Earlier this year, I set a goal to take some risks with my running. I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and challenge myself in new ways. Running both Hyner and Worlds End definitely accomplished that goal, and I had a blast with both races. I then set my sights on a series of fall ultras, starting with Labor Pain, a race that I first ran last year. Last September, I completed 40 miles at Labor Pain. This year, I decided that 50 was the number I was shooting for. I didn’t share this goal with a lot of people, as it sounded too presumptuous, but it’s been on my mind for months. All of that changed a bit this past week, and for the first time that I can remember, I’m voluntarily stepping back from a goal that I set. Let me attempt to explain why.
I’m a stubborn person. I inherited it from both of my parents, and I like to think of my stubbornness as one of the driving forces behind my success in sports and in life. Perseverance can take you a long way, and I’ve used it to my advantage over the years. As a result, I hate to back down from a challenge. Once I’ve decided to take something on, I almost always see it through. To quit or give up would be a form of failure in my mind, and that’s not something I’m good at accepting.
I can’t recall ever choosing to lower my race expectations before. Sure, this past spring I transferred from the 50K to the 25K for Dirty German, but that was to give me the best chance of being rested going into Worlds End, which was my “A” race for the season. Even so, I agonized over that choice for days before making the wise decision to dial it back a bit. The thought of making a similar choice for Labor Pain was not an easy one. It was my trip to Rhode Island last week that decided it for me.
My mom grew up in Rhode Island, and we spent a week there every summer when I was growing up. After my children were born, I started taking them up for our own Rhode Island visit each summer. Part of the reason was to spend time with my aunt and cousin, but I also wanted to share some of my favorite childhood memories with my children. I grew up in Maryland, and now that my father has died and my mother has moved to Florida, I often feel like I don’t really have a home to return to. Returning to Rhode Island each summer gives me that cherished feeling of returning home.
One day during our visit last week, I woke up early to go for my morning run, only to discover that both of my children were already awake as well. At home, my husband is always willing to entertain them while I run, but with him home working and the rest of the household asleep, I didn’t have many options. I instructed the kids to read quietly in their room until I returned, then raced out the door and tried to squeeze in my mileage as quickly as possible. I was less than a mile in before I started to feel guilty. Here we were on vacation, and my children were sitting around waiting for me while I tried to fit in my run. I’m a firm believer that it’s important for parents to make time for their own activities, but I am also aware that vacations always feel too short. I didn’t want to waste precious time during our trip away from my kids when we could be spending that time making memories together.
I turned around after a mile, ran back to the house, and instructed both kids to grab their shoes and a sweatshirt. We then went back outside together, where we took a short half-mile run to one of the nearby bay beaches. We spent the next 45 minutes wandering the beach, looking for sea glass. It was barely 6 o’clock in the morning, and we had the entire beach to ourselves. It felt almost forbidden, to be out engaging in a cherished activity while most of the world slept. The next morning, the children were again awake before I could get out for my run, so we made another sea glassing trip.
When we returned home to Pennsylvania the next day, I realized that this is what I want to think of when I look back on this summer – I want to remember those stolen moments with my family. My children are 7-years-old, and I am all too aware that I don’t have a lot of summers left with them. Before I can blink, they are going to be entering their preteen years, where time spent with Mom will be considerably less appealing. I want to make sure that we build as many memories as we can right now, while we still have the chance.
I haven’t given up on any of my fall races, and I still hope to conquer 50 miles within the next year or two. I’m still going to train hard this summer. But if I’m short on time or opportunity, and I have to make the choice between a run and my children, my kids are going to win out this summer. They’ve taught me that sometimes it’s best to take a step back and reset your priorities to make sure you are focusing on that which matters the most.
Searching for sea glass at 6am. Just us, the waves, and the seagulls.