The Downhill is Worth the Climb

20160418_180804Have you ever had the feeling of doing something incredible? That’s exactly how I felt crossing the finish line of Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn., with a BQ (Boston Qualifying Time) — incredible. Today I had the opportunity to actually get the chance to fulfill a long-time dream of running the Boston Marathon. It’s a first for me. I can cross it off my dreams list. There’s an amazing feeling when you accomplish a dream you’ve worked so hard to attain. I wish everyone could experience that rush of happy emotion. I wish everyone could experience something great. There are seeds of greatness inside all of us, but it’s sad that most never let them grow and flourish. I didn’t want that to be me.

There was so much anticipation the days leading up to the big race. I had a plethora of emotions — excitement, nervousness, pride — a sense of accomplishment knowing the hours of hard work it took to qualify to be here. I did it for anyone who forgot how to dream big dreams. I did it for my country as my way to show patriotism, Boston runs together, Boston strong! I did it to be an example for my kids so they can dream and achieve larger than life goals. But I mostly did it for me to prove to myself that I am worth it and that I have something to offer to others.

20160418_070322It was hours of waiting to start. I was up early to get ready, then we took the shuttle to the airport to get on the Blue Line T to get on the Green Line T to get to the Boston Commons where I would take a bus to the starting village — only to wait another hour before we could go to the actual start line where we would find our corrals and wait for the gun. It was HOT! Coming off my Minnesota winter training into 60s and sunny proved difficult. Keeping hydrated throughout the race was key.

The race was awesome and terrible all at the same time. My first half proved strong with sub-8-minute miles, and a goal of a PR (personal record) seemed in reach. However, the second half told a different story. My IT Band flared up, and my foot pain did as well, both things I had been fighting throughout my training. I tried to shake it off, but my IT Band was hurting enough that turning over my legs became harder and harder. Eventually it forced me to slow down even though my lungs and heart told me to keep going fast. When I realized I couldn’t make a PR and also couldn’t hit another qualifying time, I decided to slow even more to ensure a finish without further injury.

20160417_132324The race course is hard, but I was determined to just run my race and not think about that. Were there hills? I didn’t notice them in the beginning, but I sure enjoyed those downhills! Sometimes in life it’s hard to push through the hills, but it’s always worth it to get to the downhill. Even Heartbreak Hill wasn’t as bad as everyone made it out to be. It was at a tough spot between miles 20 and 21, but it didn’t make or break the race. I did walk some of it because of my leg pain, but I didn’t sweat it. I just kept going.
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I teared up quite a few times along the way, some from the pain, but mostly thinking about what it took to get here. It was a surreal feeling that I wanted to make last. I wanted to enjoy each and every moment. I teared up thinking about the fact that many try to qualify but not many will. I was among the elites of runners. I teared up thinking about the fact that 50 years ago women weren’t allowed to run the race. I teared up thinking about how Bobbi Gibbs must have felt 50 years ago when she snuck into the race and ran unofficially to prove women could run 26.2 miles. I teared up as I passed by Patrick Downes who ran on his prosthetic leg after losing his leg in the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon finish line three years ago. I teared up as I looked up at the historic buildings. I teared up as I passed runners on stretchers from the heat, and I prayed for each one as I ran by. I teared up because of the pain. I teared up knowing I missed my goal. I teared up thinking about making it to the finish. I teared up after I crossed the finish with mixed emotions of pride and fighting feeling like a failure. I would have failed if I quit — but I finished.

Am I disappointed? It would be a lie if I said no. Yes, I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that I didn’t hit my goal and that my injury held me back. But am I proud? Yes. I’m proud that I finished despite the pain when many may have chosen to quit. I’m proud to have soaked up all the moments along the way, all the cheering, all the signs, all the sights. I’m proud to have run this sought after race. I’m proud of the hard work it took for me to get here at all. So, yes, there is some disappointment, but only because I’m a winner, and I always want to know I did all that I could. I strive to be better. I’m proud that I started, I stayed steady, and I didn’t quit.

Will there be another marathon? Well, I didn’t hit my goal, so I think you can answer that question.  I need to heal. I need to take time to fully recover. I am running Twin Cities Marathon with a goal of pacing my aunt to qualify for Boston, but then it’s just a matter of when and where. But you better believe that I am determined to make this new goal and dream a reality. Do you have a goal? Now’s your time to dream big dreams and make them happen. Don’t waste your days. Turn them into moments. Soak them up. Go get your dream, climb your hill and find the downhill. It’s always worth it!

