Mama Doesn’t Raise Quitters (Even if it Kills Her)

About six months ago, sitting on my couch two months post partum with baby #3 and feeling as though my entire life was only about cleaning poop and yelling things like “I SAID IT WAS BEDTIME 10 MINUTES AGO WHY IS NO ONE LISTENING I AM MOVING TO A HOTEL FOREVER SERIOUSLY NO MORE STORIES I JUST STEPPED ON CHEDDAR BUNNIES AGAIN NO MORE CHEDDAR BUNNIES WHY DOESN’T CALLIOU STOP WHINING THAT’S A BATHING SUIT NOT PYJAMAS BLARGH BLARGH BLARGH”, I made an ill-advised decision (and I know about ill-advised decisions- I had various perms from 1989 to 1995)- I decided to train for a marathon.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Apparently, six years of perms taught me nothing.

I had done three marathons before but the last one was four years and two babies ago- so pretty much another lifetime. I was younger, fitter and getting more than two to three consecutive hours of sleep at a time. I completely and totally misapprehended how hard it would be this time around (like the time I thought a spiral perm and red henna could give me Nicole Kidman’s hair from “Days of Thunder” but worse).

I started training in earnest four months before the race and it was not smooth sailing. I was slow, tired and could never find the time to get quite as many miles as I wanted.  In the month leading up to it, I faced off against fevers, potty training failures, teething, lice, zero sleep- and those were the easy days. A week ago, my glute and hamstring staged a full on rebellion that resulted in every step feeling like someone was literally kicking me in the a** (but in the non-motivating kind of way).

Needless to say, I wanted to quit. I wanted to quit bad. Wanting to quit has been the most constant phrase in my head since January (even beating out “How much wine is left?” and “Where did I put that third kid?”). But I didn’t.

This is why.

My almost 6 year old daughter is not a good swimmer. She loves going to the pool together as a family and tries to keep up with her cousins racing to the point at the cottage but in five years she has yet to pass a single level of swim lessons. She is on what I like to call the “age out” program- if you don’t pass Ducks when you’re two, you age out to join Dolphins when you turn three, turn four and you still haven’t passed Dolphins, congratulations you’re a Turtle! This year she started the big kid lessons and we are on round three of level one. Now when she doesn’t pass, she gets it and she doesn’t like it.  She recently asked me if she could quit.

Me: Can you swim on your own?

6 year old: Not really.

Me: Then you can’t quit.

6 year old: The other kids are better.

Me: You don’t need to be better than the other kids. Never be upset by what the other kids can do. You just have to try. Then if you keep trying, once you’ve learned how to swim, if you still want to quit swim lessons, you can. Deal?

6 year old: Deal.

And so, I didn’t quit my first long run when I thought my body just couldn’t do this anymore.  I didn’t quit with a month to go when my house was slammed with a flurry of soaring temperatures, itchy scalps, 3 am binge nursing fests, snot from eyeball to ankle and more embarrassing potty training poop debacles than I care to admit (that’s the subject for another post). I didn’t quit a week ago when my muscles had clearly decided I should.

I didn’t quit. But I still really, really wanted to.

I was a basket case the day before the marathon. The stress from feeling so under trained and over tired heading into it was too much. By the end of the day I had been such a nightmare to my family that I had to apologize for being so upset over the race that I had become even more of a monster than usual about who left their shoes in the hallway again and SERIOUSLY WHY ARE THERE STILL CHEDDAR BUNNIES ON THE FLOOR???

My six year old woke up just as I was leaving the following morning:

6 year old: Don’t be upset about the marathon, Mom. I hope you try.

Me: I’ll see you at the finish line.

And I went.

I cried at the start line because I knew the hell my body was in for in the next four plus hours and I was terrified.

I struggled.

I chafed. I burned. I blistered.

I went into a port-a-potty and slathered everything from my knee to my belly button in icy cold pain relief gel sample packs that I had stashed in my lulu’s hoping it would help.

I treated the medical tent Vaseline like it was wine and the bottom half of my breasts were my mouth.

I got passed by a man pushing his two young children in a double stroller.

I got passed by a guy who was juggling three balls while running the entire marathon course. Yes- JUGGLING. THE. WHOLE. WAY.

Because I hadn’t nursed in several hours, by the time I hit the half way point my breasts had swelled from DD to some alphabetical combination that doesn’t even exist except in porn featuring aliens.

It was a day that felt like everyone else was better than me.

But I didn’t get upset. There was no one on the course I needed to beat, no time on the clock that was going to make or break my day- there was only a six year old at the finish line who wanted me to try. Who told me to try because I told her she had to. I told her that trying was the most important part.

So I tried. I tried like a mother effer.

If it wasn’t going to be a fast day, I could still make it a good day.

I high fived every spectator that I could.

I thanked the volunteers and told them they were awesome.

I fist pumped the air anytime a stranger on the sidelines called out my name from my race bib.

I told the Juggler he was my hero.

The face that was in my heart with every step

The face that was in my heart with every step

When I saw my best friend on the sidelines at 26km, I ran and hugged her like we were that old couple in “Titanic” going down with the ship.

I gave myself time outs to post pictures from the course to Instagram.

I did awkward dance moves as I went by the various live musicians along the course.

On the Burrard Street bridge I took a “sabbatical” from the race, sat down on a concrete barrier and texted my husband.

At 100 metres from the finish I saw my family shouting “Go, Mom!” from the sidelines. I leaped over to them, wrapped my arms around my kids as tight as I could and told them how happy I was to see them.

A few moments later, I crossed the finish line in my worst time ever. It didn’t matter. I threw my arms in the air like I had just won the Boston Marathon or had Felicity’s hair (season one obvs).

For four months I wanted to quit.

For 26.2 miles I wanted to quit.

I didn’t.

This moment = everything

This moment = everything

I learned how to swim.

Next up- finally nailing that perm.


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