"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chasing Pavements

This Saturday, I'll run my 4th half marathon, the Ogden Marathon. My sister Amy, and good friend Aimee will both be joining me. It will be my second time running this particular race, which is considered one of the best marathons in the country.  

I first started running about 2 1/2 years ago. I'd never been a runner, or had any desire to be one. Running was boring, and it hurt. My two sisters had been running races together for a few years at that point. After being at the finish line cheering them on a couple of times, the running bug bit me. After a couple of months of run/walk workouts building up to jogging a few miles, I confessed to my sisters that I'd started running and wanted to do a race. 

Julie immediately took charge, and before I knew it she'd convinced me that I should do a half marathon. Yep, that's right.  13.1 miles straight out of the gate! Before long, she called to say she'd found the perfect race for the three of us to do together. It was a fast, downhill course through old Colorado mining towns near Vail. That summer was spent training, following the schedule she'd sent me.  All three of us did our long runs early on Sunday mornings. Amy and Julie doing theirs together in Colorado, me running alone in Utah.  We'd text each other just before heading out, giving each other words of encouragement.  Afterwards, we'd immediately text each other with reports of our runs, or we'd have one of our three-way conference calls if we had a lot to share. 

Training alone was hard, and there were many times I wanted to quit early. Many of my runs started out with me listening to Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here". I did wish they were there beside me. The mental conditioning part of training was probably the hardest part.  Knowing that I'd be running with my sisters on race day was often the one thing that helped me push through. 

Finally, race day arrived. The night before the three of us stayed in Vail, where Julie was living and working that summer.  That night was sister time at its best.  Lots of laughter, giggling, and talking. The race itself was nothing like I'd expected.  Julie had so pumped up the fact that the course was an "easy, downhill one" that I'd mentally visualized we'd literally be starting at the top of a downhill canyon road, and off we'd go. Imagine my dismay when we lined up for the start facing the wrong way!  I looked at her in confusion, and then realized we'd be running around an entire lake first, then heading down the canyon. Over the next several months, Julie often drove by Georgetown Lake on her way to work. She'd call me saying "Hey, I'm driving by your lake", and we'd both crack up remembering my confusion and disgust that morning.  

Julie, me and Amy
May 15, 2010
Last May, I ran the Ogden 1/2 marathon alone. I'd wanted the three of us to run it together, but registration closed before Amy and Julie could sign up. They promised however, that they'd both be there for me on race day, and would even run the last little bit with me. True to their promise, they were. Amy had ruptured her Achilles tendon several weeks before, so she couldn't run with me at the end.  Julie promised she'd be there, waiting as I came onto the straightaway headed to the finish. When I got to that point, I was exhausted and just wanted to be done.  I looked for Julie and didn't see her and my heart fell. So, I turned up my iPod and kept running. Then, I spotted her out of the corner of my eye. She was running, and laughing, waving frantically to get my attention.  She'd been right where she'd said she'd be, I'd just missed her. We ran those last several blocks together, me cursing and asking if it was over yet, and her cheerfully encouraging me.  Just before the final stretch, she said "I'm outta here. You're doing great, just a few more yards and you're done. I love you sis". 

A few weeks ago on one of my last long training runs, I went down that stretch of road again.  As hard as I tried to not remember, I couldn't help it. I had to Mike how hard this race was going to be for me. He suggested maybe I should run the race for Julie. My angry reaction surprised even me. "Why would I run it for her? She's gone. She chose to leave.  I'm running it for me, and me alone. I'm the one who's trained. I'm the one who's alive and didn't give up!". 

I will be running this race for me, but I'll be running because of Julie. Running is a gift she left me. Sometimes I use it to run away from all the confusion and pain in my mind, staying focused by forcing myself to think of anything but her. Other times, I use it because I miss her and running makes me feel close to her. On Saturday I plan to just run, and remember, not the sadness, but the joy, and all the good times we had together.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Mom

The approach of every holiday this past year has made me feel mostly dread at the feelings and sadness sure to surface on the day.  Mother's Day wasn't any different.  I couldn't help but think of my mom and what a bittersweet day it would be for her.  How on earth would my expressions of love and appreciation even begin to lessen the sadness and grief the day would surely bring?  Of course, there's no way I can make her loss hurt any less.  

This year I've gained a new found respect and appreciation for my mom as I've watched her grieve and work hard at her own journey of healing while at the same time loving and nurturing her children through our grief.  I'm so lucky to have her to talk to in such a real, honest way about so many things.  Sometimes my mom will say the simplest, yet most profound thing that really helps me gain perspective on something I'm struggling with.  She knows many things about me that I'm sure she'd rather not, but she always listens and doesn't judge.

I learned long ago not take my relationship with my mom for granted.  It's a relationship we've both had to work at, because at the tender age of 14, I moved away from her. Shortly after my parent's divorce, my mom moved back to Colorado with the five of us kids.  An ugly custody battle ensued.  The judge hearing our case let me and my older brother who was 16, choose where we wanted to live.  Being a teenager, of course I chose to live in Utah with my dad.  What teenager wouldn't?  Who at that age wants to leave their friends and start over in a new state, in a new school?  It was years before I realized how devastating my choice must have been to my mom.  I can't imagine my own daughter choosing to live without me, 600 miles away during some of the most formative years of her life.  At the time it didn't occur to me that she wouldn't be there to see me off for my first date, or to sew my prom dresses, or to give me advice on how to walk in high heels, wear make-up and do my hair, and how to handle all the many dramas that are part of a teenage girl's life.  Even today, it's hard for me to think about how many moments, both big and small, we missed out on during those years.  I often wonder what a different person I'd be if I'd lived with my mom during those years instead of my dad.  

I realize though, my mom's influence on me is strong.  She's an amazingly strong, smart, independent woman who has accomplished much in her life.  She had five children in ten years, nursed every one of us, diapered us in cloth diapers, sewed many of our clothes by hand, canned fruits and vegetables, made homemade laundry soap, and put hot meals on the table for us nearly every night.  My dad was a schoolteacher so we didn't have a lot of money, but honestly, not once during my childhood did I feel deprived. 

Later, as a single mom who had been out of the workforce for 15+ years, she worked as a school secretary and returned to college for her teaching certificate.  Those were the years I didn't live with my mom, seeing her only on holidays and several weeks each summer, so I didn't experience the daily struggle and worries about money she lived with for years.  Those years were really tough for her.  Eventually, she got her degree, started teaching, remarried and life stabilized.  

One thing that has never changed through all the years is that no matter her circumstances, my mom has always been able to create a warm, inviting home that people like to come to.  I looked forward to going "home" to mom's no matter the address.  To this day, the moment I walk into her house, I feel a subtle emotional shift inside, and I relax knowing I'm home with mom.

My sister Amy and I
with our babies and our mom - Thanksgiving 1998
There have been a few cherished people in my life that have made the last twelve months somehow more bearable for me.  Without them, I don't know where I'd be.  They've given me love, encouragement, words of wisdom, have let me cry when I needed, listened to me rage at the unfairness, have helped me find clarity in the midst of a very confusing time, and have reminded me to laugh and continue living my life to the fullest.  My mom is one of those people.  For that, and for thousands of other reasons, I love her.