Running, Parenting, and Other Tough (But Worthwhile) Stuff
This weekend, I completed a 13.1 mile race: the Indianapolis 500 Mini Marathon.
Sweaty, happy, and goofy self-portrait around mile 8 after crossing the yard of bricks on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The race on Saturday was by far the most challenging run I have ever done - physically and mentally.
Knowing I hadn't trained enough this year to get a significant time improvement, my goal was to RUN the entire thing. (something I had not done since 2010) As to not keep you in suspense, I'll share right now that I DID RUN all 13.1 miles.
At mile-marker 12, I noticed the race officials had put out the yellow flag - which means all runners should slow down their pace. The flag was out due to the 97% humidity combined with the disappearance of the clouds. (The flag was nice to justify feeling like I was running through liquid air, but I couldn't have slowed down my pace any if I were crawling.)
The first 6 miles or so? Not so bad. The last 4? Pure torture. I could have walked and saved myself a great deal of agony, but by that point I simply couldn't give up. The torture was mine to bear. And why did I choose that? Read on....
Very long story and race cut short, I finished the run. I survived. SO DID MY HUSBAND, who finished only 3 minutes behind me (AND my sister, who completed the 13.1 miles in a walk/run).
In my first half marathon in 2010, in very cold and windy temps (bad for standing around but great for running), I completed the race in 2 hours, 33 minutes, and 26 seconds.
In this year's half marathon, in dangerously humid weather, I completed the race in 2 hours, 33 minutes, and 24 seconds.
(At least I'm consistent.)
One cannot run for over 2 hours and not rely heavily on the playground of Thought. After all, what else is going to keep you company? What else will keep you going when your body wants to give up?
One of those thoughts included the obvious, Why am I doing this?? Not so much why was I doing the race (that ship had sailed), but why was I killing myself to keep running?
Somewhere in one of those miles, after asking myself one of those questions, my kiddos popped into my head. I thought of them at home with their grandma. I thought of arriving back at the house and telling them that I just ran all 13.1 miles. I thought of the impact this knowledge might have, of knowing what their mommy could do...of what they might be able to do.
I thought of parenting.
I thought of all of the decisions we make that, halfway through, we ask ourselves, why in the world am I doing this?
Why am I driving an hour every day to take my child to and from school? Why am I up at 11 p.m. putting together cheese and crackers or cutting one last piece of construction paper for his class tomorrow? Why am I sitting amidst 30 wound-up children on a hot, plastic bench seat at this playground when I could be at home reading?
Sometimes, the answer is obvious. We want to make sure all 30 kids have snacks because we signed up to provide them.
Sometimes, the answer isn't so obvious.
And it is during those times, sitting with a question of why, that we either run from our truth or towards it.
Why are you working at that job? Why are you angry at that person? Why did you skip exercising or meditating this morning? Why are you wearing that shirt? Why are you feeling the way you are right now? Why?
It is easy to stop caring, to become afraid of knowing the answer. We put out work that earns us the paycheck and call it a living. We make art that sells and call that being an artist. We plop our kids in front of the t.v. and call that parenting. We give our bodies enough food to make it through the day and call that surviving.
If we live confined to fear or apathy, we will get what we've always gotten: this cycle of happy/suffer/happy/suffer. I don't know about you, but I'd rather hop off this roller coaster find a peaceful middle way. And I'm not going to find it doing the same thing I did yesterday.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
— Albert Einstein
But....if you and I can go deeper into awareness of our truths, life becomes energized. Joys and challenges alike become magical experiences.
When your child or your boss is screaming, when the stack of bills is so high they are toppling, when the paint or the words seem to have dried up, when there are three more freakin' miles left....it is the passionate "why" behind our actions and our ability to BE with discomfort and to flow with change that keeps us going and growing.
You can keep making the same old art or clocking in at the same old job even though it is killing your spirit. Really, it's ok! You are making art; you are earning a living. You can keep letting your child watch t.v. so they won't scream (don't worry - it won't kill them); you can keep using the credit card to pay off bills (someday it will all get paid off); you can walk if you don't feel like running.
But why are you doing these things? Is this how you want to experience your life?
If your answer was "no",
might I recommend change.
Change your attitude. Change your paint color. Don't buy that impulse item. Eat veggies with every meal after noon. Change your course of action. RUN instead of walk*.
Examine the discomfort. Ask why you are running from it.
I promise: the feeling you get when you've accomplished something, the deep sleep that comes from knowing you've lived fully, the increased motivation to continue to try something new...it makes all of the difficulties worthwhile.
So here's to the provocation from your children. Here's to the next boring meeting at work. Here's to the next part that breaks, the next crappy piece of art, the next injury,
...the next mile.
May we be blessed with many challenges, and may we find every one worthwhile.
*PLEASE NOTE: ALWAYS listen to your body and honor it. In this case, I knew I was physically ok with the running That is part of my training - knowing exactly where my limits are. Some people running in the humidity didn't listen to their bodies...and ended up on stretchers instead of the finish line. Whether you are in a race, doing yoga, or simply deciding whether to take another bite of that chocolate cake, please make sure you are keeping your wellbeing in mind. A worthwhile challenge is one that keeps us healthy and alive.