This past year of running has been a unique journey for me of discovering my own strength and weakness. After taking 15 months off from regular running after Henry was born, I started running again regularly in January, during the depths of winter: the least attractive weather New York City has to offer. I struggled through those early miles and soon increased my runs from once or twice a week to two or three times, and by February the miles weren’t so much the challenge as the single-digit temps and frigid wind chills. I bundled Henry up in the jogging stroller, covering him with blankets and hats and the rain cover, and made it out despite the winter weather. Every run felt like a little victory: first run below 30 degrees! First run below 20! First run alongside the frozen Hudson River. First run so cold and windy that I had to stay on the track. First 3 miles! First 4! First 5! I felt stronger each day and was proud of my diligence. I had missed running during my time off — I always knew I would get back to it during a different season of life — and it felt good and strong to be entering that season.
The previous fall I had entered the lottery for the NYC Marathon (as I had every year since 2015), and in March I found out I had a spot. Luckily, it still seemed far away. The winter eventually gave way to spring, and I trained for and ran in a half marathon in Queens, another milestone and moment of strength as it had been several years since my last half. The best part was having my family there cheering me on, and seeing them made each mile worth it. During the run, another runner caught up to me and said, “hearing your kids cheer for you has been the best part of the race for me!” What could I say except “me too!”?! I loved that even my running could be a family endeavor.
Marathon training started in earnest in the summer and I enjoyed the regularity along with the challenge. I appreciated never worrying about whether I felt like running; I just cobbled together a running plan that seemed vaguely doable and then followed it. But as the weeks wore on, I grew frustrated that my pace seemed to be slower than it had been in the spring, and also slower than what I had thought I could achieve based on my training four years ago (my first and only other marathon; training had gone well but I got the flu a few days before the race and was not able to run my best). Instead of feeling strong after my runs, I felt defeated. I was working hard — giving what I thought wise given family commitments and other work and everything else I was juggling — and runs felt good, but they were all slower than I wanted.
I no longer felt stronger, but instead had an acute sense of my own weakness.
Eventually, I realized my 2019 body is different from my 2015 body, and I needed to have grace for myself. This body has done a lot in those last four years: it has grown babies and worked hard and not slept and breastfed and played concerts and written articles and started new jobs and shuttled children and strollers into and out of more subways than I could possibly count and cleaned floors and cooked one thousand meals, and I should celebrate that instead of chastise myself. Every run since that little “breakthrough” has been some form of making peace with my own limitations, learning to be okay with where I am — accepting my body’s weakness.
The more I’m able to do that, the more I’m able to continue enjoying running for what it is and what it means to me — the time spent talking to God, time alone, time enjoying the wildest and most beautiful parts of Manhattan. This summer on my runs, I felt so deeply thankful for the beauty of our city and for my own health to enjoy it on my own two feet. I adore living by the river, I love the hills and the trees and the water, the quiet I get to experience in the midst of a busy life and busier city. Living in Manhattan with a family has been a struggle for me, but the miles during this season have made me so thankful for it: for the beauty of living on an Island (!) and by the water; for the amazing quality of free programs, concerts, education available; for our particular neighborhood with its nearly empty running path (during the week) and eclectic mix of families and artists and Dominican grocery stores and new wave coffee shops; for the precious community God has given us here.
And so here I am: just a few days away from the Marathon (which is Sunday, Nov 3rd!). My running has become a part of the family’s routine and not just mine, and the kids now ask how many miles I’m running (or ran) during breakfast, did I go by the lighthouse, how many skunks did I see (during my pre-dawn runs). Harrison and the kids have had some special times together during my Saturday morning runs, and he planned several fun excursions where we’d meet up at the end of a long run: in Battery Park for a playground picnic or the Bronx for an Arthur Ave outing. And then there were the runs that felt bad, the ones when I came home disappointed or when my doubts got the best of me — and these all became opportunities for us to talk with our kids about the importance of doing hard things, of not quitting. Nearly every day, at least one child complains about practicing the violin, or about homework, or about how hard or how unfair everything they have to do is. Talking about marathon training — getting up and running when I don’t want to, when it’s hard — is a great opportunity to show them that we are all doing hard things, and that sticking with hard things makes us stronger. I share with the kids when I feel weak, and they are first-hand witnesses to how I don’t quit when its hard — a helpful reminder when Hannah Grace wants to give up on bike riding or Jacob is having a frustrating practice.
This season of running has been unique in its mental challenges, but it has been sweet, too. Please pray for me as I approach race day: that I won’t let doubt enter my mind, but can enjoy the run and the crowds and stay focussed on prayer. You can also pray specifically that I don’t start too fast in the first 6 miles. 🙂 Here’s to 26.2!