I’ve never done marathons on consecutive weekends and have wondered if I could trick my legs into believing they weren’t tired. Last Sunday I finished the Honolulu Marathon with my husband. Today, thanks to much appreciated encouragement from race organizer Kawika Carlson, I completed the Hawaii Kai Ultra Run marathon (my 21st). Guess what: my legs are pretty tired! And my mind is kaput. So I’ll write more tomorrow after a good night’s sleep and after more endorphins kick in!
Days have passed by so quickly since the marathon that I almost forgot about Wednesday’s post!
And here it is Wednesday evening. And here I was so sure that after finishing my 20th marathon last Sunday I would be moving onto different kinds of marathons — the kind of long-term goals that require commitment, endurance, and humor, like being a better parent and playing the bassoon again.
So why am I already thinking about a 21st marathon? Has the proverbial Runner’s High made me take leave of my senses?
I’ll keep you posted and set the stage for a cliffhanger — but I’ll let you know by this weekend!
The handsome guy on the right finished his 1st marathon, I completed my 20th.
This one was special: we did all 26.2 miles together. We stayed with each other from start to finish. At times he was stronger and he lifted me; other times I felt like my experience could help my husband. We talked, laughed, and were quiet at times. Fellow marathoners and spectators cheered for us.
We crossed the finish line holding hands and our arms raised in joy and relief.
Every mile of this marathon and marriage has been worth it!
Well, friends, it’s Wednesday and on Sunday I’ll attempt to complete my 20th marathon.
Because I’ll be with my husband who is doing his first and will be walking a fair amount, I haven’t had quite the same muscle aches, strains, and cramps I have learned to embrace.
I also haven’t had the nice weight loss that usually comes with hard training, but that’s fine.
I am convincing myself that allergies and I are just having a bad date right now, nothing more serious than that. If so, I will smell of garlic soon which has helped overcome many a cold in rapid time.
Fortunately, I have very concrete goals at work to keep my mind free from wandering too far. Stay in the moment as many good friends have said.
I’ve never, ever been someone who wants time to rush by except when I’m in an airplane. I look forward, though, to posting again on Sunday with what I hope will be good news about finishing those 26.2 miles. Send good thoughts to all of us out there. We appreciate them!
How is that for a headline!
And what does it mean?
My husband looked at it while I was typing and said, “Oh no, your readers will assume the worst!”
I told him I would let readers know as soon as possible I am just fine, that I could have fun with this post.
I’m a middle-aged guy who recently reconnected with many of his high school classmates. I sent them an early holiday picture of my beautiful family: my husband of 15 years and our gorgeous, seven-year-old daughter.
In high school, I was easily identified as the skinny kid with blond hair who wrote poetry, and played tennis and the bassoon. In fact, I’m still skinny, write poetry, play tennis and the bassoon. My hair is pretty much the same as way back when. The blond is being overtaken by gray, but I still have the same bangs and haircut!
I was also the gay guy who dreaded the torment — verbal and physical — I faced almost every day. I couldn’t wait to escape the small village, small high school, and long winters of my youth. I was convinced my writing skills and determination would help me find my place in a larger, more accepting world.
Guess what? It didn’t happen overnight! It took decades.
Part of that, of course, was accepting myself and learning forgiveness.
As I wrote my high school classmates, I made it through many painful, but also great miles to be able to send that picture of my husband, daughter, and me, to share gratitude for still being part of a community I left behind years ago to land where I am now: a middle-aged guy finding peace with the convoluted but exciting roads that took me to Hawaii to savor life with a family who is the reason I get up in the morning; a worthwhile profession I’ve been in for 20 years with a new goal of joining a small group of colleagues with actual licensing in our field; a 20th marathon in a few weeks I will finish with my husband who is doing his first; poems I want to publish; and a bassoon that needs to be taken out again to fill our home with strange, wonderful sounds!
So why did I purchase my last piece of clothing yesterday, a pink buttondown shirt purchased on Black Friday, a real deal!
The deal is this: with age comes an understanding of what really matters. I still wear clothes I’ve had for 30 years, shirts, jackets, pants, even ties from my grandfather and father. I take care of them. They are keepers, just like poetry, the bassoon, my family.
My family lives pretty modestly in Hawaii. I went through clothes this holiday weekend I will probably never wear again, that have seen their better days, that have no family ties, that I no longer need. They fill up space I want to leave open for my daughter as she grows, discovers life, and weaves her own coat of many colors.
