About a month ago, I told you about how I had convinced my mom to sign up for her longest race yet (The Perfect 10 Miler), and how I would be helping her get to the finish line. Part pseudo-coach (I say pseudo because my only qualifying experience is my own years of racing halfs) giving her a training plan of miles, helping her learn when to fuel during running, and full-time encouragement patrol.
We are coming up on the highest mileage weeks for her, 9 and 10 miles these next two weekends. Normally, if this were my own race, I probably wouldn’t even train up to the full 10 miles. For half marathons, I go up to 10 only, so I’d probably stop about 8 for this training cycle. However, this is where the fear part of my post comes in. A large part of my logic in taking my mom’s training slow and long was the fear.
My mom does not believe that she can run distances or finish long races under the time required. She puts on her shoes, her socks, and her iPod shuffle the same way the rest of us do. She jogs along the roads, much to my horror doing dangerous things like running the wrong way or forgetting to bring water or her reflective vest (no matter how many times i reminder her how important these things are!!) – but none the less, she gets out there and runs. But yet, she does not believe in herself enough to say that she can do this. I chose a race with a 15 minute mile pace required, that is flat, and is all women. I checked the times from last year’s competitors (and have done the race myself before) to make sure that there are plenty of people finishing in her pace area (13s or so) to make sure that she’s not alone, or last. She will be none of these things. Her training is going beautifully, and I am absolutely certain that she can and will finish.
Getting her to believe this is my most important race duty.
Let me begin by telling you a little bit more about me: it is in my glitter-soaked veins to think on the bright side of things.
It pains me to hear people being debbie downers. I am an eternal, reckless optimist. I am smart enough to know the possible pitfalls of events or my choices – but I refuse to believe they will happen (until/unless they actually do). Interestingly, if you follow me on Instagram then you also probably know that I balance this with a heavy dose of sarcasm, a slightly off-center sense of humor, and laughter. I am that annoying person who, if you tell them something that is wrong, gives you a moment of sympathy but then also tries to make the best of the situation with something positive. I don’t like to dwell, or stay down too long. It simply doesn’t work for me. For example, if you’ve been reading then you know my dog is handicapable. She used to be able-bodied, went down with a back problem at 3, was fine on meds until about age 6, and since then has been downhill, slowly losing more and more function. In my house, we handle this with humor and making the best of what is actually pretty sad if you think too long about it.
I feel similarly about running. In my own life, I struggle with IBS-related issues. Some days I can’t run, even though I suited up in my running gear… only to find myself unable to leave the bathroom. I have Reynaud’s, and sometimes my fingers and toes turn white and go numb after or during runs. If its too cold, I’m stuck on the treadmill. All of these are my challenges – and while they get me down when they stop me from doing what I want to do that moment, I try not to let that feeling last. I keep doing life. I reschedule the run that I missed for the very next day or the day after. I don’t get down on myself when I have a bad run, I just make sure I get back out there a day or two later.
So now that I’ve gone completely off the rails of my main idea, how does this relate to helping my mom get over the fear?
Each week, we’ve been checking in with one another. I remind her to hydrate the day before her long run, she checks in to tell me how it all went, how she felt, etc. And I try to boost her up. To give her tips if she says something felt weird, new things to try, new ideas or methods that might work. To encourage her when she has a bad run, to congratulate her when she absolutely kills it (like she did last week! 13:13s on her 8 miler!).
And yet, she still fears.
I told her that I would be running with her for her 9 and 10 milers, both distances she had never run. She cautiously tried to turn me off of doing this. “Well, I walk in between sometimes and you won’t want to do that, and sometimes I stop, and…” the list of reasons why I shouldn’t go with her went on and on and on. Then she goes into how “maybe I should run my own pace at the race because her pace will be too slow for me.”
This is the fear rearing its head.
The fear that she won’t perform as I “expect” her to. What I keep trying to express is that this race is not about me, or my time. My only goal for this race is to get my mom to finish a double digit race happily, healthily, and get herself a beautiful shiny medal. My actual plan is to just run quietly beside her, not pacing her, just helping her out if need be. Need me to hold that water? Need a jelly bean? Look, there’s a port-o-potty ahead! You’re doing great, mom! Yet the fear makes her doubt me, that I’ll try to push her too hard, or that she’ll hold me back. My mom is the most selfless person I’ve ever met, but in that selflessness and giving away her life to others – she forgot to give herself just one thing: the confidence that she can do things for herself, too.
I truly hope that this race, and this experience helps to remind her that she is a strong, fearless, confident woman who can complete feats of endurance while 90% of the world is still asleep.
(removes self from soap box)