Friday, November 23, 2007

What it means to put a number on

Yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I got to put a number on again. A race number. 564, to be exact.

It felt really, really good to put a number on again.

It was strange--usually for a 5K, I'm with my buddy Canada Jenn, and we are plotting how to PR. I get nervous. I have to pee. And then I have to pee again. And by then the line's inevitably too long, and I can't, and I worry. And we line up. And we go go go as fast as we can and I usually run the first mile at a pace I have no business running and I wheeze and occasionally feel like I'm going to puke. Sometimes I see a PR. Usually I don't, so then we talk about how we could have done this or that, and how we could have done better and "if I just would learn not to go out so fast "blah blah blah. And then there's a banana, and water, and if we have time, some coffee.

Yesterday, there was none of that.

For starters, there was no Canada Jenn. My friend is gone and in Peoria, Illinois. And I was a little sad about this. My friend I spent so much time racing with for so many years is gone and isn't coming back. So our weekly chat sessions will have to do.

And then, there was no thoughts of a PR. Or anything resembling fast, really. There was still the chance of wheezing and puking though. I tried to run 3 miles outside for the first time on Monday and it did NOT bode well. After a painstakingly slow 1.5 miles, I mostly shuffled home, dejected. I had really begun to doubt I'd be able to even finish this little 5K race.

But it's an important 5K race. It's for a wonderful cause and a wonderful person, whom I never got the chance to meet before she passed away of breast cancer at age 38. But my Mom did. She taught her 3-year-old daughter that year, as the little girl's mom bravely battled her cancer. She even made a special storyboard for the three year old class that goes along with the story, "There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly." My Mom still uses it with her classes today. From what my Mom tells me, she was a brave and special woman. And this race honors her memory and legacy.

So what did this race mean? What does any race mean?

For many, a cause. Because she isn't around anymore to hug her son, but I can. And my Mom can still hug me. That's why I ran.

Because sometimes just lining up is exciting. Smiling, waving, and enjoying the starting line with friends. Sometimes that's what we're there for.

Sometimes we're there to push ourselves and our boundaries. For me, yesterday, that meant running the whole 5K seven weeks postpartum and feeling great. Knowing I could have gone faster and farther. Surprising myself and once again, being so proud of this body--this thing that does so much more than get me from Point A to Point B.

Yesterday I was there for those reasons, but also to run with my Mom, who I am so proud of. She pushes herself and, like me, sometimes doubts...but never, ever, ever gives up. And sometimes feels like she has to hurl at the end.

Just like me. :)

She tried to get me to go on without her, yesterday. My goal was to keep up with her and she kept feeling like she was holding me back, which was how I was afraid I'd feel. I know that feeling, and it's not fun. So there was no way I was going to leave her, no matter what. Every time she told me to "go ahead," I said NO WAY. Why? So I could finish 1 minute ahead of her? That's not what the number was about this day.

"We're in this thing together," I told her around mile 2. And she finished strong--we both did--and got to hug at the end. Which, I remembered, was part of the reason why I put the number on in the first place.

564 didn't mean what 2198 did. But in many ways, it means even more.

It means that I'm back to enjoying something that helps me grow and discover lots about myself. And being able to hug my mom at the end. And then going home and being able to snuggle with my son.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


greyhound said...

Good for you Sara! And what a wonderfully written piece.

Mallie said...

Way to get back into it for all the right reasons. Way to go, Sara!

Michele said...

Great race report.
Congrats on getting back in the game so soon. You are such the ironmom.
Having loved ones to hug at the finish line is the best part of racing!

Wes said...

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving T. I felt that same way on my Turkey Trot :-)

The Sm'allards said...

wow - a five km after 7 weeks! Congratulations. As a soon-to-be mommy who aims to do her first ever half only 6 months post-partum, you're an inspiration.

oh, and I stole your wogging term, I promise to give it back when I'm done.

- Lyndsey the longtime lurker, first time commenter

Charlie said...

Welcome back to the racing scene.

TriBoomer said...

Good going, Mom. You're back on track.

Great cause too.

Stay tuned...

RunBubbaRun said...

Great job, you'll see that the finish line will be a little sweeter when you know what's waiting for you at the end.

Run for Chocolate said...

You are a great writer, Sara. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your little sweet family.

Iron Kahuna said...

i'm grateful for your blog, sara.

Jennifer P said...

Welcome back -- feels good, doesn't it?

Fe-lady said...

What a perfect Thanksgiving!

TriShannon said...

Sounds like a great first race back! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving! Wish I were there to race with you!

Steve Stenzel said...

congrats on the run!!!!!

Rae said...

Great job girl!!!

Lana said...

That is so sweet. It almost made me cry.

Kurt said...

Great report and I do as many of the breast cancer races I can.