My sweet girl, Emma…
It’s interesting, maybe opportune even, that this big race, this half marathon(!) you are running tomorrow, happens to fall at the end of the school year.
It may not be the end of your final year of high school, yet the completion of your sophomore year is bittersweet and momentous all the same. To me, these high school years are accelerating at a rate to which I’m attempting to adjust. All these moments, the getting picked up by friends in their own cars and going to your first prom and taking on your first job — they’re all coming at me so quickly, like a fast baseball pitch thrown before I’ve settled myself at the plate. Swoosh. Wait. Where did that come from? I mean, I knew it was coming. But I wasn’t quite ready for that. Each simple, routine thing in your day is a step closer to the end of your childhood — and yes, I’m going to come across a bit dramatic here, I realize. But you know me, I’m sentimental like that.
So as I see you look ahead to your junior year — “It’s the most important year, Mom. It’s going to be the hardest,” you remind me — it seems fitting that you’ve challenged yourself so much these last few months in preparation of finishing 13.1 miles this Memorial Day weekend. You’ve run on the snowiest of days, on ice-encrusted roads. On winter’s grayest and gloomiest days. During early spring rain showers and on muddy trails. Before school, when it was still dark, and after school, when the sun’s welcome rays also meant, at times, seriously steamy runs. You’ve run alone much of the time, propelled forward by your own determination, but also with me on a few occasions, which as you know made me one happy mom. Most impressively, you’ve tackled hills — you embrace hills, even the infamous McKinley Road hills (yes, plural) — and I’ve watched in awe and with so much pride as your strength and endurance has grown…and grown some more.
I hope you know how excited I am for you. You probably do: “Mom, everyone knows I am running the half marathon!” you’ve teased me, a nod to having a mom who writes and blogs about, well, running. Yes, I have shared this fact of you running tomorrow’s Bayshore Half Marathon with those who read these posts and listen to my podcast. I’m a proud mom, you know. But I also have tried to respect that this is your journey, not mine. It’s not always so easy to do this, I’ll admit, and I know I haven’t always gotten it right. It’s a fine line balancing the urge to show your kids the good stuff in life without forcing it on them. And yes, running is definitely among my “good stuff” that I want to share with you and your brothers.
I’ll always remember when you told me, “I hate running, Mom! You can’t make me do it.”
That stung. But you were right (about that part of me making you do anything…and maybe the running part, too, I’m not sure). You had done Girls on the Run and run cross country in grade school, completed numerous family 5Ks, then tried cross country and track as an eighth-grader … and then that was that. You were done. “I don’t want to run cross country in high school.” (I guess I didn’t hide my disappointment so well, eh?)
So I tried my best to step back. I didn’t want to be that mom. But I remember a few words were exchanged, as we moms and daughters are good at doing, and I know I pushed a little too hard. It wasn’t just running; it was that I wanted so much for you to feel strong and empowered. If it wouldn’t be running, I wanted something else that made your heart feel full and happy. Something you did for yourself. I didn’t want you to feel you had to find validation from anywhere other than from within.
I had to let it go. You’d figure out what that something was, the thing that allowed you to feel you.
When you texted me about joining the cross country team, out of the blue near the end of the summer before your freshman year, I was entirely surprised. Of course happy, too. But also cautiously so. I wanted this for you only if you wanted it. It had to be your decision, your desire.
“I really want to do this, Mom.”
Watching you run at cross country meets throughout the state has been beyond special. But not just because I happen to have a passion for this sport. It’s seeing your love of running and of yourself expand, in ways I couldn’t have predicted. It’s witnessing your perseverance and watching your confidence grow, on the race courses and in everyday life, that’s made me happiest. This is all that a parent ever wants for their child, to see an inner strength no matter what life throws at them. It’s a lifelong journey, for sure, but I’m thrilled to see you’ve already discovered a way to experience the rewards that come with hard work and dedication.
Tomorrow when you line up at the start line with all the other runners, I hope you take some deep breaths and remind yourself of all that you’ve done to get there, at that very spot and at that very moment. You’ve done so much. You’ve worked so hard. Look around, soak up the nervous excitement of the runners there with you, and smile at this amazing opportunity before you — to move your strong muscles, to reach toward a goal you’ve set for yourself and will no doubt achieve.
We’ve talked about all the practical parts of running a half marathon — the fueling throughout, the hydration you’ll need, the strategy of running your own race — and I know you’ve got this down. You do.
What I hope you’ll also come to realize, whether at mile 2 or 7 or 10, is that no matter what your pace ends up being, no matter what the weather and whatever else throws at you, and no matter what age group place you achieve, you are nothing short of amazing. You’re doing something you’ve never done before, and how cool is that? Imagine all that’s to come. And there’s so, so much.
You are one special girl. I’m one lucky mom.
Can’t wait to see you out there and see you cross that finish line. Love you, Emma.
Go get it!