In March 2004, I found a flier at my gym advertising marathon training. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had written "run a marathon" on my sub-conscious "before I die" list.
I think it was there because it seemed really, really hard; almost impossible. If I can do THAT, I reasoned, I could do just about anything. It wasn't that I had never run before; I had. When I was seventeen and going through my first, painful breakup, I ran as means to deal with my feelings. I ran a lot. I ran in the dark and came home so exhausted that my brain didn't have room for making me feel terrible. I slept, ran, went to school...repeat, for months. I lost about twenty pounds that I really didn't need to lose at the time. Lots of running and eating one meal a day will do that to you.
That spring, I came out of my funk, wiser, more driven and with a hard body to boot. How I envy that girl. 17 years later, plus three kids, running was not quite as easy as it had been in those days. My youngest was not quite four and my oldest was seven and a half. I was coming out of the constantly-sleep-deprived phase of parenting and smack in the middle of school-homework-IEP hell. I was starting to feel like maybe I needed to get a job; but really, I wanted to get a life beyond being "Mommy".
My husband, who has always been my loudest cheerleader, read the flier I brought home and said "do it!". No whining about giving up the next six months of Saturday mornings to take care of the kids while I ran (like I would have done if the shoe was on the other foot), no complaining about not having any free time of his own, he gave the thumbs up with no hesitation.
He wins husband of the decade for that.
My training was taking place a thirty minute drive away from home. We would run at 7 am every Saturday until the weather got warmer, then we would run at 6. 6 am runs meant going to bed early on Friday and getting up at 4:30 on Saturday. It is a testament to how desperate I was, that I was willing to get out of bed in the middle of the night to do it.
As the runs got longer and longer on the weekend, I realized that marathon training was the perfect metaphor for being frustrated with parenting, with things that were out of my control, with life in general: I wanted to run far away. Since I couldn't run away from the crap in my life without losing the wonderful parts (my husband and kids), running for hours, thirty minutes from home became my salvation.
I did wind up completing the Chicago marathon (read about it here), along with a 28 mile warm up run a month before. I have honestly never felt prouder of an accomplishment than I do of that. Yeah, I traveled alone around Europe on very little money and I moved far away from my hometown at a young age; but those accomplishments were achieved before I had any real fear. The world of being a parent and the world of being a single, young adult looks very different and there is a good bit of fear involved. As much as I think that that teenager could learn from this 43 year old; I think this 43 year old could learn a lot from that fearless teen.
I don't want to be shaken out of stagnation by a health emergency or any more death. Too often it is a cataclysmic life event that makes us (me) think about what really matters. Why? Why can't I learn from my own glorious triumphs and bitter failures? Why do I not seek out my own greatness because of the fear of failure? Why am I so afraid of being poor that I can not figure out how to have money? Why is it easier to stay still, rather than move in a positive direction?
I think I have just answered my own question. It's not. It's not easier to stagnate. It's awful and soul crushing. It makes the fear bigger.
Who am I? Am I the middling house wife whose biggest accomplishment on any given day is doing all the laundry and dishes? Or, am I Adventurous Amy?