Friday, May 10, 2013

May 10, 2013

Today is my mother's birthday. 

It's been nine years and four days since her passing, and I thought of her today as I walked from the Doylestown train station to my appointment with Dr. Johnny (knee pain). Doylestown has that traditional small town feel, beautiful old houses, gardens, flowers in bloom--birds singing. I saw a bluejay in a field as I drew near the office--what Mom would call a "soft day."

It seemed a good day to go and have some work done on my knee--but it seems too that these visits give me a mental lift--largely because of Johnny's positive energy and encouragement. You get massaged within an inch of your life--they're not the "lie back and listen to sweet music" gentle variety of massage. They're the "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" species--hence, effective for those sore spots that follow a ten mile race such as Broad Street.

Why not someone closer to home? I was looking for two things in choosing a chiropractor: someone who not only had experience working with athletes but someone who is an athlete and knows our needs--and someone who takes my insurance. So Advanced Sports Chiropractic scored on both counts... and now scores on many others: the staff is very professional and knowledgeable--but also warm and friendly, so it's a treat to walk through that door. 

Even better, yes, it's a long trip by train, but often I take my computer, so I can do some work--and take breaks from that by looking out the window at farmlands, woods, streams, geese leaving wakes as they take flight from those streams. Then there's the walk through the neighborhoods. (I've learned the scenic route).

So today, on this "soft" day that's my mom's birthday, it seemed a perfect trip to take--and although I didn't take my computer today, I browsed the old family pictures Liz posted on Facebook, some of Mom in younger years, including as a child, and the memories swirled around me as I rode the train, then (today) the shuttle bus from Colmer to Doylestown.

The knee? I hope the pain calms down--I want to continue running and am signed up for the half-marathon this fall. But I want to continue for a more personal reason that goes beyond racing.

Some might wonder if it is worth competing if your times get increasingly slow and you can't do what you did when younger. For those who had very fast races, who were overall winners, this might be more of an issue than for me. I was faster in my early forties--at my fastest at that time in fact. At age 44, I ran a 6:42 mile and a 22:44 5k. I qualified for Boston in the W45-49 age group. Then various injuries and illness intervened, slowing my down bit by bit. After Boston, I completed two marathons and attempted two others--still holding out the distant hope that Boston would be a realistic goal. But of late I've chosen other directions for my running.

This past April 15-when bombs ere set off near the Boston finish line, killing three people and injuring many more,  17 years to the day since I ran the race--make me wonder if I should perhaps give the marathon another try. Others are vowing to run it in defiance of fear. And I ask myself--should I aim for it? With recent injuries and workouts that don't promise a 4:25 marathon, I'm not so sure. 

But what Boston has re-ignited in me is the urgency of now. Whether it's a marathon or some other way to affirm life, move past fear, I need to claim my energy, not let labels hold me back from doing the things I value. I run because running is the blood in those sometimes aching muscles and joints. And it needs to flow, not sit stagnant!

If I get older and slower, so what! An 88-year-old runner from Delaware is setting world marks in his age group. But I have a feeling he's running not just to set records. He's running because running is his passion, a source of energy. He seems, when I've met him, like a happy sort of person, someone who takes pleasure in life, in running, in people. And should he worry that his times are slower than someone who's half his age or less? And should he stop trying to better his times? No reason why he should. Every reason why he should pursue this wonderful sport and enjoy all that it gives him.

And for me it's similar. I want to be the best runner I can possibly be, not comparing myself to a standard I set when I was younger or what others can do. I'm taking my own body for this ride, not someone else's. 

And I thank that body.

I thank the body my mom helped bring into this world--a body that has completed marathons including Boston, a body that recently ran a ten-mile race when last December, I was limping and hardly able to walk comfortably.

I thank my body for all she has given to me over the years--the times that, in pain, she pressed on and completed marathons that hurt--and the training she endured for the successful marathons.

I thank my body for the strength to try the Bryn Mawr Running Club workouts, at first only able to finish part of them, then all of them. 

I thank my body for health. It's an easy thing to take for granted when I have it--scary when it's threatened. But for now, I have it and I want to make the most of that gift.

Women in past generations who were 62 wore that age differently. First off, running was supposed to be for the young. Those over a certain age ran to catch trains or buses. Maybe they played a little tennis and ran across the court a few steps. But running distances? Unlikely--and certainly not for women. Women could pursue ladylike sports--tennis or swimming seemed to fit. Some women did run track--young women... and nothing over 800 meters.

When I ran Boston and had a low point, wondered if I could finish, I thought of the women who worked so hard to open this race to me, and I kept going.

But I thank my mom really for this love for running. No, my mom wasn't a runner, although she did like to walk. But looking back, I remember her swimming in the ocean, skiing, sailing, fishing--then later ballroom dancing--entering into all of these things with excitement, taking pleasure in her successes at the helm in sailboat races and in her dance competitions striving for the best performances she could--yet at heart finding joy in the effort itself.

In fact, I was on Mount Washington in utero--my mother eight months pregnant with me.

I didn't start running until my 30s, but the groundwork was being laid. And I hope to keep on running as long as my body allows, and doing the workouts, enjoying the post-run beer and camaraderie, high fiving, and sharing stories.

Maybe I'll eventually become too ill or weak to do these things, but I'm doing them now, and now is where it is.

Happy Birthday, Mom!