By Sarah Foote
Last Saturday I set off for 25 miles, my final long run two weeks out from my first race of the season. The plan was to start easy and finish hard, putting the finishing touches on four months of well-rounded training for the Tillamook Burn 50k.
But, of course, nothing goes according to plan. I do not crush this last long run; rather, it crushes me. My feet weigh a ton and my quads scream. My heart aches and I want to be at home with my kids. Tears slide down my face and are lapped up by the mud. And then… I quit.
I have a son in kindergarten and a daughter in preschool. No matter where I am or what I am doing, I am a mom.
Parenting doesn’t come with a how-to guide. No one provides a semi-annual review and there’s no coaches telling you what to do. Kids are ever-changing, and so parenting has to evolve constantly in an effort to keep up. There’s no master checklist to work through and no task ever seems complete. Parenting is the hardest, yet most rewarding work I’ve ever done.
One of the things I like most about running is that it fulfills my need to accomplish something finite. I love ticking off my runs on the training plan: 25 mile adventure, check! 5 miles fast, check! 45 minutes of stairs, check! When life happens I adjust my plan accordingly; missing a run to take care of a sick kid or breaking up a workout in two segments to go on a field trip with my son.
Fifteen days before my race, I quit halfway through my run. What should have been 25 miles of glory ends as 14 miles of self-doubt and pity. I walk away from the trail defeated. I wonder if I am ready for the upcoming race: will the course get the best of me? Will I be able to go the distance? Can I handle the vertical gain? I question my perception of myself as a trail runner and judge my ability to balance my life’s priorities: “you’re a bad mom,” I think, “what are you doing out here running for hours, leaving your family behind? You can’t even finish your run.”
My head hangs. More tears.
I decide to drive home to be with my kids. I tell myself that I should be at home with them and that they need me. As I drive I imagine them running to greet me at the door, devastated that I was gone, desperate to melt into my arms.
I see them waiting on the porch as I arrive and I brace myself for an emotional explosion. As I approach though, reality sets in: my kids are just fine, happy and having fun. Everything is under control. They certainly are thrilled to have me home and missed me while I was gone, but not in the desperate way I imagined on the trail. Today is just another Saturday, it’s sunny, and life is good.
Now the failed run is especially real. No one needed rescuing back home. The simple story was I set out to run 25 miles and didn’t get it done. I decided to quit and have to own that decision. Luckily though, this is just one moment and the truth of the matter is, nothing is lost. Each failure I experience presents a lesson and an opportunity for growth. Failing teaches me how to stay humble and adjust and align myself for future success. Without failure, I wouldn’t recognize or appreciate the victories along the way.
After time to reflect, I know three things for sure:
First, I am capable runner and I AM ready for my upcoming 50k. I have worked hard these past four months and one terrible run can’t undo all of the great ones.
Second, I love my kids more than anything and want to be the best, most loving and supportive mom I can be. Trail running and training makes me happy and allows me to rise to the challenges of motherhood.
Third, I am a work in progress. As I strive for success I also acknowledge the possibility of failure along the way. I expect myself to be strong, smart, and reasonable but when the wheels fall off, I will use the opportunity to grow.