I seem to be incapable of heeding conventional wisdom. Instead, for some reason, I must figure every single thing out for myself and experience my very own Oprah-riffic aha moment for the most common of common sense things. Having three children in four years (almost to the day) is really hard. Maybe other people know what they’re in for, but I did not. I wanted a family and in theory having them close together seemed perfect! And they are perfect and it is all perfect, but in perfect, I mean the important things are perfect, but in the wake of our family making is one huge mess.
Now don’t for a second think I’m whining. I’m just coming to terms with my situation in hopes of accepting the imperfection of it all, that imperfection being the mess I spoke of in the last sentence. What I did not know and what conventional wisdom seems to say is that everything other than child-rearing will be half-assed when raising many small children at once. And by many, I might mean any, but I’m not sure because I only know what it’s like to raise three. I couldn’t tell you much about what life was like with just one or two because it’s all a blur at this point. With my youngest approaching three, I can now stop, catch a breath and admire the big heaping mess of imperfection I’m standing on.
But I wouldn’t be able to see any of it if I was running well right now.
With small children, it’s about survival: keep them safe, healthy and feeling loved and then just keep everything else one notch above disaster. Reading this post in which I declare my desire to qualify for the olympic trails makes me chuckle. How cute was I?! Just trying to train at a high level, spending any time caring about running performance seems so ridiculous to me and it now seems so clear that it was a way to pretend everything else (other than the kids) was a big fat mess. If I’m running well then surely I’m fine! I can run towards perfection, achieve some arbitrary running greatness and then I’ll be excused for my messy house, neglected career and everything else.
It got really ugly when I began running from my running imperfections. When I physically struggled with running after having my third child, I dug in harder, my resolution stronger to get faster. Surely if I just try harder, I will get back in shape and then even faster! I told this to myself over and over and over. I told this to myself even when faced with obvious symptoms of overtraining. Just dig deeper!
In a way, I am grateful that my body rebelled and refused to allow me to hide behind running anymore. If I was able to train at my previous level, I’d be faster, skinnier and could pretend I was a better person because of it. But of course that would be a sad and ridiculous lie. I’d also feel enormous pressure to keep it all up for fear of facing all the underlying mess in my life and I’d have to direct some of my energy, time, and money that is allocated to my children and husband to my quest. That hardly seems healthy or fair.
YES! Moms should allocate energy, time, and money to self care and pursuit of their dreams! YES! And here’s the point of my story: because of my struggles with running, because my body refused to cooperate with my brain’s plan to hide behind impressive race times, I thought more deeply about my dreams. Are my dreams in life really to run fast times? Could I die happy knowing I sacrificed much of my life and a portion of my family’s for that? Even an OTQ?
No. My answer is no. That alone will not fulfill me. What I am actually chasing is to matter, to belong, and to leave my mark on this world.
If running success came easy to me these past three years (and by easy, I mean followed the standard formula of hard work + consistency over time), where would I be? After years of directing time, energy and money at running I might have finally logged some really impressive times. And maybe to a hand full of people I’d matter a little more and they’d adopt me into their elite circles and my Athlinks profile would forever demonstrate my awesomeness. But where would I really be? Would I be satisfied? And wouldn’t that be kinda sad?
For so long I feared failing at this running thing. I ran out of fear, to escape the pain of life’s messiness: to fail at running then would be to completely fail. Nice set up I had there! No wonder it didn’t work out so well. But in this running fast thing not working out, in having to slowly come to grips with “failing” at running, I am finding my self. I can matter, belong, and leave my mark in this world through running or in other ways even if I never run any kind of fast again. I can stand from where I am right now, look back and see a little legacy forming: all the friendships I’ve made through running; the team of competitive running women I helped found; and of course Salty Running. And that’s just in running.
I’m sure this was obvious to some people who know me and I’m also sure there are many people out their genuinely pursuing running dreams. I’m certainly not saying there is anything inherently wrong with that! What I am saying is that, for me, right now, the fulfillment of my dreams requires a different course.
What’s drives you to pursue big running goals? Do you think you hide behind running?