With the miles ahead, I’m sure I’ll need a new pair of shoes now and then, but nothing fancy. As for shirts, pants, running clothes, a few ties (not widely worn in Hawaii), I’m fine. What I have now will likely last another 30 years. I learned from my father how to keep them in good shape.
To celebrate, though, I ordered my last real new piece of clothing: that pink shirt. It’s a color I feel proud of wearing, and I know I will like the fit.
I ran 9 miles this morning.
I asked my husband to drive the distance to verify the mileage. I had hoped I had run more.
“What’s wrong with 9?,” my husband asked when I expressed mile disappointment.
“Nothing,” I said. “But I still have an athlete’s pride.”
“What do you mean?,” he asked.
“Too complicated,” I said, fearing I would become long-winded.
Here’s the scoop: With a little more than a month to go before my 20th marathon, I feel like I need a long, grueling run even though my husband, who is doing his first, and I plan to walk together and maybe sprint to the finish line.
There is no time limit for the Honolulu Marathon, one of the many things I love about Hawaii. The race is not over, and marathon officials do not leave, until the last person finishes.
So what about my own limits?
As noted in a previous post, I’m becoming more realistic as the miles and years accumulate.
I’m also more keenly aware, especially after becoming a parent, that my focus has shifted more toward helping my daughter reach her potential than running personal bests or even publishing poetry.
As a guy who often was picked last for teams, I sure have loved and stayed with sports most of my life. As noted, I’m celebrating, yes, truly savoring my 20th marathon. I can still hit a great lefty forehand when I step out onto a tennis court. Ice skating, after years of playing hockey, is still as natural for me as walking. My husband is floored that I never fall on the ice even if years go by when I lace up my skates and step out on it again.
So my athlete’s pride? I guess it’s better having than athlete’s foot! I’m trying to let go of it, but not quite yet. Maybe, after ironing and cleaning this afternoon, I’ll sneak out for another two miles so that I can go to sleep knowing that today I finished 11 miles.
To prepare for my 20th marathon, I ran 9 miles yesterday.
Well, to be more accurate, I ran and walked the miles.
With a milestone marathon in December, friends have wanted to know when and what was my fastest of the 19 so far.
I’ve lost track, so I had to Google to find out. I knew it was in the same city where my daughter was born, but before she was born. As the years go by and numbers accumulate, especially after one becomes a parent, one sometimes needs to double check.
The city and time were correct: a 3:40 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, at the Steamtown Marathon! The number of years ago, though, a bit fuzzy. Now I know: 12.
I ran a 3:40 in 2005.
It might have been my 8th or 9th marathon. I’m not exactly sure. What I do know for sure is that I never ran a faster marathon.
But 3:40 is a nice number to remember. Of course I did not realize at the time it would be my fastest marathon. Nor did I know that five years later, the person for whom I wake up every morning, my daughter, would be born in Scranton. But she was, and Scranton, a city I’ve only been to twice, will always be one of my favorite places on our earth.
So what does the title of this post mean? Isn’t recalibrating an unusual word?
Not for athletes slowing down!
I ran a few more marathons after Steamtown under four hours. Then I took a year off from distance running. When I came back, I accepted that I needed to adjust expectations, that finishing a marathon under five hours was fine.
Now, approaching my 20th marathon, guess what?
If I finish under six hours, as I just barely did for my 19th, I’m grateful.
I’m still out there. Just like yesterday, when I ran/walked 9 miles, my legs at times felt like they did 12 years ago, even if for only a few minutes.
But muscle memories, like many consistent, fond memories, bring joy even if that joy is fleeting.
I know 10 years from now, when we are deciding on a college for Ellen, what I will remember most will be the moments of joy, that all the training, all the perseverance, was worth every mile.
I love keeping streaks going.
Once I set my mind to something, I usually follow through.
Like writing this blog every day of the year in its first year (except weekends and holidays).
Like writing this blog every weekend (Saturday or Sunday) and every Wednesday in its second year.
Like finishing every marathon I have ever entered.
My entry on Sunday about parenthood promised a conclusion and some backstory.
And here we have Wednesday already!
So here I go.
Last weekend was typical for our family. Our seven-year-old daughter does not believe in sleeping in so The Three of Us were up by six, trying to stay pretty quiet for the neighbors, getting ready for a day of Hawaiian Studies and hula at the YMCA followed by exercise, followed by chores, meals, homework (for our daughter and her two dads for their jobs!), a lovely drive to take in Hawaii that we sometimes forget to do with the rush of everyday life.
