The medal and post-race free pizza weren’t the real reward for finishing Sunday’s half-marathon. The best gift was what I learned about my son Marshall along the way.
This is not a post about endurance sports. I promise.
Remember, in my day, once we grew out of kickball and four-square, sports for girls weren’t all that common. Anyway, I did music. As an adult, thanks to the hours spent watching my kids’ swim team practice, I did learn to swim. So when I exercise, laps are what I do.
But Sunday I walked the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon . (The half, I hastily add.)
What on earth for? I wish I’d kept the answer in mind during the race, because when surrounded by thousands of serious and spandexed marathoners (Knoxville is a qualifying race for Boston), it was easy to feel like a lowly slug in comparison.
YES, those are fatal words, those last two, and it continues to be my goal to eliminate them from my mental vocabulary. But that’s another post for another day.
So, why the walk? My motivation was clear back in December when I decided to train for it. First, the osteopenia (pre-osteoporis) had gotten much worse since my last bone density scan. Swimming doesn’t help that; serious weight-bearing exercise does. Making myself walk before my pool laps seemed a safer idea than taking the meds my docs recommended.
Second, I dread winter. I have several chronic illnesses, and illness isolates. I needed something to look forward to, a forced focus on spring. My husband dreams of his garden; I needed something more tangible. Training for an April half-marathon wouldn’t cost anything except better shoes, and I could multi-task on the track by listening to podcasts to ramp up my French, another goal.
But the real clincher for mother-me: I wanted to challenge my very busy son Marshall to get more exercise. He shot a challenge right back: he’d sign up if my husband and I would go see a financial planner to discuss pre-retirement planning, something we were about as enthusiastic about doing as going to an endodontist. But we did, and he did (OK, not necessarily in that order), along with his wife Shannon and my husband, and the rest is history.
We trained, we stopped training due to various injuries, we trained some more. The weekly long walks (9 miles around the track? are you kidding me?) seemed interminable. But we made it through the Hal Higdon half marathon program I found online. More or less. I made it through winter.
And Sunday at 4:30 AM (my time) we got up to go race. And despite my joint issues (psoriatic arthritis) and the reactive hypoglycemia I also live with which can bottom out my blood sugar if I don’t eat frequent careful snacks (NOT the Powerade and energy GU the kindly volunteers gave out en route which in my case could be disastrous), we finished.
Well, I completely forgot that just-finishing was all I’d hoped to do. (Some days, more than I’d hoped to do.) When I saw all those runners sprint home, I felt like, ‘hey, all I did was walk.’ I forgot WHY I did it in the first place. So, this reminder to self. I walked for health. I walked to show myself that just because I have illnesses and am nearing 60 (both my parents died in their 60s), life isn’t over. I walked to fight back against the near-crippling anxiety (ok, and depression) that too often want to paralyze me.
And I did all that. Plus I got the t-shirt, the goody bag, the cheers in Neyland Stadium when we crossed the finish line. Oh, and that free pizza.
But I also received one unexpected and much more amazing gift.
During those 13.1 miles I discovered I have an eldest son who has a heart as tall as he is (six feet). Through the entire walk I witnessed him put aside every one of his own race ambitions and become our family team’s spirit and cheerleader. He and his wife Shannon could have finished long (long!!) before my husband and I. But, no, he stayed with us, encouraging me on, urging (ok, insisting) that I eat, even and especially when I hit that “leave me alone, I’m not hungry, I hate eating, go AWAY!” growling stage of the hypoglycemia that hit hard around mile six. He swallowed his impatience when we old people took stretch or port-a-potty breaks. He stayed level-headed and upbeat throughout, insisting when I suggested he and Shannon go on ahead, “no, we trained as a team. We finish as a team!”
So we did. Walking four-abreast into his beloved Vols’ Neyland Stadium to the cheers and applause of the kindly spectators who still remained.
That’s a lot to get out of one walk. That’s kind of euphoric enough, if I think about it. Here he is, my race hero, Marshall, with his wife:
Though now I am kind of wondering–how hard would it really be to run it next year?