I spent Fathers Day in Mammoth Lakes, California. Alone. Not alone exactly. With my friend Peggy who planned this with me six months ago and another woman named Jennifer who I’d met once. There are race stats here, but the best things about the race were the things I learned and the way I felt inside.
Let’s rewind though. Friday night D and I drove to Sacramento to see his best friend play in a celebrity basketball game. Suffice it to say, life doesn’t unfold like planned and it took a lot to be able to go. It was the last game to ever be played at ARCO Arena (Sleep Train Arena) and the boys have a ton of memories there, so it was amazing to watch for lots of reasons. The next morning after breakfast the three of us headed out to play foot golf – LOVE IT!!! – and they both kicked my butt, but I don’t care because it’s a blast.
Due to golf and stuff at home, I left for Mammoth later than planned on Saturday. I was stressed and irritated and ready to go. D was supposed to go with me, but, again, with life and kids and plans changing, he told me to go alone and he stayed with the kids. Maybe not a huge deal, except that this was a weekend we’d been planning for six months. And race day was Father’s Day. And not going meant that D didn’t run a 5K he had already paid for. A large part of my irritation was my guilt at going to a race on Father’s Day and leaving D with the kids. I suck, but I went anyway.
The race started at 7:30 at Horseshoe Lake at 9000 feet in elevation. We got a shuttle to the start where it was a breezy 38*. The race put me in Chute 1 and the countdown began. Here was where my attitude began to change. The race was started with a prayer. A pastor prayed over all of us in the race from runners to volunteers to the director. Everyone. And it felt good to hear. Then the most amazing quartet sang the National Anthem. Bring tears to your eyes beautiful.
I realized that I could be stressed or irritated or worried, but I was there in spite of my guilt. I was there because I have a partner who is the most amazing person and he chose to love me and all our crazy kids. He wanted to support me and my crazy running desires and wanted me to be at my A race for the summer, even if that meant going without him and leaving him with the kids on Father’s Day. So I decided to be grateful. That pastor knew what to say in that opening prayer and I was thankful for a heart that was lighter.
The first two miles were hard. Entire body aching and wanting oxygen kind of hard. My pace was good but my body was probably wondering what I was doing. It was breathtaking. The entire race was exquisitely beautiful and I was glad my attitude had shifted. I knew D and some of the kids were using the live tracking and would get text updates throughout the race and that made me happy. After the second mile I fell into a good rhythm and was feeling better when I was passed by a guy pushing a stroller. I told him great job and I used to push a stroller and he fist bumped me. I yelled “HAPPY FATHERS DAY!!!!” and he gave me the smiling thumbs up. And my emotions hit me like a steamroller.
I pushed Brianna in a stroller while running and she’s 24 now. I pushed all of them and the youngest is (somewhat thankfully) too big now. I thought about how fast time goes by, how it flew past even though I was cherishing it. I thought about my friends talking the night before about dedicating their race to someone and that I remained quiet. It wasn’t just Father’s Day. The day before was the anniversary of D’s wife passing away. This race was for her. If he hadn’t lived through that tragedy, I wouldn’t be grateful for a man who loves me the way he does. Who lets me be a little selfish and run on Father’s Day. Who is one of the best people I have had the privilege to know. This race was also for his Father, because he misses him every day. We should all be blessed enough to have a father we miss painfully because they were so wonderful. I didn’t have that growing up. So this was for them. They were the ones I was running for today.
Stroller dude pulled over to check on things and caught up to me (again) at mile 3. His name is Ted and he’s actually Marlowe’s dads best friend, so Uncle Ted. Marlowe was the 4 1/2 year old little girl riding in the stroller. She was a tiny thing who I learned has Rett’s Syndrome. A rare disease that manifests itself in the form of cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and autism among other things. Ted was running with her to raise money so Marlowe could have the best shot at life and, if nothing else, run a half marathon in her lifetime. Family and friends were on the course cheering them on (and me) and as Ted and I got to know each other the way runners do – intensely and quickly – I felt like I knew them all. Marlowe has a Facebook page and a lot of amazing support, but her life will be difficult.
I looked up and saw the 6 mile marker and couldn’t believe how fast the race was going. We so often wish our time away. I wish it was Saturday. I wish I was already at mile 10 and not at mile 1. I wish this day would end. We rarely just enjoy the moment we are in. I was grateful for that. For enjoying the moments I was in – feeling the support from all of Marlowe’s family cheering every couple miles, including her dad who ran with us off and on. Knowing I had that same awesome support at home and family that was “watching” me race.
Because Ted stopped a lot for cheering fans, after mile 6 I still saw them (and they recognized me) and Ted caught up with me off and on. Mile 8-9, mile 10-10.5 where I asked if I could put my shirt in his stroller. “Sure,” he replied. “I could use a little more weight on here.”. Uh, yeah. Even the playing field, dude.
During our last runs together, Ted and I discussed our usual pace. His a 6:30, mine closer to an 8 minute mile. We talked about how sometimes things slow us down – elevation, heat, strollers. I looked at him and said, “It’s hard to let go of what we want. It’s hard to slow down and realize we should all be there for each other. That life is bigger than us”. He agreed, high fived me and went ahead, knowing we’d all see each other at the finish. I couldn’t wait to see Marlowe and her family and tell them thank you for reminding me how much bigger life is than me and what’s happening in my life.
The last couple miles were brutal and I slowed down to a walk on that last uphill mile. I finished in 2:03 with 9:26 average minute miles. my 5K was a 28:27, 10K was a 54:19, 10 mile was a 1:31. I was 256 out of 1023, 87th woman out of 591 and 11th of 72 in my age division. It was a tough race and my favorite ever. I met my goal of finishing and having fun, even if my time wasn’t all I hoped for. I finished to a crew of people I didn’t know before that day cheering me on. I met and chatted with Marlowe’s mom and dad, Teds girlfriend and various friends. I bought a tank top for Marlowe’s fundraiser and we all connected via texts and social media and I look forward to following Marlowe’s journey as well as that of her brand new baby sister. Then I waited and cheered Peggy past the finish line.
Things happen in life that are unexpected and often difficult. Staying grateful and positive isn’t always easy but it’s worth it. I’m grateful for Marlowe’s story, getting to race and dedicating the run, my friends and family and D texting me that I did a great job, since he was getting live tracking texts. The best was knowing he was waiting at home to hug me and tell me he’s glad I got to go.