The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Gift of Friendship

Three years ago I joined a running group in hopes to improve my marathon running.  I stood in a group of 15 runners not knowing a single one.  It was scary and it was intimidating; yet I really wanted to improve.

Now, three years later I look back on that day and marvel at how a single thing - running - has brought me into a fold of incredible friendships.  One of those friends suffered a loss today.  It is through tear brimmed eyes that I type this; my heart breaks for my friend.

In the past three years, I have shared thousands of miles with this group of people.  While we are out there pushing ourselves in the miles we run, we share. 

We share in our struggles, we share in our celebrations. 
We share in our triumphs, we share in our heartbreaks.
We share our goals, we share our encouragement.
And sometimes we share in our tears.

Tomorrow is Saturday and like most Saturday mornings over the last three years we will meet to run together.  We will run and share in my friend's sadness.  Will it erase the pain?  No.  But as we run together and share the miles we will hopefully lighten her burden.

We will lace up our shoes and heal.  Together.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Building Up

He softly kicked at a rock that didn’t exist on the practice field at the school.   I noticed a fleeting glimpse of - shame?  Embarrassment?   I couldn’t tell for certain.

“She isn’t here, she’s visiting family.” He answered me and the question on the whereabouts of his mom.

“Well, that’s too bad.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her and I need to catch up with her.”

He looks up briefly and quietly asks my son, “Does she know?” nodding in my direction.

“Yes, I know”, I answer, “You did exactly the right thing Peter*.  Exactly.”

He looked at me with relief in his eyes; there was no mistaking that look.  It wasn’t that my opinion mattered; it was simply the encouragement he needed to hear.

The next 15 minutes I spent listening to a young man tell me of an encounter at school with a fellow classmate, who has a gang affiliation.  A bully.  A boy known for the trouble that follows him and the fighting he creates.  When provoked beyond what any normal teenage boy could handle, Peter backed down.  What was it that turned his red hot temper to a manageable anger?   His friend uttered the word “Football”. 

Peter knew an altercation of this sort would have a lasting and negative impact on the sport he was playing.   He determined in the split of a second a fight wasn’t worth the cost.  Although he may not have realized it at the time, that decision he made was based on great parental influence.  Both Peter and the bully were sent home for the remainder of the day.

What happened behind the closed door of Peter’s home that night?  I have no idea, nor do I need to know.  What I do know is at that moment Peter stood in front of me and I had a responsibility – not an opportunity – but a responsibility to him.  Giving Peter encouragement and praise for doing the right thing was my parental duty.  Parental?  Yes, parental.

My husband and I are the parents of two boys.  We are not perfect parents, but we are their parents.  We struggle like all parents, make mistakes, ask forgiveness and learn.  We laugh, we fight,  we grow.   As parents we spend a lot of time building up in our boys what life and responsibilities often wear down in them.   And we can’t do it all.

Read that again.

We can not do it all regardless how hard we try.  Neither can you.  I give you permission to own that statement.  You can not do it all.  You are a great parent who works diligently to give your child a life in which they succeed and are happy, but you can not do it all.  That is my responsibility.  Let me explain.

I have lost count how many times I have told my children something, or imparted a very important piece of wisdom during a conversation only to have them come home from (anywhere) after talking with (any adult) who just told them the “coolest thing ever”.  Imagine my surprise when I discover it was the exact same thing we talked about the day/night/week before.  No longer do I get upset over this.  Instead I pause and thank God He sent someone into my child’s life who told him what I wanted him to know.  That person guided my child and took on the responsibility to do so.

My responsibility is to tell your child the “coolest thing ever”.   My responsibility is to talk to your child, encourage your child as I would want my own to be.   In today’s world it is much easier to turn the other way, let them deal with ‘their’ problem, or worse – talk about them and never to them.  We have got to stop this.  For the sake of the children this must change.  We need to stand together and help each other, encourage each other, hold out our hand and pull each other up.

