Erin and her boys at a recent race.

I handed the pine cone to my youngest son. He turned and grinned at me, face flushed. Then, his older brother ran past us to take the pine cone, picking up the pace. We were running the first Pine Cone Relay, a game we made up on our first family run.

Every summer we spend time at my parents’ cabin on a lake in Northern Wisconsin — swimming, kayaking, and having campfires. This summer was a bit different as I unlocked the door, quickly lighting the fire to cut through the cold front that had hit in July. I was fresh off a divorce and this was the first family vacation I was embarking on with the boys alone. After a few wet days inside reading and playing with legos, we were literally full of cabin fever. I told the boys to lace up their shoes.

We ran along the familiar tree-lined road, gazing at Indian Lake on one side and Sugar Camp Lake on the other. When we reached the end of the peninsula, it had started to rain again and spirits were dipping. I grabbed a pine cone and announced we would run home as a relay team. In a single file line, the runner in the front held the pine cone like a baton, until the rear runner cut to the front and took the pine cone from the leader. After many hand-offs, we arrived at the cabin wet, sweaty, and smiling. Each summer the boys now request to run the Pine Cone Relay, and if the weather is nice, we end at the lake with a swim.

This run is the most important mile of what was otherwise a very difficult time. I keep a pine cone to remind me of the day we all ran in line in the rain, on an old path toward a new life.

What was (or will be) the most important mile of your life? We want to know.

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