I ran a 5K yesterday. My first race.
I trained, I ran the 3.1 miles, and I crossed the finish line. I did it.
It was many things, but it was not easy. After the first 100 yards, it stopped being about propulsion and more about intention. I will finish this thing.
My mind raced with metaphors.
The differences between running in the shade or the sunshine; I felt hidden and safe in the shade, and I felt exposed, vulnerable, and hot in the sunshine.
The differences between running uphill or downhill; I almost preferred the running uphill, because then it made sense that my legs were burning with that productive ache. Running downhill seemed like it should be easier, and but it didn't necessarily stop hurting.
I learned from the parallels of keeping my own consistent pace, even while some ran around and past me, others stopped and started in sprints and breaks.
I learned that it's hard to run and drink water from a Dixie cup. But I was oddly thankful for the splash in the face.
I put one foot in front of the other, sure only of the fact that I could take one more step.
As I neared the finish line, I could hear the din of the crowd cheering us home. And above it all, louder than the roar of the crowd, like a balloon suspended above the noise, I heard my dad cheer my name. That's a voice that has been cheering for me, my whole life. I raised my hands to the sky as I ran; I can't see you, Dad, but I hear you. And I'm almost there.
Hand in hand with Melissa, my running companion and friend for more than twenty years, we crossed the finish line. The boys spilled with hugs, high fives, and clapping hands, and Tyler promptly untied my running pants. (From runner to mommy in .2 seconds.)
"Mommy, did you win?"
"In my own way, yes, I did."
"Well, I wold be more proud of you if it hadn't taken you so long."
"I wasn't trying to win, kiddo. I was trying to do my best. And I did. So I won."
Keep this in mind in your own races, little man. And I'll try not to rush you.
I feel a certain exhaustion and weariness on this morning after, a blend of those and quiet victory. And I'm allowing myself rest today. I mean, for real. I ran my first race yesterday.
But even as I rest, there are parallels. I'm reminded of the rest I must allow myself after other taxing laps of this journey - long, hard pushes that that might not be so visible.
Practiced runners remind me to stretch and drink water today, perhaps even go for a walk. And there lies the reminder that I'm not really out of the race; even in the day after, I have to take care of myself.
Am I a runner? I might be.
May it never be simply about time or a finish line. Yesterday's race was much more than that.