Racing

Mar 11 2011

Peer pressure is alive and well, even though I’m 37.

You’d think I’d have learned by now.

If your friend jumps off a bridge, would you jump, too?

Sadly, I must answer yes.

Yes.  If my beloved sister-in-law Kim jumps off a bridge, I’ll be right there next to her, plummeting to my death.

In my defense, Kim has the spiritual gift of peer pressure.

That’s the only way to justify the fact that I’ve agreed to train for my first half-marathon.

As Kim says on the peer pressure/running topic, “Better running than crack.”  Which is technically true.  Although I’m not entirely convinced that running won’t kill me faster than crack.

To illustrate how perfectly ridiculous this whole half-marathon thing is, I’ll tell you that right now I can’t run 3 miles.

Pre-pneumonia, four weeks ago, I was running 3 miles 3 times per week.  That’s pretty dang good for me.

Post-pneumonia, I’m not running at all.  I still get winded walking up my stairs.

Not running might be a complication in my half-marathon training.  I’m hoping to jump back off the running cliff next week, but in the meantime, I’m trying not to push it too hard and have a relapse.

One year ago, I ran in my first race.  A 5K in the big city about a half-hour from my house.

It was my first race out of two total, but who’s counting, right?

OK, fine.  I’m counting.

Counting to two isn’t hard.  In fact, it’s harder to not count to two.

Go ahead.  Try to not count to two.

See?

But considering the fact that there was a time not so long ago when I couldn’t run to my own mailbox (for real… I tried), I’m fine with two races.  Heck, I’m PROUD of two races.  Proud, that is, when I can forget about my cousins, who ran the races twice as fast as me and had to wait at the finish line, shivering, for me to drag my hiney across.

Speaking of rear ends, I had to buy Glide.

Glide comes in a stick like deodorant.  It’s goo you rub on yourself to keep from chafing.

Chafing happens when skin rubs on skin and makes a rash.

I started chafing when I increased my run to 3 miles at a time.

I get chafing just under my cheeks at the top of my legs.

I’m pretty sure this means that my seat has sagged far enough to rub on my legs.  But — I’ll be honest — I haven’t looked in a mirror to be sure that that’s what’s happening because I don’t want that information confirmed.  I’m currently avoiding clothes shopping lest I be confronted with angled dressing room mirrors that show me my back side.  Someone tell me who the jerkazoid is who invented those mirrors.  I’ll pop him in the teeth for the lot of us.

I went to the doctor on Tuesday for a follow-up chest x-ray.

Good news!  The pneumonia is almost all gone, so my running plans might become a reality.

Bad news:  when you have a chest x-ray, you have to line up your girls with two circles on a metal panel.  The technician had to lower the panel.  And then he had to lower it again.  And then he had to lower it again.  Yes.  That’s thrice.

First the Glide for the back.  Then the lowering of the metal panel for the front.

Sigh.

Things like this make me question whether I might be truly, certifiably crazy to attempt something like a half-marathon at my advanced age.

Unfortunately, I’m then reminded of three things:

  1. I’m a whiny baby who’s too focused on my sagging bits.
  2. The world does not revolve around me and it doesn’t care to make exceptions or allowances for me based on what I think I’m ready for.
  3. Really, really old people do half and full marathons all the time, and they don’t complain about their advanced age.

Besides, when I get done with this crazy ride we call Life, I suspect I’d rather look back on all the things I tried.  Even if I tried and failed.  Which is a real possibility here, folks.  I could try and fail.  I have a lot of kids who need and deserve my attention.  Running can’t always be at the top of my time-use list.  But this old lady is gonna get her sagging butt out there and try, I tell you.

……

When I started my first race, my goal was to finish.

I was focused.  I was driven.  I was putting one foot in front of the other and trying to ignore the 10,000-year-old, 4-foot-tall woman with a cane (really – a cane) who was out-pacing me on the city streets.

The moment when I started to feel discouraged and out of place was the same moment I noticed raucous cheering from the sidelines up ahead.

A woman wearing layers and layers of dirty clothes stood there with a pack on her back.  The teeth she still had were yellowed.  Her skin was lined from exposure to the elements.  She was obviously homeless, living on the streets.

She was also cheering and encouraging us runners with everything she had.  Literally.  With everything she had.

I think often about what I have, about what I’m responsible to give, and about how to teach my children to be generous, loving, and giving adults.  To those who have been given much, much is required; I really believe that.

And yet, there she was, this woman with so little, giving me a gift.

Me.  Suburban mom.  Woman who had slept in my warm bed the night before.  Woman who was wearing new running shoes.  Woman who thought about which of several things to eat for breakfast… not whether I’d have breakfast at all.

For a year, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her gift.  How little I deserved her compassion.  How grateful I was to receive it.  How she empowered me.

……

Most of the time, running makes me feel strong.

Every once in a while, though, I’m afraid I can’t do it.  Not just the half marathon.  I mean anything.  Be capable.  Be good.  Be honest.  Be compassionate.

That’s when I remember the 10,000-year-old woman and her cane.  I don’t know whether she ever had moments of doubt, but know by the cane that she had obstacles to success.  I also know that she didn’t give into them.  She was in the race.

How powerful.  How beautiful.

And when I’m at my worst, not just in running, but in life, I imagine the homeless woman cheering me on.

That’s the best way I can think to honor her gift.

That, and to stay in the race.

……

Speaking of peer pressure, I’m not as good as Kim, but I’m gonna give it a whirl.

As you may know from yesterday’s post, my 5-year-old niece was diagnosed with a recurrence of leukemia this week.  We’re helpless in the face of cancer, even though we ache to do something to help.  We have to leave Kay’s treatment in her doctors’ and God’s hands.  In the meantime, there are thousands of patients who are waiting and hoping for a bone marrow donor who can make a life-saving transplant possible.

You may have the power to save a life.  Join the bone marrow registry now.

Help people stay in the race.