Life is a balance. A delicate one at that. After decades of aiming high, how does one gracefully readjust one’s sights?
Just last June I was flying high. I had qualified for the Boston Marathon, along with my son Erik, his wife Katie and her cousin Brendan. Conditions at Grandma’s Marathon were nearly perfect, propelling each of us down the shore of Lake Superior to cross the finish line with good margins to secure us a spot in that most prestigious of marathons. Swept away by the tide of our victory, our quartet vowed to run Boston.
Plans were made. We found housing and received our confirmation emails for the race. All looked good for a spring run. Until it didn’t. Pain, injury, arthritis and bad running habits all linked arms to throw a wrench into my training. Weeks of rest and cross-training turned into months with no improvement. Winter stepped in and obliterated the Lakewalk with snow while temperatures plummeted deep into the negative range. I knew from experience that training for Boston in the midst of winter was a challenge, but this was ridiculous.
The ambiguity hung over my head for months. One week I’d feel hopeful and set my sights on “just finishing” in Boston. The next I was pragmatic and knew that the time to adequately prepare was waning. On one hand I’d done it all before. Twice in fact. First on my own, to celebrate turning 50. The second time I crossed the finish line hand-in-hand with my daughter, Karen. On the other hand, this was a chance to run it with my son and his wife and share in their joy. To prove I could still do it.
In my journey, I sought plenty of advice. Confiding in my daughter, I poured out my dilemma, that I was considering dropping out of the race. “Oh Mom!” she sighed. “That means admitting you’re getting old!” It wasn’t what I expected at all. But her uncensored sentiment revealed something else. She perfectly mirrored my own mother’s unwavering belief in me. I smiled to realize that the generations had flipped, and the void left by my mother eight years ago had just been filled.
Oddly enough, just as I felt I was turning the corner through physical therapy I also knew the answer. This wasn’t about proving anything. It wasn’t about getting old. It was about the long run. Literally. It was about healing, gaining strength and building myself back up in order to continue to do the thing I love. Running. For years to come, not just one day.
It’s not easy conceding to reality. Come Boston Marathon day I know my heart will twist as I follow Erik and Katie out there on the race course from a distance through text alerts. I’ll wish I was there, doing it. But if it means running with my grandchildren and staying active into my real old age, then I made the right decision. It’s not giving up. It’s letting go. There’s a difference.