I have decided to dedicate this blog to my mother, Wendy. She is no longer here to sign me up for races, to show me how to use the gym equipment and to encourage me to run with her around the block. Those memories sound very pleasant, don’t they? Actually, it was more like this: My mom signed me up for races regardless of whether or not I wanted to walk or run any race and would drag me kicking and screaming to the car. My mom would bore me with daily trips to the gym because she had no else to watch me while she did her workouts. My mom would run ahead of me and tell me to keep moving as we went around a VERY LARGE block… it had a perimeter of at least 2 miles! Yes, I was the complaining little girl and even more so as a teenager (so I hear, but I am not sure if I really believe it… I couldn’t have been anything shy of an angel).
Then it happened. Wait for it… Yes, I grew up. I became more active. I actually LIKED exercising just a little. Or maybe it was just the late teen period of freaking out because I thought I was getting fat. Whatever… it worked. I remember when my mom asked me to go with her to the Portland Marathon and watch her run. She suggested that I participate in one of the shorter runs (like the 5K). Surprisingly, I agreed without any complaint. I was actually looking forward to seeing my mom in action. I finally felt proud of her and her accomplishments. I was so determined to go with her that weekend that I ended up having to quit my job. For some reason the IHOP manager was not pleased when I asked for a weekend off. Oh well, I was tired of smelling like pancakes anyway. I hopped on a plane and flew to Oregon.
I remember the spaghetti dinner that night. I didn’t quite understand why they were serving spaghetti, but it didn’t matter because I wasn’t too picky when it came to spaghetti (a different story now…). In the hotel room that night, my mom laid out her clothes for the race and pinned on her race bib. I don’t even remember what I brought to wear for my race. I probably had a pair of cheap sneakers from Wal-Mart and cotton shorts and a cotton shirt. Obviously, I was not yet a real runner. The next morning I know we must have woken up early, but that part is foggy. Since I was only nineteen, I would suspect that I was not an expert in early morning wake-ups (but now I am… ha!). I was able to see my mom off to her starting line as I made my way to mine. She gave me an approximate time to be at the finish line. A few hours sounded like forever to me. How could anyone run for that long??
I was just thankful that I was heading to my little 5K. I was clueless to how far a 5K even was. It couldn’t be that far. I definitely don’t recall any training involved. I do remember not having fun on the hilly portions of the course. I think I was pretty much dying and wishing that it would end already. Yep, I think I probably only felt relief when I crossed the finish line. Somehow I mustered the energy to collect my seedling (yes, they were handing out little trees as prizes) and rest for a while before I had to get up and walk back to the finish line. Soon enough, there she was. My mom was crossing the finish line with a wide smile on her face. I couldn’t understand how someone could smile after running 26.2 miles and then be happy limping around afterwards. It made no sense to me at all.
Now it makes all the sense in the world. Now I understand what my mom was feeling. Now I know what it must have been like for her to lay in bed because her back pain would not allow her to walk, let alone run. Now I know how I would feel if I could no longer run. I have to keep going. I have to make new goals. I have to keep running in her memory. By the time she was 44, she never saw me cross a finish line with a smile on my face. By then, it was too late. I can only hope that she is watching me now. I hope that she is proud of the runner I have become. I never thanked her for showing me how it’s done.