The morning of the marathon my running partner dropped her husband (running dude) and me off near the starting line. She was not running this year because of an injury and we found ourselves alone without our caretaker and guide.
“Time to get our watches on I suppose” said running dude.
With a panicked look in my eye I turned to him and said, “I forgot mine.”
“YOU FORGOT IT?!?!” says running dude in a squeak, his eyes flashing a feeling of panic that he trying to hide.
This was bad. I had trained all summer to run a certain speed. I’m a slightly erratic runner and pace is a little bit of a problem. Also, running like I was shot out of a cannon or like a racehorse is sometimes my style, and this is not the way to start a marathon. I knew exactly what pace I was supposed to run to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but now I would have no idea if I was going to fast (and running the risk of crashing around mile 22) or going too slow for the cutoff.
After awhile of rising blood pressure, and a moment of “what would my running partner do?” I said, “You know, I think it will be fine. I no longer will have something on my wrist pressuring me to go faster or slower. I won’t be looking at it every minute and feeling bad that I’m not going the right speed. I won’t get into my head with negative thoughts and panic. I can just go out there, listen to the music, listen to my body and run.”
Before we had to line up we said our good-byes, wished each other luck and took a deep breath together….hoping the next time we saw each other we’d both be happy at the finish line and not in a first aid station along the way.
As I stood in my coral waiting to start people started turning on their pace watches and waiting for the satellite signals to kick in. Panic started rising in me again as I wondered how I was going to have any idea if I was going the correct speed. Right before my coral started, and I started at the open streets of Minneapolis, I silently meditated:
Run to the beat.
Your running partner will guide you with the music.
Your body will carry you.
And with that, I was off to run the marathon. The first song on my playlist started and it was “Easy on Sunday Morning” by Lionel Richie. Hilarious. I started at a nice easy pace, looked down at the pavement, and eased into the run while people were flying by me at a sprint. Instead of joining in, I listened…..
And so it goes with raising children. Throughout my parenting journey I have discovered that listening to my children is many times the most important thing I can do. I had to listen to #1 and #2 struggle to know it was time to figure out what was going on with their learning. I had to listen to #2’s signals which told me his elementary school was failing him. While I was homeschooling him I had to listen very closely to his signals. I didn’t have any test scores telling me if he was progressing, I had to listen to his progress. Sometimes I think test scores are like a pace watch. We don’t listen to students, we simply wait for the score and adjust. This feedback is helpful and necessary at times, but harmful when its the only thing you rely on. I had also listened to his signals and decided he was ready to try going to a more traditional school again.
When #1 was having a very difficult time at his elementary school I had a series of meetings with teachers and administrators. Every time I met with them they would have a stack of papers containing various test scores. They would throw out numbers and tell me everything was fine. Because I am his mother, and I was listening to his signals I knew things weren’t fine. Finally I said, “Has anyone in this room ever listened to him read? Just sat down and listened?” I received blank stares. I was furious. In the room was his classroom teacher of almost 2 years and his reading specialist of almost 2 years. I had been raising concerns for 5 years about his reading progress and NO ONE had ever simply listened to him read a paragraph. Everything they were telling me was based on a number that was spit out of a computer. They had never listened to what I was telling them or what #1 was telling them.
I replied, “I think if you listened to him read this would be a different conversation. There are 6 adults here, perhaps someone could find 5 minutes to listen to him and then we can meet again in a week.”
Later that week the classroom teacher did listen to him, and she was shocked…..he couldn’t read anywhere near grade level. She said she had no idea. However, it was nearing the end of 5th grade and the said there wasn’t much they could do that year. They suggested lots of tutoring and summer school so he could improve over the summer and hopefully 6th grade would be better, but offered no help from the school. I listened for solutions and signals that things would change, and there were none. I took this as my exit sign. Through listening, I heard it was time to get out.
I told them I was officially done with the school and they had failed two of my children. Because they had refused to listen, they had failed.
Sometimes steps can be hard and painful, such as leaving your community and friends, but sometimes the best thing you can do is listen to what your environment is telling you.
And so it went with the marathon.
There I was, going around the lakes in Minneapolis. I had no idea what my pace was and I was caught in the middle of the pack. I definitely knew I wasn’t going too fast, that was for sure. But, I was enjoying the run and not worried about my time because I had no clue what it was! After some slow songs the tempo started to pick up. When “Girl on Fire” came on, I knew this was the signal from my running partner that it was OK for me to go for it. A couple miles later along the Mississippi River I heard “Have You Got It In You?” My answer was yes, as I started passing more and more people. As I entered my home turf of St. Paul for the homestretch down Summit Ave. where I would see many friends and family the song “Don’t Stop Believin'” was playing. Suddenly a good friend from from my running group I call Team Varsity ran out and screamed “You’ve got this! Oh my god! Just go!” Around mile 24, during “The Rockafeller Skank” my beloved running partner was at the side of the road jumping up and down and screaming “You’ve got this baby!” I couldn’t believe my body was telling me to go faster. I still had no idea my time, and every step seemed to be taking increasing energy, but my body was telling me I had enough in me to get to the end, especially if I got there quickly.
A friend took of picture of me running up the last hill of the coarse at mile 25. I think the smile was gratefulness that I knew I wouldn’t have to climb another hill and I could sit down soon.
And then I was across the finish line. I still had no idea my time, or what pace I had run, but it was over. Soon I got a call from my running partner who said, “You did it! That was pretty amazing.” Hearing her excitement was music to my ears.
Later that day my official results were in. I had run an average pace of 8:30, the exact speed I planned to run, with negative splits through the marathon. My time was 3:42:40, Boston Qualifying by a hair.
I had listened to my body. Listened to the music. Listened to my friends. Proof that amazing things can happen when you listen to the signals around you.