Standing on the practice field, it would have been easy for me to watch Peter from afar, to never approach him and to leave him to deal with “his” problem.   But I didn’t.  It was my parental responsibility to my sons to tell Peter he did the right thing by walking away; to encourage Peter his choice was the wisest choice.

What about the bully?  He needs encouragement too.  How do we reach a child with so much anger and hostility?  I don’t know and I struggle with this.  Yet it can’t be an excuse not to try.  Maybe the encouragement we can give the bully is in how he is addressed in our own homes.  My husband and I remind our boys there are reasons the bully is angry and that most bullies come from a difficult home life.  In showing our boys the other side of the bullying maybe, just maybe, a hint of compassion will emerge.  With compassion comes understanding and we all want to be understood; even if it is just a little.

After we got home, I stood at my kitchen sink, washing dishes while thinking of Peter and his mom.  I dried off my hands and reached for my phone.  Although it had been several months since I spoke to Peter's mom, I sent her a brief text message telling her she has done a wonderful job raising an incredible young man.  As difficult as life can be, we could all use some reassurance we are doing things right by our children.  Together we can build one another up and one day realize our children have been watching - and imitating - all along.


*For privacy, names have been changed.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bellingham Bay Marathon

Fall arrived most notably with the chill of early morning air. A full moon glows while fading into a newly dawned sky.  We give each other hugs, fist bumps and high fives with each "Have a great race!" spoken.  The marathon begins and the sea of people move toward the starting line. 

Leaving the school parking lot we turn onto a road running parallel to the ocean.  A whisper of a fog rises off the sea giving depth to the mountains and the city nestled into the hillside.  The city sleeping in the faraway hills is the city which holds our finish line.

Kathy, Kellan and I talk and chatter, easily passing the time.  The first seven miles are rolling hills bringing a challenge to finding and holding our pace. We power up the uphill, and enjoy the downhill.

Mile 5 I feel I am working too hard too early in the 26.2 mile race.  Knowing we are entering into a mile and a half climb, I tell myself it is the uphill I feel.  Mile 8 begins to flatten out and I look forward to several miles ahead of me with very little elevation change.  Here, in the flat miles, the pace was to drop by 10 to 15 seconds per mile.

The country road we follow weaves by expansive farm land.  Growing hay wafts easily in the gentle fall breeze.  The road is peaceful.  Mile 10 comes and I have yet to ease into my pace.  I look at my watch to discover my average pace has been 15 seconds per mile too fast for the training I have done.  I slow my pace and begin to reevaluate what I need to do.  Kathy and Kellan pull away.

A farmer's field surrounds me on both sides of the long straight road ahead of me.  My surroundings are peaceful, the chatter in my head is not.  Knowing the last 5 miles of the course contain a couple steep hills and several rolling hills I needed to account for slowing paces in those miles.  I was trying to do math which is never a good idea when I run higher mileage.  Grabbing water at an aide station I walk the distance of the tables trying to focus my thoughts.

Mile 14 takes us over a small bridge and I watch as a sea gull perches himself upon a pylon.  The river flows lazily; its muddy waters giving evidence to the lack of rainfall over the summer.  With the river behind us, the road begins to steadily rise.  I am uncertain I will be able to continue the pace and hang onto my goal of a sub-4 hour marathon.  My watch tells me a personal best is still attainable.

The hill climbs and I begin to feel twinges in both my quads.  This is completely foreign to me and I have no idea why this is happening.  With the climb they worsen.  I walk in hopes to alleviate the cramping.  It helps.  I am able to run the downhill. 

There is plenty of shade on the street we turn down.  This quiet rural road is canopied by tall leafy trees; fallen leaves crunch under foot.  I enjoy running in the perfect fall setting; yet I am anxious as to what just happened with my quads.  Riding his bicycle as support on the course, my friend Rick spots me.  He rides alongside me for a distance and offers encouragement.  It isn't long before his duties take precedence and he is off.

