Race day

11 miles done, 2 miles left... Somewhere between Piscataway and New Brunswick on Sunday
I like to run but I don't refer to myself as "a runner". Runners are thin, and committed. Runners watch what they eat. Real runners run no matter what the weather.  They worry about their times and distance. Those are the stereotypes, and I don't fit any of them. Except if you count me thinking "I shouldn't eat this" as I swallow, then I watch what I eat.

But now, despite not meeting these stereotypes, I call myself "a runner"!

(Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger")

But why did I attempt a half marathon at all, if I'm not "a runner"?

All along the path from Busch campus to Livingston, back to Bush and into the main campus past the Campus Center of the College Avenue Campus I worried that my husband and kids could not come to see me finish. Why would they bother to get up early on a Sunday morning, facing traffic, bad parking and rain for me? Should I slow down to give them more time, or should speed up (assuming they wouldn't come, and assuming I could have sped up) so that my friends (who were far ahead) didn't leave without me. If the tables were turned, of course I'd get up to see my husband and kids, but would they do the same for me?

With so much time on my hands to think, I wondered why it was important to me to have my family there at all? Who was I running this for? For them, or me? Who was I trying to impress? Was I vain enough to be thinking about friends on Facebook? Am I that much of a narcissist?

It's easy to say that I'm doing it for me, but the truth is always more complicated. Surely I like that I'm in shape and that now have "bragging rights" that I can run to Somerville and back.

Mile after mile, song after song, I thought about it off and on throughout the race. Then it hit me. With just a few miles left I started to cry with a change of music. Hero came on. It reminded me of those months just after 9/11 and my sense of loss.


I wondered if I'm still trying to get my Mom's attention. Of her four kids I see myself as the least impressive. The least good looking. The meanest. The messiest. Dino was the most popular. Ron was the most talented (arguably still is). Ingrid was the closest to her (she is also talented, just as smart and much prettier than I am). I was the reason Mom "had to marry". I am the most belligerent, the most expensive... and now I'm the least professionally successful, too. In my 40s, I still don't really know what I want to be when I grow up. My professional clock is ticking.

But she's been dead for more than 10 years. Realizing that I was only doing this for myself my emotions changed and I was crying good tears. Even though I wanted my family there at the finish line, I was doing this for me. Only for me. My whole life seems to be built around doing things for other people. As a child I wanted to impress my parents. Then to gain acceptance - from friends, and later, boyfriends. Like being an exchange student, I was only running for myself.

Just before the finish line, I realized that doing something for your own pride/enjoyment/goal is EXACTLY what any parent wants for their children. My mom would have wanted me to achieve goals I set for myself and attain happiness - in whatever form that comes - through my own hard work.

I did this because *I* wanted to be able to run far.  No one pushed me into it. No matter what you, dear reader, may call me. Now I can call myself a runner. My Mom wouldn't have been impressed by my running 2 miles or a hundred. But she would have been happy to know that I set a goal for myself, worked toward it. And gained confidence.

What about my family? Did they come and show their support?

Of course they did. They were cheering for me as I arrived at the finish line. I was so determined to cross it that I didn't see them and so my kids ran into race to hug me.

I'm a runner... because I like running.

(Pretenders, "Hand in Pocket")


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