Running tells me I’m not that old. It tells me I am still healthy and capable, even though these days I’m often completely spent. Running organizes my to-do lists, and tempers the “mental load” of being a work-outside-the-home mom. If I have a difficult conversation coming up, I know I can take it with me and Running will help me rehearse it. It knows I like to write, so it whispers story nuggets into my ear (it also makes me stop and dictate those nuggets into Siri, lest I forget the nugget by the end of the run). I bring my questions, doubts, and fears, and it listens.
Running can also be a big, fat liar. Within the first mile of a run, before my breaths even out, it tries to tell me it will be difficult. Then, around mile two, it tells me it was “just kidding” and to get on with it. It likes to convince me that my stride is as smooth as Shalane’s, when I know it’s not. I listen anyway. Running often tells me that I “earned” that double stack of post-run pancakes. Luckily, Running has also been brutally honest. At a recent marathon, I ran out of gas ¾ of the way through, and we had following conversation, on repeat, all the way to the finish line:
Me: Ugh, this stinks. I’m so done. It must be the heat.
Running: No, you are undertrained, you big dope. Do better next time.
Generally, I can count on Running to help me work through most of my “mom” stresses. Lately, though, as my two children start the can-I-sit-in-the-front-seat years, there are some new topics of conversation between myself and Running.
My son, closer to officially being a teen than I’d care to acknowledge, is changing before my eyes. Seemingly overnight, my “mini-me”, both in looks and temperament, has developed facial hair and more than a bit of surliness. We recently ran a 5k race together, and he beat me by a couple of minutes. I was a little bummed I couldn’t keep up with him, but then Running reminded me he’s 12 and on the cross country team, OF COURSE he’s going to beat you. Celebrate that you got to run together and he waited for you at the finish line with a hug. Thank you for the reality check, Running!
My daughter, in the beginnings of the tween years, is already experiencing Friend Drama. The kind of Friend Drama that has no easy answers. Thankfully, she still welcomes me into her world to snuggle and talk things through. I savor it, because I know that could change in the future. She enjoys running, too, and understands its power. She’ll often come home and declare “I have too much energy, I’m going to do 10 laps around the house!” (Really, she says that.) Perhaps we can run together and work out the Friend Drama that way.
Now that I’m in this unfamiliar mothering territory, I have new questions: Do they need me more now? More than when they were tiny? (I didn’t stay home when they were little; just standard maternity leave.) Am I present enough? Am I on my phone too much? Do I set a good example for them by running, or is that taking time away from them? Does she need me to be there when she gets home? Does he need me to push him out of his comfort zone? Do I say ‘no’ to him too much? Will either of them want to run with me? Will running speak to my kids the way it speaks to me?
And then Running says to me what a good, trusted friend would say: Don’t worry so much. It will all work itself out.