A hill approaches and my quads again aren't happy.  I walk, they feel better.  I run the downhill and the flat and suppress the anger at what is happening.  My head is swimming, my heart is breaking.  This was to be my redemption race, the one which erases the heartache of the Winthrop Marathon

Mile 17 is a long and gradual uphill.  I see a mass moving up the road and realize the half marathon runners are on the move and our routes are merging.  There are hundreds of people surrounding me and this takes my mind off the pain as I walk yet another uphill.  I hear my name, I recognize the voice, and I hug my early morning running partner Corrinna.  She is running the half marathon and pauses to check in on me.  She hears my frustration and runs with me for the next two miles.  I push her to run her race, she leaves me but not before turning around and running back to give me a big hug.  She gives no words, only a hug.  This simple act encourages me.

Paul is waiting for me at mile 20.  I am so far off my goal pace and I feel guilty he has been waiting this long.  He assures me it is fine.  As one to have been plagued by leg cramps in a 50k last year, he knows exactly the pain I feel.  He asks me several questions while we run in hopes to pinpoint the cause.  My potassium levels are fine, my nutrition has been spot on and we both wonder if my shoes have too many miles on them.

We follow the tree lined parkway to the water front.  Here I am surprised to hear my son's voice yell, "GO MOM!!".  He ran the 5k with his friend Andrew earlier that morning and both stood on the side of the road clapping for me.  I smile and wave, my heart lighter.

Paul joins me on walking the uphill and running the flat and downhill.  He is gracious.  Turning onto South Bay Trail, my husband is waiting for us sporting a neon yellow hat which looks like a squid.  He knows all to well how difficult it is to recognize anything after 22 miles thus the squid hat makes perfect sense.  At this spot on the trail is where I am to hand him my fuel belt and he is to hand me my handheld water bottle.  I see several belts laying on the ground as my friends have come by and given him their belts.  He can't find my bottle.  It doesn't matter, this race wasn't suppose to be like this anyway.

The gravel trail winds alongside the ocean; the grey-blue water glistens in the sun.  I know this trail well.  Each inlcine I must walk.  Paul coaxes me reminding me of the few miles we have left.  We walk Taylor Dock taking us away from the water at a steep incline.  I see runners walking it backwards; I wonder about their pain. 

Paul, Cari and I close to the finish line
 The final stretch of the race produces a few rolling hills.  At the top of each hill, Paul tells me it's flat which is code for, "It's time to run now".   My quads and calves feel as if caught in the grip of a vice.  I push forward.  My friend Cari is running toward us, ready to join in the last mile.  She tells me Kathy has set a new PR by 10 minutes and qualified for Boston.  The excitement at the news briefly erases my pain.

We are near rounding the final corner, Paul continues with the encouragement.  I tell him my quads are screaming.  He is quick to point out the downhill we are looking at.  The final section is uphill into the finisher's shoot.  I tell him I'm scared, I don't know if I can run the final ascent.  He continues to encourage me before ducking out into the crowd.

The finisher's shoot is surrounded by people.  Many emotions are entwined with my pain.  The vices grip my muscles unwilling to ease their hold.  I cross the finish line in 4:26:20, 26 minutes 21 seconds slower than I had hoped.  A volunteer drapes a medal around my neck. 

Melissa calls to me.  Turning toward her, I mumble something about my legs as she grabs me and holds me upright.  Kathy appears and holds my other side.  I remember only telling her how proud I was of her and her race.  The rest is lost in a hazy blur.  My friends surrounded me, bring me food and drink while my husband massages my legs.  The pain in my legs subsides; the heartache of disappointment stays untouched.

Miles lay ahead of me and I have many, many miles behind me.  I am blessed to share this journey with incredible people who hold me when needed, push me when warranted and who always encourage me.  I can't imagine my life before them.  

Tomorrow is a new day and holds more marathons.  How blessed am I to share this thing called life with such gifted and inspirational people friends.
Dane, Melissa and Kathy - incredible inspirations.