We’re in the 25th mile of the Cleveland Marathon, and just as I tipped the cup of cheap beer someone handed me in the middle of the street my mom shuffled over and grabbed one of her own. I let out the biggest "hell yeah!", high fived the group manning the (very unofficial) aid station, and as we jogged away to tackle the homestretch I told her how proud I was. Not just for being out there freaking running a marathon, but for seizing the moment to share a celebratory beverage along the way.
Cool mom alert.
We were out there for similar reasons, but had gotten there in very different ways. She held true to her "one and done" promise pretty earnestly after her first marathon a few years ago, while I got to "I'm never f*cking doing that again" after a culmination of miserable finish lines (and some I never managed to get to). Our mission to enjoy the race and come out on the other side happy and healthy was mutual, not unlike most people's I'm sure, but I never imagined we'd wind up in the middle of Detroit Avenue cheers'ing a styrofoam cup making good on that goal.
But let's back up, because that's not really where this day was supposed to go.
When we first signed up for the race I thought it’d be fun to run as mom's pacer. She didn’t know that was my plan and I didn’t realize at the time that I mostly liked the idea as a free pass to not get caught up chasing some arbitrary time goal.
But then training started, and the workouts were going so well I let myself think about what it would feel like to race a marathon again. The competitive embers I thought were extinguished slowly built, and before I knew it there was a real fire in there. I was glad I hadn't offered to pace her as I pushed through long runs envisioning grinding out those late marathon miles, during speed workouts that I pretended were finishing chutes, and as I let myself daydream about finally running a marathon I was proud of.
And then I got hurt.
Without being too cliché, it was kind of a blessing in disguise not getting to run that race I'd started lusting over again. What I got instead was a lesson in measuring success outside of times and finishing places. (If you remember, my finishing place the last time I ran Cleveland had a comma in it.)
I had the best time running this race, despite the time clock saying the opposite.
It was such a blast running with my mom, even when she wasn't having a blast and even if it downpoured on us the whole second half. My hip started feeling pretty bad about an hour in which I expected, but then magically never got any worse and was totally manageable, which was a huge bonus. I got to see a ton of people I knew, from old schoolmates to dorm neighbors to John Adams the Indians's drummer guy to a really nice blog reader who hollered from under a bridge outside of Tremont. My jersey not only elicited a ton of "Go Cavs!" cheers but also didn't chafe me an inch, which might be the biggest marathon miracle of the day. There were so many great signs and I didn't miss any of them from being blind in the pain cave, and was never too toasted or worried about tangents to skip high five'ing an outstretched hand.
And, yeah, that mile 25 beer. So to the marathon, I’ll be seeing you again. I'm not sure when or in what competitive (or not) fashion, but this isn’t over between us.
You might say it's just getting started. (again.)
And despite what mom said from miles 15-26, it only took two days for mom to change her mind about you again, too.