It's funny how one mile - a 12:25 mile - can totally change your perspective.
Running is an inherently selfish endeavor. Sure, we run in groups, we encourage friends, and we cheer others across the finish line. But at the end of the day, running is an individual sport. It's runner versus clock. We ask ourselves, how many miles did I log this week? Am I going to PR in my next race? Am I going to accomplish my goals?
And it can be extremely frustrating when we can't reach our goals, even if they're just temporarily delayed by other responsibilities, illness, injury, or, in the case of many women, pregnancy.
When Jason and I found out we were expecting our second child last August, we were overjoyed. But as the reality of another pregnancy set in, I began to experience some other, less joyful emotions. Like frustration. Impatience. Envy.
When I was pregnant with our eldest daughter, Ella, I told myself that I would run as long as I felt good. I was very fortunate to be able to run throughout pregnancy. While it was a little frustrating to run shorter distances and slower paces, I really didn't mind. I was too busy embracing pregnancy, enjoying all the new experiences. Ignorance really can be bliss.
But the second time around, the novelty of pregnancy had worn off, and I knew what to expect. I knew how long nine months really was. I knew that even after baby girl #2 arrived, it would be a long, slow road to get back into shape. Once again, I was able to run throughout pregnancy, but this time around, I found myself irrationally jealous of friends and even strangers who were in top shape while my ever-expanding belly and I were trudging along. I complained. A lot. I have to give props to my fabulous husband and friends for listening to me whine.
We welcomed our beautiful daughter, Nora, at the end of April. The last three months have been a whirlwind. Not only do we have a new baby in the house, but we have the additional challenge of balancing the needs of two children instead of one. Ella has embraced her role as big sister, but we've still had our fair share of tantrums and tears. And I'm not just talking about Ella!
Jason and I like to joke that Ella was born running. All of those miles while I was pregnant and countless outings in the jogger have rubbed off on her. She's in constant motion and runs with total, reckless abandon. But until this summer Ella had never done any organized running.
We took Ella to several of the summer track meets, and she ran the 100 and 200. The start of the 100 was intimidating, and Ella would burst into tears after a few steps and cross the finish line clutching Jason's hand for dear life. She fared much better in the 200, running unassisted and tear-free. Ella loved the track meets, and her beautiful ribbons are proudly displayed in her room.
We decided to try the mile at the Duck Island Summer Mile. We figured Ella would do what most little kids do. Run all-out for a few meters, walk, and repeat. Instead, she exceeded our expectations by steadily running the entire way and blowing away the state record by almost by two and a half minutes.
Jason and I served as race directors for the Duck Island miles for several years. We always loved watching the youngest kids cross the finish line, but we had never experienced it as parents. There aren't words to accurately describe the pride and awe I felt running alongside Ella. I've run a lot of races, including half marathons, marathons and triathlons. It sounds silly, but Ella's first mile was more rewarding than any of those races.
The thing that struck me the most was the confidence Ella displayed; there was never any doubt in her mind that she was going to finish. Ella had no concept of how long a mile was, but she was determined to run the whole way. She started the race holding my hand, but shortly after the quarter mile, she told me she didn't need to hang on anymore. When I asked her if she wanted to walk, she replied, 'I think maybe I'm going to keep running.' She powered up the hill on the back side of the course without batting an eye and passed the half mile in 6:09. She did slow down for a few sips of water but started running again within a few seconds. When we passed the pavilion on the way to the finish, she innocently asked why all the people were cheering. She grabbed my hand again, but when I let go before the finish, she confidently kicked her way across the line in 12:25.
Becoming parents immediately forces us to re-prioritize, to become a little less selfish and to focus on what's truly important in our lives. It doesn't mean we have to completely relinquish our identities and desires. But sometimes it means that our goals have to change, at least for a little while.
My days of running 5-6 times a week are over for now. Six miles is a long run these days, and sometimes I have to jump off the treadmill because Nora is no longer amused by her bouncy seat and is screaming at the top of her lungs.
And that's ok. Because this week Ella's first mile made me realize that a little sacrifice on my part is nothing compared to the joy of watching my child cross the finish line. Instilling the importance of health and fitness in our children is more valuable than the number of miles we log. And passing along our love of running is more satisfying than any training run will ever be.
I might have to wait a while before my next big race, but in the meantime, I'm going to cherish all of the unforgettable moments with my girls. Time flies and Nora will be running her first mile before we know it. I can't wait!