Technically it was a 6K. And while that doesn’t matter in the purpose of this post, it certainly matters if you’re running and not a “runner.” That extra half mile-ish feels like you’re wearing lead shoes and a 1900s-era corset around your lungs. “Where the $%^@ is the finish line?!”
I’ve done quite a few 5Ks in my life, and I’ve been running consistently for about the past six months, but I would not call myself a runner. In my mind, a runner is someone who’s totally up for running a 5K with you, no biggie! “Oh go run three miles for fun? Sure! Why not?!” Versus a non-runner like myself who needs to train for three months just so I can barely drag myself across the finish line in agony… you think I’m kidding, but I’m not.
At the beginning of July I started a running program that very, very gently eased me into running. In fact, the first run I did was a grand total of one minute long. And it was uphill. And it was surprisingly hard. But I’ve come a long way! My 6K was the third race I’ve done since July. In six months, I’ve gone from struggling to run for three minutes non-stop to running almost four miles at a decent-ish pace, not to mention dropping almost 40 pounds. It’s been hard, sweaty, stinky, and pretty great.
But this last race was different. It was the first race I’ve run alone. Both my sisters-in-law opted for the 10K. No way I’m running a 10K. The extra K in the 6K would be challenge enough. So Thanksgiving morning, I laced up my sneakers and got ready to run. I don’t aim for a certain speed when running, I just try my best not to walk.
This race started like every other race–me running at my normal pace and people passing me. If I go too fast, I burn out, but if I keep pace, I can usually run most of the race. As I was running, I noticed the same people passing me again and again. They would run ahead, get tired and walk, and I would pass them. Then they’d start running and pass me again. My first thought was if they run at a slower pace they might be able to run longer, but then I thought about how currently we’re both set to finish the race at about the same time. If we finish together at the same time, does our running method really matter? Is my way right and their way wrong? Obviously, running and walking is working for them, and running at a consistent pace is working for me. We’re both going to get the finisher’s medal. We’re both going to go to the post-race party. Does it really matter how we get across the finish line or just that we got there?
As I ran and thought about running methods and strategies, it made me think of motherhood, specifically these “Mommy Wars” the internet is going on about–working moms vs SAHMs, bottle vs breastfed, organic vs non-organic, etc. We are so hung up on watching the other runners around us and what they’re doing vs what we’re doing that we are failing to realize that we are ALL running the same race with the same goal in mind. Does it matter if you breastfed and I bottle fed if in the end both our babies are fed? Does it matter if you work and I stay home/work from home if in the end we both have happy kids? If we both have well-adjusted kids, was there really a “right” and “wrong” way of getting there?
A consistent pace is what works for me when running. Walking and running might work for someone else. But what matters is that we’re all finishing–we’re raising kids who become decent adults. Sure, they’ll each be different with varying values, beliefs, and skills, but that’s good! That’s diversity! A race needs people running differently, otherwise it’d be a three-mile log jam. Seeing all the different ways people run helps educate me on running, helps motivate me to keep going and helps comfort me when I need to walk. Thank goodness a race has a variety of runners or I might not make it! And thank goodness motherhood has diversity too because when what I’m doing as a mom isn’t working, I want to hear from a mom who’s doing something different. I want the wisdom from a mom who’s experiencing motherhood differently than me because maybe it’ll help me too. We’re running the same race, we’re running with different methods, but sometimes I need to walk, too.
I saw someone running with a shirt once that said, “If found on the ground, please drag across the finish line.” And apart from absolutely needing that shirt, I think it’s a beautiful analogy for motherhood! Instead of watching the other runners around us and nitpicking everything they’re doing, we should focus on the goal we’re all running towards and encourage each other to reach it. And if one of us does stumble and fall, we should help them back up. We aren’t each others’ enemies, we are each others’ allies! Who understands motherhood better than other moms? Who else truly gets it? We are united together because we are in this race called motherhood together. So let’s spur each on towards the finish line because we only win if we all cross the finish line.