieve a personal bet. Sunday morning, my only goal was to survive it and to hopefully cross the finish line under the 60 minute suggested time limit.
I started strong: My feet pounding the pavement while motivational music assaulted my ear drums. But then, I looked at my watch. I was going way too fast. There was absolutely no way I could maintain this pace and cross the finish line still breathing the icy cold air.
I don’t even remember at what point I started walking. I’m not sure if I made it one lap around before deciding I needed a break or if I needed to slow down half a lap in. I do know that I allowed myself plenty of walk breaks so that I didn’t end up dying before being awarded my medal.
As I rounded the corner to begin my last lap (to clarify, the 7k route was actually five loups around our city’s commons), most of the runners in my pack veered towards the finish line. Our group had thinned out. I was one of the slow ones.
I soon noticed that I was pretty much keeping pace with two other runners. And by “pretty much”, I mean that they were a few strides ahead of me, and I couldn’t pass them, but I wasn’t falling behind either. Surely there were some runners behind us though.
I looked back.
When I ran my first race, the thing that surprised me most was that I wasn’t the slowest. I wasn’t even close. While many runners passed me, I was also passing some runners. Although it sounds trite to say “this isn’t a race” when it actually is, the goal has always just been to beat myself. Still, I have to admit that beating other people felt pretty darn good too. I learned a long time ago that I didn’t have to be the best, but it kind of sucks to be the worst.
I didn’t pass anyone yesterday.
I spent the last several minutes of yesterday’s race craning my head and looking behind me, hoping that maybe I wasn’t the slowest; Hoping that someone was there behind me. I saw no one. Just me and the two runners ahead of me.
Parenting can feel like a race. There is a finish line in the distance and sometimes we move towards it at breakneck speeds, while other times we are moving at a crawl. Some days we seem to be running on autopilot – one foot in front of the other – while other days we blare the motivational music to distract us from how hard it all can seem. But that finish line is always there, and in the back of our minds the goal is always to survive. Everyone needs to cross that finish line alive, healthy, and better off than how they started.
We’re all running races. Sometimes we share similar finish lines. But we all have different backgrounds. An Olympian ran Sunday’s race with us. There is absolutely no way I could dream about passing him. He lives a life focused on running. But what about the women whom I ran beside? I don’t know their stories. I don’t know why they got out of bed that morning. I don’t know why some people are slower and why some people are faster. Why do I need to comare when the goal is simply to pass the finish line as best and as fast as I can?
Too often in my life, I take my focus of the ultimate goal and I start to wander. I look around and behind, trying to rank my family in some arbitrary parental contest. I stack my kids up against yours and tear myself down in the process. I lose sight of the steps along the way by glancing back.
When I rounded the last corner of my race, I decided to shift my gaze to the finish line. I saw it and I pushed. I let the cheers surround me and motivate me. Who cares if I came in last? At least I finished. At least I got out of bed and ran in the cold and accomplished something incredible; something hard.
As I lifted my head from being awarded my finishing medal, I saw a few runners pass me. I wasn’t actually the slowest runner. They still had to complete their last lap. I was proud of them for running – for focusing on the finish and not on who I was or when I finished.
Do you find yourself being slowed down by comparisons?
Race: Lucky 7 Relay
Date: November 18, 2012
Distance: 7 km
Time: 51 minutes, 12 seconds
Personal Best: –
Pace: 7 minutes, 19 seconds per km