As distance runners, don't we all like to believe that we are mentally tough to not need our own cheerleaders? If we get down to it, though, we can each probably name at least one person that has positively influenced our running, a cheerleader, so to speak. I began thinking about this today during cross country practice. My personal rule when dealing with the teens is that I never let anyone be on the trail alone. Occasionally, I will have to slow down or backtrack to make sure everyone gets in safely. This might seem a bit crazy or protective to some coaches, being that these are teenagers, but it's more of a summer-safety issue. With teens, you can trust them to hydrate and fuel themselves properly for these hot Gulf Coast runs. I also know them well enough to know that some of them would push through warning signs. Today when I ran back for one of the guys, I could tell he was struggling. Once I reached him, though, it only took a few words of encouragement when i noticed his head raise a bit and his speed increase. We ran the rest of the way in with very few words spoken to each other, but when we got back he said, "Thanks, coach." Sometimes just having someone there makes all the difference in the world.
Where does this lead me in my reflections? I was scheduled to run a tempo Saturday morning and a LR Sunday. My running buddies convinced me to swap my days so that I could run with them Saturday, as they had changed their LR days, too. It didn't take much arm twisting and we all hit the very hilly route first thing Saturday. I was with the boys; we didn't take it easy. You can see where this is going for Sunday. Sunday morning, I woke up EXHAUSTED, thanks to my rude neighbors. I decided to put the run off and hit the TM in a few hours. Well, a few hours later The Boyfriend wanted to go do a few things, so I put the run off to the evening. Then that night came and my legs already felt like crap and I DREADED the tempo. It was so bad that TP (The Boyfriend) offered to go with me. And just like that, having a cheerleader, a buddy, made it all better.
Tuesday, I had a pretty rough looking set of 1Ks in front of me. Sam (who is in 5K training) and I hit the track together. Even though she was doing a different workout, just her being there made this workout so much more manageable. Misery loves company? I think we all just need a cheerleader, which is what we can be to our running partners.
This weekend I am racing a 4 miler. I know, crazy in the heat, crazy during marathon training, blah, blah, blah. This leads me to my next somewhat heavy reflection/explanation. I'm racing this one for my dad. While he has made a remarkable and downright miraculous recovery, he does have permanent partial long term memory loss. He also has suffered through many personality changes that are well described here. The next part is very difficult for me, but one of the purposes of this blog is to use it as an outlet for my feelings and reflections about running. And this "thing" has weighed heavily on my mind for quite some time.
I miss my dad. I feel so, so guilty saying that b/c I have so much to be grateful for. He is alive, and I have a loving, supportive father. My mom has a husband, and our family has been blessed with his recovery and inspired by his strength. The thing is, since his accident, he is different. Almost like a stranger. And things have changed. My dad used to be my biggest running fan. He was not a runner, but an avid cyclist, even winning master's division of many of his races. He did Ragbrai and many century rides, all like they were nothing. He was a cyclist, like I was a runner. Therefore, he understood things that my mom doesn't. He was always so involved with my racing and training. He knew my paces, my times, my PRs. He and my mom traveled to many of my marathons. In fact, he rode his bike with me on most of my LRs when I trained for my first marathon, and he was there to run with me the last 6 miles.
Every time I mention 5K, 10K, or marathon, my dad asks the distance. During a 3-way phone call awhile back, I mentioned that I won a race. My dad was so shocked. He asked me if that was my first time winning. Mom showed him pictures of my first marathon, where he was running with me and he cried. He simply couldn't remember.
Mom and I don't discuss this much. I know it's hard for her wondering if he remembers their wedding day or their honeymoon or all the trips they've been on, etc. However, his doctors have talked with mom about trying to recreate memories for us as a family. Not for us to go out and try to have the exact same experience, but go and do some of the same things we used to enjoy.
So, I will be visiting my parents this weekend and running the 4 miler. It will be my dad's "first" time watching me race.
Never give up the opportunity to be someone's cheerleader. You never know how much they might need it! Run Happy, friends!