Even before I became a runner, running was a part of my family’s life. I can remember early Sunday mornings when my dad would return home from his weekend 12-mile run. My sisters’ and I would greet him with a tall glass of iced tea. We would stand back and wait for him to finish the glass in one gulp, and then give us the “Lipton Iced Tea, ‘Ahhhhhh!'” To me, that “Ah” was the reward for hard work.
When I think about all the years of running I’ve logged, I realize there have been different seasons in my life that have allowed for various levels of effort. Through it all, though, there has been a certain satisfaction that is the natural result of hard work. After I got married and we had our first two children, I enjoyed racing and pushing myself. I had the benefit of youth on my side (although I know I didn’t truly appreciate it then), and could run a lot of miles pushing a baby jogger. Running mostly 10Ks, I was able to train hard and I even squeezed out a sub 40-minute 10K for a personal best. I would often meet a friend of mine, Greg, at a track near the hospital where he worked, to do interval training. I recall one workout he named “Zeus” after doing it with a man that was more like a Greek god than a human! Those days I could manage tough workouts without feeling totally zapped of my energy the rest of the day.
Moving to St. Louis near my twin sister, Susan, brought a different season, although a brief one. She and I would sometimes run two miles to meet each other and log in four or five miles together. Then we would run our separate ways back home. It was a great chance to keep up with each others lives. However, neither of us realized how quickly things would change and that soon we would be on opposite sides of the country (it would be that way for 16 years). By the time Susan and her husband moved to Seattle, I had been homeschooling for a year or two, and a quick run three to four days a week was often all I could manage.
Four more children later, another season of running developed. During this time, when people asked me what I was training for, I would respond “I’m training for life.” The days of racing and training hard seemed long gone. They had been replaced with working around the kids’ schedules to fit my workouts in. The effort, however, was still the reward, and I continued to embrace the endorphins that were the natural result of a good run.
A move in 1997 to the South, and the wonderful climate of North Carolina was great for my running. I moved next door to a runner, Karrie, who became my running partner and close friend. In our first five years running together, we trained for, and ran two marathons (3:30 and 3:22 my PR).
In a few years, some of my children entered high school and I had more help at home. I would still try to get out in the morning before everyone got up. In the dark, early morning hours, Karrie and I would run and talk about frustrations of parenting, the kids’ milestones, family life, the world in general, and our running goals. Eventually another running buddy, Susan (an ultra marathoner) joined our group and we had a happy threesome. This season seemed as if it would go on forever… and it did last for a long time.
Three more children, however, and the wear and tear of a body in its early forties, brought me back to the “training for life” status. Delighted to get out and run, but mostly just happy to finish it, I was still satisfied with running for the pleasure of it. Surprisingly though, this did not last, and I entered another season of my running life. Despite great running buddies, it seemed I was growing a little weary of “the run”. The satisfaction brought about by the effort of a run, was not nearly as rewarding as the satisfaction of early morning sleep! Faced with the choice of getting up to run or sleeping an extra hour, I chose sleep easily and noticed that I wasn’t even feeling guilty! While a little part of me was bothered by this new season, I figured it was the consequence of being in my early 40’s with nine children (although by this time two were already in college.)
Two things in the last year have brought about yet another running season. First, I took the position of cross country coach at the school my teenage sons are attending. Second, my husband signed us both up for the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon. Coaching high school kids, most of whom had never run competitively before, forced me to look at running with new eyes. I was hearing myself tell these kids, “Anyone can run”; “You just need a pair of shoes and a little desire..”; and “Running makes you dig deep and appreciate the effort”. As I ran with two in a baby jogger, trying to keep up with some of the faster kids on the team, and trying to inspire those who had never run before, I realized that I really do love to run! While the various seasons in my life had made it more difficult to train at times, it was still the hard work and effort that motivated me to lace up my shoes and get out there. It was exciting to share this with my athletes. Some of the kids on the team appreciated it. Others did not…but I know they will one day.
Finally, I loved training for, and running the Marine Corps Marathon (October 31, 2010). Unfortunately, an injury prevented my husband to train with me for the marathon, but I discovered a new partner in running… the iPod. Boldly allowing my teenage sons to create my playlist (ACDC’s “TNT” surprised me on one run), I began to run with this new partner on some of my training runs. The music inspired me (ok, maybe not the ACDC). Or maybe it was simply a distraction. Whatever the case, I got through some long, hard runs on effort and a song! My ultra-marathon running friend, Susan joined me on many runs too, since she was training for a 40-miler at the time!
When marathon day finally arrived, I was standing at the start line looking around at some of the other 30.000 runners like myself. We were all there with some effort under our shoes, eager to see where the training would lead us on that day. Seeing the wounded veterans preparing to race was nothing less than awe inspiring. No matter what the time would say at the finish line, there was no magic way to get there. All of us knew that to get from where we were at the start (the Pentagon) to the finish (downtown D.C.), would take lots of hard work. This was the road we all faced, and I realized then that it was going to be fun. Regardless of the “seasons” of my life, hard work and physical effort had accompanied me on my runs for a long time. Just before the gun went off, I closed my eyes and imagined my dad. He was waiting for me at the finish line…in his hand was a tall glass of ice cold Lipton Iced Tea. I couldn’t wait to say, “Ahhhh!”
In the end, it was 3:34. Not my best, but considering the season, I am happy with it. I don’t know what the future holds, but I pray I have many more seasons of running to look forward to!