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Running a Good Race

Twin Cities Marathon 2010 009Motherhood is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. I ran my first marathon 5 years ago this fall. In the midst of training for the Twin Cities Marathon, I started to compare running to my journey as a mom, and now, 5 years and four marathons later, I still see the correlation.

I have learned that I can train as hard as I want, but I will never fully be prepared. How can you prepare for the unexpected?  I can study the terrain, but there’s always going to be that bump in the road that I didn’t see on paper. And it may get simpler with each race – I may have more clarity with each race – but the journey to the finish line is never the same.

Thinking back to 5 years ago, what did I do to prepare for my first 26.2 mile race? I associated with runners who have already been there who could give me words of encouragement and advice. I followed the game plan to build my endurance – the payoff? I finished. Did I finish perfect? No, but I finished strong.

The same thing goes for parenting. As mothers, we need the association of moms whom we see as positive role models who have already been there. They’ve traveled that road and paved the way. They can train us, teach us, and give us a game plan for success.

We also need the association of moms who are in the same season as we are. They know exactly what we are going through at each stage because they’re going through the same things. They can give us a shoulder to cry on, make us laugh, or encourage us to keep going. They will become our best friends. A shared experience always brings people together.

When I crossed the starting line of the Twin Cities Marathon, I was engulfed with many emotions: fear, nervousness, excitement, joy, and a sense of accomplishment.

The first couple of miles seemed easy — The same happened when I became a mom. The first few weeks I enjoyed the honeymoon stage of motherhood. I was so in awe of my precious gift that I saw no flaws and thought that the road would be simple.

Around mile 5 or 6, it started feeling mundane. It started sinking in that I still had a long way ahead of me. However, the crowds of people cheering me on made it fun – In the same way, after weeks and months of tending to baby’s every needs, I began to feel like I was in a rut. It seemed like the same routine day in and day out. I was tired from a lack of sleep and feeling like I didn’t have time for me anymore. But then a mom would say a word of encouragement, or my beautiful baby would giggle, and my joy would be renewed.

By mile 13, the halfway point, I realized running a marathon was a huge commitment. I started seeing the endurance and toughness that it takes to go on – being a mom is no different. I started to feel challenged by my boy’s tantrums or stubbornness. I saw that I needed to be emotionally tough to handle challenges that being a mom brings. If I don’t know my purpose, I can stress and feel like a failure.Twin Cities Marathon 2010 001

By mile 18, I started questioning my ability to go on. Negative thoughts started creeping in. I began playing the comparison
game with all the other runners who seemed unaffected by the pain. I started to think I wasn’t strong enough to be a marathoner — There are times when I question my ability to be an effective mom as well. Sometimes I compare myself to the mom who looks like she has everything put together – she appears well rested and fashionably dressed with makeup on and well-behaved kids right by her side. But then I have to step back and realize it’s not fair to me to compare someone’s best with my worst. And then a little voice softly whispers, “I love you mom,” and it melts my heart.

By mile 23, I started to breathe a little easier. I knew the pain was temporary now. I started to believe in myself and could see the end – I think we all have those days where we breathe a sigh of relief or a little prayer of thanks when a stage our children are in comes to a close.

At mile 25, the adrenaline took over, and I began to sprint with a smile on my face. I was thrilled that it was almost over, that I was about to accomplish something great. I crossed the finish line at the State Capitol with tears streaming down my face knowing my hard work paid off – There’s always a finish line.

I know a mother’s job is never done, but there is a point of victory at every stage of the journey. It’s the little rewards: their first steps, their first word, their first A on a report card, their starting spot in the basketball game. The ups and downs are all worth it knowing you’ve done all you can to raise your children to be men and women of strong character. I see the finish line as all the “I love you’s” and “thank you’s” and hugs and kisses that you get along the way, but ultimately, the finish line is letting them go to affect others the same way you affected them.

I think of Paul in Philippians when he says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

You’re in the race of your life as a mother. Stay on the course and finish strong. It’s always worth it!

Walking in Love,

Gabe