Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ready to Run

Well, I did it.

I officially registered for the 2011 Utah Valley Marathon. June 11th. 6:00 am. 26.2 miles. Ouch.

To be truthful, the excitement of committing to my first (and quite possibly only) marathon has sort of been squelched by feelings of guilt for scheduling over an extended family reunion. While family reunions weren't really feasible when we lived in Illinois, we'd really like to be there now that we live out West. I feel like if we're absent, we'll be letting people down. Obviously I can't be in two places at one time, so ultimately I had to make a choice. It just feels hard to justify this one since it outwardly seems quite selfish.

This dilemma has inspired some deep reflection as to why. Why run? Why a marathon, and above all, why this marathon? Why not run another one at another time in another place? Shouldn't family matter most?

The answers are complicated. I don't really expect anyone else to understand since I can hardly explain it myself. But deep inside, I feel like I really need this marathon.

Moving to St. George has been hard. Transitioning to full-time motherhood has been harder. Through it all, running has kept me in balance. While running is a nice perk for my physical well-being, it is essential for my emotional well-being. So, when I say that I need to run, I really, truly, need to run. Not because I want to fit my summer capris, not because I enjoy having a bit of time to myself (although I do love it), but because I want to keep a firm grip on my sanity. Running brings me focus and perspective. As I pound the pavement, I stamp out the stress. Exhausted as I may be at the end of a hard run, I no longer have energy to needlessly worry about trivialities. My remaining reserves are focused on what matters most--my family. So while dedicating so much time to training may seem rather individualistic, on a deeper level, I feel like I am simultaneously prioritizing those I love. I need to run, and they need a Mom who is physically and emotionally strong enough to mother.

So why a marathon? Let's face it. I always love a goal--the bigger the better. Goals motivate and inspire me. I've always been happiest when faced with a difficult challenge to conquer. Yet at this stage in my life, it's easy to feel like I'm drifting. While every day (every hour?) is individually challenging, as a whole they often blend together into a vague mass of am-I-really-accomplishing-anything?-ness. My calendar is certainly filled with plenty of places to be, yet the only substantial thing on my agenda for the next couple of decades is to help my children become compassionate, responsible, and contributing members of society. A worthy goal, yet difficult to measure.

A marathon may be stinkin' long and hard, but at least 26.2 miles is measurable and finite. The finish line represents a life milestone. As I cross that line, I will rewrite my personal history, wiping out I-can'ts, never-wills, and impossibles.

I want to set an example for my children. Motherhood is not and should not be martyrdom. As noble as it may sound to sacrifice everything for your children, what good is a parent who has dwindled into nothingness? No, I want my children to understand that mothers also have dreams. Mothers are strong. They set challenging goals. And they will work hard to achieve them. May the stay-at-home-Mom be elevated from a laundry-toting-dishwashing-toilet-scrubbing-lunch-fixing-chauffeur to a role model who inspires as she aspires ever upward.

Then why this marathon? Ironic as it sounds, because the timing feels right (although the date is all wrong.) A spring marathon allows me to train without the brutal heat of a St. George summer. With kindergarten and preschool in session, I should have some invaluable stretches of time, as long as I'm willing to push Eli in the jogger. Once school lets out, this window of opportunity will pass. And next year, well, who knows what will happen? Life is just uncertain.

The familiarity of Utah Valley is another strong draw. Mentally, I think running through Provo Canyon, past Bridal Veil Falls, and down University Avenue will be easier because I have been there before. Downtown Provo may still be miles away, but at least I know it exists.

Finally, I really want to run this marathon to support its cause. The Utah Valley Marathon allocates 100% of its proceeds to charity. That's amazing. It was easy to chalk up the money for registration today, knowing the great ways in which the money will be used. No race is perfect, and as a relatively new marathon, the Utah Valley Marathon will probably still be experiencing a few growing pains this year. Yet I'll take any minor inconveniences with a smile, knowing that my race fee is blessing children with cancer. I hope that thinking of their battles will help me push past my own at mile 23.

So there you have it. For better or worse, I'm committed. Utah Valley Marathon. June 11th. 6:00 am. I'll be there.

Now let the fun begin!


Becca said...

I am so proud of you and so excited for you. I am sure it was a hard decision. I agree, you need to do somethings for yourself. So your kids can see it and so you can feel better about youself. It is too easy to feel down and let yourself go if you only take care of your kids and not you! Keep it up.

Julie L said...

Kara, this is such a well written post. I love your thoughts about being a strong mother. I think you are very wise. I did the martyr thing too much, I think. All I have to show for it is me, overweight, struggling with health. The kids didn't learn anything good from it and I never even had a clean house from it (because kids, being kids, don't allow that). You are a wise person, wise beyond your years.

Congratulations on accepting this huge goal! I think everyone will certainly understand. Maybe they can even be there to cheer you on! We'll be rooting for you, too! (Just don't find a marathon to run that second week in August, okay?)

Jenika said...

I loved the ideas you've expressed about motherhood and personal goals/growth. I've always been afraid of becoming a stay at home mom for exactly the reasons you've described. I'm glad you've found ways to do something for yourself so that you can inspire your kids and feel replenished.

Crys said...

Awesome Kara! I'm excited for you. I know how much you wish you would have done the full last year. You are amazing!!!

Anonymous said...

Since I'm an "anonymous" family member, I'll risk offering the following quote to help you mollify your "feelings of guilt for scheduling [your marathon run] over an extended family reunion."

"Albert Einstein set forth the 'Theory of Relativity,' which states that time and space are relative, which explains why time goes slower, and space gets smaller, when you are with your relatives." -Dave Barry

So, if you think running a marathon seems long and tedious ... try preparing for, and enduring, a visit with relatives (anonymous included). No worries. I'll prepare to eat lots of ham, pie and potato salad and you prepare for a marathon--they are both deliciously difficult goals. You see, it is all relative. You train by running every day--I'll prepare by finding bigger pants with expandable waistbands. On a serious note: Congratulations! and Keep Smiling! Bye, Bye.

Susie said...

Don't feel guilty at all about running the marathon and the scheduling conflict. If it was immediate family it might be more of a decision struggle, but this one is not one to stew over. However, I'm wishing I could be there to cheer you on--so I'm the one with the conflicting desires! We wish you the best. What an admirable goal. And yes--exercise is addictive and helps me get through each day with a much better outlook on life. I highly endorse it!

Callie said...

You are my inspiration - so proud of you!

Brittney Richards said...

Awesome Kara!! I don't think I will be running this marathon with you - but a marathon is still on my bucket list.
Good luck training! That is the hardest part.

Chou said...

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

Kristin said...

I'm so excited for you!!!

And I completely identify with all you've said about running and motherhood. Amen Sistah!!

You'll do awesome.