We always start our runs together, keeping pace for the first half mile or so, but when I tell her to go ahead while panting that I’ll see her at the finish line, she has proven that she can get there long enough ahead of me that her sweat has evaporated by the time I arrive, breathless and drenched.
Sometimes though, she shortens the stride of which her long, toned legs are capable, and sticks by my side. She claims she is tired too; her steady voice gives evidence to the contrary. But if she ever really is even a tiny bit exhausted and my slower pace gives her reason to rest, I am glad to be her excuse. And her motivation.
The truth of being strong
I took up running at the age of 49, inspired by middle-aged work colleagues who were training for a 5k. As we encouraged each other to go the distance, I got addicted to the adrenaline rush of crossing the finish line, arms high in the air.
Emmali joined me on an occasional lap along the dirt path near the river by our house. Ruddy-cheeked and breathing hard, the daughter I gave birth to 18 years earlier told me that she didn’t know what I liked about running. She would sometimes show up to watch me cross finish lines at various 5ks and then share pictures of her exuberant momma, exclaiming to her online world that I’m the strongest woman she knows.
We laughed about that after the first 5k we ran together a few years later, after she got to the finish line a good four minutes ahead of me and realized that running isn’t really hard to do. Hard. But not really. For the record, she told me that she still thinks I’m strong. And for the record, she beat me by a respectable amount of time and I think she’s super, mighty strong.
My baby’s got new shoes
She’d been borrowing a pair of her younger sister’s gym shoes, but finally bought her own official pair of real running shoes last week. I took a picture and sent it to friends announcing: “My baby’s first pair of running shoes! I’m teary eyed.” Thrilled as a new mom over infant booties, I’m thinking about having her Brooks bronzed when she wears them out.
She decided not to wear them on our run this weekend though; worried the powdered colors of the Color in Motion 5k might not wash out. I wore an old pair too. However, we did wear new tutus – something we’d seen at other 5ks and thought would be fun to do. It was. We laughed as we threw orange, blue, yellow and red packets of powder into the air with hundreds of other runners creating a cloud that sprinkled color on our white t-shirts and everywhere else imaginable.
Get ready, get set, slow down!
When the starting gun sounded, we took off, darting through the crowd to find more elbow room at the front. The first mile was quick and competitive, but then I slowed and with me, Emmali did too. I waved her on, but she said it was too hot to go faster. Sure. It took us 32 minutes, 11 seconds, but we crossed the finish line together.
She could have done better, no doubt. But instead of recording a good time on the clock, she stuck with me and we recorded a fabulous time with pictures on our phones. She later posted one online, referring to me as her “gem.”
For the record, I think I like that description better than strong.