We all have symbols we wear that say something about us. A wedding ring, perhaps. A certain style of watch. Special earrings. Even a tattoo. Among the small accessories I wear each day are two modest bands from a wonderful non-profit called Mudlove.
I have given these bracelets as gifts, and each time try to choose one that has meaning and relevance to the wearer. Wearing the words “run.” and “inspire.” are daily reminders of who I am. The one that says “run.” reminds me that freedom and joy come from purposeful, forward motion, be it physically or in the goals I strive to accomplish. “Inspire.” is what I hope to do as a mom, wife, friend – to be a positive example, my best self. (Sorry if that sounds a little too Oprah.) Our kids are always observing us, and these two reminders help me to model a kind, intentional person who thinks of others.
This past weekend was a celebration of all of those things.
The fun began on Friday, with an invitation to join Sarah Bowen Shae and Dimity McDowell of Another Mother Runner for an evening of like-minded new friends. Initially bummed that none of my BRFs (best running friends) could join me, I trekked out to the party feeling a bit like I was going to a networking event. I was delightedly wrong – the place was filled with wonderful women of all ages and interests, all united by running and motherhood.
Sarah and Dimity read from their second book, Train Like a Mother, gave away some great schwag and reminded us that all it really takes to inspire is self confidence, a good heart, and a real interest in others. That reminder influenced the rest of the weekend.
If you are kind enough to read my drivel on a semi-regular basis, you know that I was really looking forward to ZOOMA, a women’s half marathon that I was signed up to run this past Sunday.
After a Saturday morning of breakfast/hubby and daughter race cheering/soccer/lacrosse etc, my girl Kimberley and I headed an hour or so out of town to spend the night at a pretty lodge just a mile or two from the ZOOMA start line. Sure, we could have done a 5am Sunday ‘wake up and drive’, but we opted instead to milk it and turn the race into an excuse for a retreat. Saturday afternoon was filled with sunbathing, serious discussions about birthday parties and summer camps, walks, fueling up and watching chick flicks. We eked every bit out of the late afternoon and evening.
We had planned this as a girls’ weekend. This was a chance to celebrate the fact that, while we don’t run the same pace anymore, we love to run together. That was the plan – from the time we started to plan.
And then we got to the start line.
No corral. Simply an order to ‘line up where you think you should be.’ The women who lined up in my ideal, projected time group numbered all of about six. Six women in my time group. Maybe none of them in my age group. I could run comfortably and actually place in the top five, maybe better. In a half marathon. What a thought.
But then…I thought. There was no benefit to a win except a boost to my ego. And frankly, while I run for the sense of accomplishment, I’d like to say that my ego/sense of self isn’t tied to how fast or good I am. (Thank goodness, or it would take a lot of nasty hits, with as often as I like to race!)
Kimberley and I had come together. Three years ago, when we started running, she hung back and encouraged me. I didn’t have her speed or stamina. We had agreed to run together, and run together we did. This time, it was Kimberley who was lacking stamina – her career is a busy one, and training had been difficult, near to impossible lately. So we got into her reasonable time pack, and we ran together. Along the way, she needed some encouragement. As anyone who knows me will tell, I am a cheerleader by nature. As I cheered her along, reminding her that she is strong, smart and inspiring, we caught the attention of two other women. They ended up running with us, seeking encouragement and sharing stories about their friendship, running and families as well.
And then we picked up another, Nicole. We were a mere mile and a half from the finish and she was convinced she couldn’t make it. She was walking alone, sidelined by a cramp and some very negative voices in her head telling her to forget the goal, just stop. This time, Kimberley was the cheerleader. We shared the mantra to “give all you have left” and not only did Nicole keep running, she finished ahead of us with a big smile on her face.
Run. Inspire. It’s nice to know that both can be as difficult or as simple as we choose to make it. Run for the joy of motion. Or dance, or walk, or whatever. Inspire by keeping a good heart, having confidence in yourself and maintaining a real interest in others. There is no ego in any of those, but you can be sure, there is a sense of accomplishment.