I had been training for months and it was finally time for the half marathon. My first night away from the baby and a much-needed night away from the demanding 4-year-old. My friend and I were doing the run together and she arrived to pick me up. The hotel room was reserved and we were ready to go. I watched my husband and kids slowly get smaller through the rear view mirror as we drove away. My son running down the driveway while my husband was chasing after him, trying to catch him before he made it to the road. My son was definitely crying. “Oh no, don’t look”, my friend said as she laughed. So I looked ahead. I was literally going to run away. I was so excited.
We started our wild and crazy adventure to DC with some diet cokes from McDonalds. It’s the little things. We made it to the Armory and picked up our running packets for the next day. I was pumped. The hotel was amazing and by far the nicest room I’ve ever stayed in. We freshened up and went to dinner. The dinner was incredible. Cream of crab soup, beet salad, and nachos. And beer. I discovered a love of beer I never knew existed. I was feeling great and had convinced my friend by the end of the second beer that we were going to do the full marathon together next year, and eat at the same place, and drink out of the same glasses, and so on. Gotta love alcohol. Back at the room I was ecstatic. I was going to sleep through the night for the first time in almost 8 months since my second son was born. I am still nursing him and he continues to wake up between two and three times during the night. After my friend and I laughed at ridiculous things for about another hour my head hit the pillow. I faded off to sleep with a full belly and a smile upon my face, with the anticipation of tomorrow’s run and night of uninterrupted sleep.
It was about 2:45am when I woke up with a splitting headache. Damn you delicious beer. And then a tremendous pain. Oh no. It occurred to me then that I had forgotten my breast pump and there was no baby to nurse back to sleep. Damn. My alarm was set for 6:00am to get ready and walk 6 blocks to the starting line. I looked over at my friend. She looked so peaceful sleeping. Damn her. So I went into the bathroom and was forced to use my hand as a breast pump. Lovely image, I know. You can only imagine the things I was thinking to myself when I looked in the huge mirror with florescent lighting and squinty eyes. Sleep is so overrated. I could hear my friend wake up.
“Are you ok”, she asked.
“Yep, just milking myself”, I replied laughing.
Even though I couldn’t see her face, I laughed at the thought of what I knew it looked like. “Ok. Good luck with that”, she replied. I sent my husband a text message, just fishing really. Yep, he texted me right back. He was up with the baby. I had to laugh to myself again. So when I got back in bed it was about 5:00am. I laid there thinking about how I was wasting time thinking because it was almost 6 and I didn’t have much time left until eventually the sound of my alarm interrupted my thinking about how my alarm would soon be going off. So I got up. Got dressed. Got to Starbucks. And then got to the starting line. I though it was ironic that they corralled us like cattle before the run started.
The excitement of the crowd made the sleepiness fade. I was about to run away. Forget about my worries, my family, and anything else but achieving a personal goal. Forget that I had one boob the size of cantaloupe and one the size of, I don’t know, a tomato perhaps. It was all about me and the experience I had worked hard to accomplish. I could forget my grandmother is sick. I could dismiss my worries for a few hours about whether or not I’m parenting the right way. A few hours to feel nothing but the wind in my face and the worries at my back, too slow to reach me. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, go..
As I ran past the impressive monuments and scenery that DC has to offer I thought about its beauty. As the sun came up over the Memorial Bridge, I thought, what an amazing thing to witness. As I pushed myself harder, I did think about how proud I was for taking the steps to get where I was. But mostly I thought about my children. How frustrated my son has been making me lately. And how absolutely grey my world would be without him painting it such bright colors. The sunrise wouldn’t look the same and my legs wouldn’t carry me as far as they do without thoughts of him in my head. I thought of the baby. He is the sweetest person I have ever known. He has just learned to wave, and the thought of that tiny hand going in the air filled my lungs with the air I needed to finish my goal. And my grandmother. I thought of her lying in bed, unable to move. I thought that I wished she had done more for herself in her life instead of always putting others first. I was not running away. They were right there with me. I was not running away. I was running towards them, working towards my goal of being able to see my children grow to accomplish their dreams. And at some point it hit me. I think it was a while after a man raced past me around mile 8 wearing a cow suit. What’s with all the cow references that day?
It occurred to me that all those years my grandmother was doing something for herself; I just never looked at it that way until now. It’s not about how great I am for accomplishing something. It’s about the ones who got me through it and made it possible. The ones I love are the wind in my face reminding me to wake up and just go for it. They are the worries at my back who keep me focused, and they are the sun coming up over the monument, warming my skin and reminding me to keep running towards whatever makes me shine.