T minus six days for Bethany Meyer and the Boston Marathon. Bethany is running as part of the team sponsored by Stonyfield Organic Yogurt: Click here to check out the other badass runners on the Stonyfield team and see if their feeling as ready as Ms. Bethany.
A pair of capris that I hoped would be race day worthy because--for an instant in the dressing room--I glimpsed the athlete staring back at me in the mirror and not the Mom, lumpy where I once was toned.
An orange Stonyfield singlet that inspired the mantra, “please let it fit, please let it fit,” from the second I saw a teammate’s on Instagram until the moment I slipped it over my head.
A new sports bra in a different style from the comfy, ratty sports bras that inhabit my closet. Because that orange singlet is the racing equivalent of a string bikini. And this body hasn’t seen a string bikini in four kids.
Half a stick of Glide and some SkinFare for good measure because a new bra sometimes announces itself with a scream in the shower from the unwelcome sting of a post-run underboob chafe.
My favorite lightweight Tifosi shades. Cushiony Balega socks. Asics GT-2000 3 that are my new go-to style. Pro Impact inserts that I swear have held my plantar fasciitis at bay.
Gatorade they’ll serve on the course in the water bottle that reminds me of a relay I entered on a whim with a group of women I’ve grown to know and love.
A set of Yurbuds given to me as a random act of kindness by the kindest woman I know.
Four GU’s--jet blackberry, strawberry banana, salted caramel, and peanut butter--three of which I shoved into my handheld carrier and the last I slipped into my Spybelt alongside my iPhone.
One ibuprofen to stay ahead of the hurt. One Imodium because this gut needs it for any run upwards of eight miles. A compression sleeve on my right calf to keep its nagging to a whisper.
A ponytail holder for the first time in three years. Two headbands because the ponytail is a stretch. A barrette and a bobby pin because even two headbands don’t quite do the job.
Sun Bum sunscreen because it smells like the beach and it never burns my eyes. Asics arm warmers that I suspected I wouldn’t need.
Sunshine. 60 degrees. Breeze that became wind at times. A podcast and an upbeat playlist at the ready. My favorite Easter side dish on time bake so it would be waiting for me upon my return.
And a whole lot of hope.
Those were the ingredients for my longest training run. The one I ran all by myself.
“How do you feel?” my friends, my family, my colleagues ask.
Excited. Scared. Nervous. Lucky. Humbled. Ready. Not ready. Confident. Insecure. Relieved it’s finally here. Sad it’s nearly over.
Those are my answers. I choose whichever one fits me--perfectly, like my orange singlet--at any given moment. But I feel them all. Sometimes simultaneously.
I felt every one of them at different points during my solo run.
The uninvited ones began their shouting as my watch logged its tenth mile.
I don’t feel like doing this.
I’m only ten miles in; I don’t want to do this.
Why am I even doing this?!
This race is everywhere for me.
I see it in my home. The foam roller always within arm’s reach. The closet full of shoes that remain unworn because they may aggravate my PF or inflame my right shin which is increasingly, mysteriously, maddeningly wonky. Certain foods (potato chips, oh how I love and miss you) that I pass over because they won’t fuel me well.
I see it in my marriage; in the way that my husband registers how many hours he’ll be solo with the kids on the weekend mornings because of my long runs. Not in the sense that he’s keeping score, more that he’s steeling himself for the hours ahead.
I see it in my relationship with my kids. When Trevor, 13, queues up an episode of Alias--which has become our show, mine and his--and I decline because I cannot keep my eyes open for another 45 minutes. And it’s only 8:00. When, two weeks from his 12th birthday, Sammy says, “It’s OK if we keep my birthday low-key, Mom. I know you’ll be tired from running such a long race.” When I heave myself up to the top bunk to say goodnight to 9-year-old Alex but am distracted because I really felt my IT band when I swung my tired leg over his bed rail. Grrrrr. When 6 year old Chase stands at the top of the steps saying, “Mooooommm, I want you to tuck me in, not Dad,” but it’s the first time I’ve iced my shin all day, so I offer him a hug and a whispered “Goodnight, angel boy,” from my seat on the sofa, regretful that I’m missing my favorite part of the day with him. Those quiet moments before he falls asleep when he grabs his blanket, sucks his thumb, and molds his wiry body into mine. When soaking him in makes all of it--the goldfish crumbs under the table, his screaming and door slamming, his desperate attempts to keep up with his older brothers--worth it. When he is utterly delicious.
