Every time I go out for a run, I have the same conversation with myself. It usually goes something like this. Mile One: “Ugh. Do I really feel like doing this today? It’s too cold (or hot). I’m too tired (or busy). I should be spending my free time with the kids (or the husband).” Mile Two: “What’s this cramp? Maybe I should just walk instead and enjoy the scenery. I wish I hadn’t eaten that banana.” Mile Three: “OK, this isn’t too bad. I’m actually enjoying this. Oh, I like this song!” Mile Four: “A downhill! Whee…a downhill!” Mile Five: “I’ve done five? I can do six.” Mile Six: (Rounding the corner to come home and humming the Rocky theme to myself) “Thank God I didn’t quit! Now I can enjoy the rest of the day.” And indeed, I do. I’m a much more pleasant, relaxed, and happy mama. I’m a much more loving wife. I have more energy to take care of my chores with minimal complaining. The inconvenience of overcoming inertia pays off again.
I’ve heard echoes of my “running conversation” several times this week in circumstances I didn’t expect. Last weekend, Mary Hazel and I ran in a charity event to raise money for pediatric cancer research. We ran in memory of sweet little Rachael Gleason and in honor of all the brave children we’ve met who are still fighting the fight. It is not an original metaphor, I know, but when you’re gasping for breath while climbing “the hill” near the lake on Furman’s campus, you can’t help but make the mental comparison. Life, or the race, is a journey for sure. Often times, you are not prepared for what lies ahead. Nobody ever plans on a Charley Horse at mile three or a cancer diagnosis on your first birthday, but there it is. Now what? You keep running. And running. And running, until you reach a downhill where you hope to coast and catch your breath and ready yourself for the next challenge. Mary Hazel had her first CT Scan this week since she has been in remission. The test has been on the calendar for months, but I couldn’t believe how quickly it crept up on me. Three months of me devouring every morsel of gratitude and relief flew by in the blink of an eye. The cycle began again. Time to worry about the things I cannot see with my own two eyes. Time to hope that my baby girl has already experienced the worst of her battle with cancer. Time to clock another mile in the marathon. Even though readying MH for the test was quite unpleasant and painful (as I wrote about previously), the results of the scan were “gorgeous”. This week, we had to visit the clinic for lab work to make sure all her “numbers” continue to look good. Was anyone happy about the three separate blood draws to get the results we were hoping for? Nope. But it was worth it to get to the next downhill coast. Once again, adrenaline and endorphins were my friend.
This chilly morning, Russell and I attended a fundraiser at Charlie and Poppy’s school. Instead of selling wrapping paper or cookie dough this year, the school adopted a healthier strategy – a fun run. They had me at fun. I was so excited to be a part of a fundraiser that promoted exercise…until we had to raise the funds. Selling is not my thing. I don’t like asking anyone to buy anything. Even if that thing is supporting the arts program at our school. In theory, I’m there. In practice, I feel sheepish and embarrassed about asking someone to part with their hard-earned money. I don’t like putting people on the spot. I practically backpedal while asking for said donation. Luckily, I was able to use my kids, who demonstrated enthusiasm and a keen aptitude for extending their palms, as my effective fundraising pawns. (Evil laugh here.) The kids woke up today feeling excited about the run (and also about not having to do normal class work). All the parents, toting their cameras and Starbucks, stood proudly in the middle of the track waiting to cheer on their superstars. The music was thumping, the banners were flying, the coaches were cheering! The energy was palpable. The kids took off for their first lap of 35. They were like bullets. Whiz! Blur! Though the students had been well coached in fundraising strategies over the last two weeks, nobody remembered to tell the poor kids to pace themselves during the run. By lap three, some of them were slowing down. A few more rounds, and some were clutching their stomachs. “Water break! Mom, I can’t breathe! Are we there yet!?” Keep going, we yelled and cheered. You’re doing great! They huffed and puffed. Some skipped, some held hands, and some danced in circles to the sounds of Justin Bieber singing his heart out. Pretty soon, the kids caught their second wind, “We’re halfway finished! Fifteen laps, Dad!” They seemed more determined than ever to finish what they started. Sometimes, a mom or dad would scoot onto the track and run alongside their kid for moral support. Other parents entertained (er, distracted) the kids with embarrassing dance moves. (Was that really House of Pain?) As the lap count climbed, the kids realized they were closer and closer to making their goal. They raised their heads higher, smiling ear to ear, and sought out their parents in the crowd. “Look at me! I did it! I ran 30 laps!” From where I was standing, every single Kindergartener met his or her goal – approximately two miles! Now, if you had asked these same kids at the beginning of the day if they could run two miles without quitting, I’m not sure how many would think it was possible. It certainly wasn’t easy for them. There were definitely times when I’m sure they thought they were somehow being punished. But, at the end of the race, when they crossed the finished line with high fives, they were nothing but proud of what they had accomplished. Sometimes, you just have to keep running, and running, and running. The reward can be so sweet.