Sunday brought a lot of excitement. Our daughter read an aspiration at Temple service. Her fathers squeezed in work. She then was installed as a Brownie at a large gathering of Girl Scouts. Her fathers held back tears and squeezed in a little more work.
Then we visited Ellen’s favorite museum for two hours while her one father tutored to pay for our daughter’s summer school. (We like to plan ahead.)
This father, the author of this blog, took Ellen to her favorite places. We had lemonade. The two hours went by quickly. We met a new family with two young daughters close to Ellen’s age. The girls played games together and really seemed to enjoy each other’s company. The father I met teaches special education. His wife is a specialist in genetics. Our conversation was easy. They both remarked how they could instantly see that Ellen is a smart, alert, and physically strong young girl with great social skills. Full of hope, I gave out my business cards. They could understand why I dream that she one day go to college. They said with a daughter like Ellen, they would do the same.
The girls left the volcano exhibit to play on a great lawn outside. The girls’ laughter filled the air. But the museum was soon closing, Ellen’s other father, who watched from afar, was wrapping up his tutoring. My new friends wanted to leave. We talked about a possible playdate which is such a rare occurrence for our family. Even when Ben and I have invited families to our home, prepared wonderful meals, engaged in fun conversations, we rarely hear back or are offered an invitation in return.
We’ve often wondered if people are a bit scared of their children having friendships with a girl born with an extra chromosome, or with her parents who often feel we come across as a bit needy or too hopeful.
A natural suggestion many people have is to join groups with other families with children with “disabilities,” a term that I avoid, especially around my daughter. It has always been our goal that she hold her own with “typical” children. And so far she has — at school, at the YMCA, at Temple services at Girl Scouts. She is thriving.
But she needs friends. So when at the great lawn at the museum when we were all getting ready to say goodbye, and my daughter inexplicably shoved her new, younger friend out of the blue, my heart stopped. It was not a hard shove, but a clear one. I made Ellen apologize. The girls hugged. The mother assured me her daughters shove each other all the time. But I was crestfallen.
At home, not the calm, steady Quaker I try to be, my voice shook a little when I explained to Ellen that a strong finish is perhaps more important than everything that came before, whether its miles in a marathon, the end of a tennis match or playdate, finishing a semester, the last sentence of an exam or poem.
I don’t know how much of that life lesson she took in. Why should I expect so much from her when I am still reminding myself how valuable strong finishes are?
It is no surprise for me that I have not yet heard from the girls’ parents I met last Sunday at the museum. My disappointment about how the Sunday afternoon ended is less intense now that it is Wednesday. I am, though, waiting for a few miracles to come my way. Maybe they have and I’m just a little too tired to recognize them.
If I were not so exhausted by the weekend, I would elaborate on why every weekend since I became a parent more than seven years ago has been a mixed blessing.
So I will save my ruminations for Wednesday’s post. Suffice it to write that except for 10 seconds, I was proud of my daughter most of an exhausting yet fulfilling weekend that soon will be past. Unfortunately, those 10 seconds came near the end of a lovely Sunday.
I know from thousands of tennis matches and 19 marathons that a good finish really counts. I’ve tried to impart this wisdom, in my imperfect way, to my daughter.
Stay tuned for Wednesday’s post!
I’ve been dealing with pain lately.
Not the familiar aches of distance running as I train for another marathon (my 20th). No, those are like friends I haven’t seen for a while. We embrace each other because we know each other so well and we keep each other company all the way to the marathon finish!
This pain is even more personal and a little scary because it’s not just about me but also about my most loved ones. I should state for my readers that physically we are all fine! It’s the other, dealing with the unknown, that is hardest for me. I try to be optimistic about it the way I psych myself up when I’m running and encounter a large hill!
I have asked my close friends (Friends and friends) to hold me in the Light, a wonderful Quaker practice. I asked a few last evening and I woke up at peace and ready to face and embrace what I need to today and in the next weeks. Holding someone in the Light lifts that person to hope, Light, love, healing, and sound mind and being.
So hold me in the Light, Dear Readers, and I will do the same for you over the next several hundred miles! Thank you, along with my gorgeous daughter and husband, for inspiring this blog and for reminding me of what is truly meaningful in life.