I’ve invited this race into my home. It’s taken up residence like a fifth child. One who needs just as much attention as the four I have.
I didn’t even qualify.
And so it went for the 11th mile of my longest run.
Ah, I shook my head in an attempt to usher out the negative talk, but it’s brought so much good.
Tish Hamilton, Executive Editor of Runner’s World Magazine, wrote an essay called Untying the Knot that more than speaks to me. It sings to me. I was lucky enough to tell her that in person during the Tales From Another Mother Runner book tour. In the essay, Tish describes how she began the painful process of divorce on what happened to be the eve of the start of her training plan for the Big Sur Marathon. While my family of six remains intact, my STUFF is pervasive, and I wear it like an albatross. Tish points out more eloquently than I that the simple ritual of lacing up my sneakers and logging the miles when life has been turned on its end is the one thing that’s given me balance. Chunks of my life don’t make sense, but that goes away when I run.
I reminded myself of the friends who’ve supported and encouraged this journey. My long runs would have chewed me up and spit me out were it not for the company of one friend who joined me for nearly every mile. I am of the mindset that the long run is meant to be shared. When she trained over the summer for the Vancouver Lululemon Half Marathon, I offered to join her for long runs. When the Boston opportunity found its way to my doorstep, she promised to return the favor. She was up for every mile.
Every frigid mile.
Nope, we didn’t run one of them in shorts. But the warmth of a cemented friendship sustained us. Her closest friend, the one whose kids she knows and loves like her own, the one she confides in, the one she starts her mornings with on the phone, will move to California in two short months. Nothing will change, and everything will change. I know how that feels. My sister has lived in Arizona for almost 13 years, but I’ve never felt the distance as much as I have this winter. I need her here now. There’s no substitute for a best friend. No substitute for a sister.
But maybe, just maybe, we saved each other a little bit on Sunday mornings. With the acknowledgment, often unspoken, that we are having a hard go of it. Being the Mom, the wife, the sister, the daughter, the friend, the employee, the volunteer--it feels like playing a game of Twister. But we’re short four feet and six hands. We set the expectations unrealistically high, and when we shift our balance to reach for a green circle and crumble into a heap on the board, we beat ourselves up for having fallen. Finding a true friend as an adult is hard. Wishing her well and watching her leave knocks the wind out of you. If there is an ounce of comfort to be found, it’s in the knowledge that we have this safe place, this friendship, this Sunday morning ritual that’s meant enough to both of us that we finished our final run with an enormous embrace and quiet, thankful tears.
I thought about how I’ve had to write. That I am my best self--my bravest, most vulnerable--on the page. It is a labor of love. It’s a long process for me. It is the first thing I give up when I take mental inventory of all that needs doing. I have to feel the breath of a deadline on the back of my neck to keep writing on my to-do list. Dimity, SBS, and the team at Stonyfield gave me deadline after deadline, which allowed me to do what I love, what makes me feel whole. It’s been good for my soul.
I thought about how I’ve put myself on the list and managed to stay there. Believing I belong there alongside everybody else in my family. Some days I have even put myself close to the top of the list. That’s a big deal for me.
Also--forgive me for sounding shallow--I thought about jeans. I’m digging the way they fit for the first time in a long time.
And so it went for the remaining miles of my run.
I’ve read that orange is a happy color.
It’s fitting that I wore the orange singlet for my longest training run.
I ran happy.
When I hit my biggest obstacles--my mental roadblocks--I worked through them to get past them. I sensed, if I kept digging, eventually I would uncover more happy. I was right. It’s always there if I choose to see it.
Back in November, when I started this adventure, I asked you to root for me.
I ask you again.
Please root for me.
Not for good weather.
Not for a pain-free race.
Not that I don’t hit the wall.
Not that in the sea of 30,000+ runners, flanked by cheering spectators from start to finish--from the screaming students at Wellesley to the crowd at Kenmore Square--I’m able to pick out the voices and faces of my dear friends who will travel all the way to Boston because they are the type of friends who wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Root for me.
That the loudest voice I hear on Monday is mine. The one in my head.
The voice reaching for happy.
The voice chanting, “Let’s do this, Bethany. You can do it.”
And believing it.
Every step of the way.
I will meet you, Badass Mother Runners, on the other side...