It’s a mistake I’ve made more than once. The energy and adrenaline of the start of the race get me all riled up and I head out at a pace that isn’t sustainable. It’s a mistake that really catches up with you later on, when your legs are heavy and your chest is heaving and you’ve still got a few kays to go before the end but there really isn’t much more in the tank.
“Run your own race!” is the message every rookie needs to hear. Don’t get caught up with what other people are doing, don’t compare yourself to the person to your left or your right, but trust your training, know yourself, and follow what you know to do.
This morning I came across this blog and it was a very timely reminder to me that, in running as in life, I am to run my own race.
I’ll confess that it’s been a bumpy ride the last few weeks. I’m emotionally weary after endless tearful conversations with our daughter about school-related anxiety, and interminable debates with my husband about what to do about it. One day, we’d be certain that it was right to take a strong line, to encourage her to go back to school and face the music. The next, after a visit to a counsellor-friend or another interrupted, nightmare-filled sleep, we’d feel it was right to find another way. Should academic concerns trump psychological ones, or vice versa? There didn’t seem to be a ‘right’ answer and trying to figure it out was giving me a perpetual headache.
Once she was finally brave enough to reveal some concrete details about what was actually going on at school, we came off the fence. Given the situation, it really seemed the right choice - for this child, at this point - to find an alternative schooling solution. We’ve been relieved to discover an online school option, run from the UK and following the British curriculum, that meets her need.
And even as I write that, I recognise my urge to justify the decision, to make you understand that I am not a flakey parent blown this way and that by the whims of my emotional child; that I am strong and intelligent and that I, the parent, am calling the shots, dammit!
I had coffee this morning with a good friend who also happens to be a very experienced secondary school teacher. I shared with her how this decision came about and she commiserated with me that parenting doesn’t come with a ‘how to’ manual. And yet, in the telling, I still felt this inner doubt: what if I’ve just allowed myself to be tugged around by a child's emotions like a puppet on a string? Surely other people would have been stronger, sent her back to school, ignored the tears and the tantrums?
One thing that has helped me over these weeks is the idea of taking the long-range view. I think this is a bit like thinking of the end of the race when you’re at the beginning—carefully considering how you’ll feel about your pace on setting off when you’re at kilometre 8, or 19 or 36. When I think of myself at the age of 60, sitting down for coffee with my then adult daughter and reflecting on this part of the race, will I regret making the decision to lighten her load, to give her room to mature slowly, to let academics take a different form for the sake of overall well-being?
I don’t think so. But here’s the thing: this is my race, our race. It doesn’t help me to look at other families, to compare with other kids (even her sister) or to stick with some narrow idea of success, or even of education.
So this is me, lifting my head to take in the far horizon. And then, deliberately choosing not to eye the speedster overtaking on my right hand side, I look just far enough ahead to see the ground I have to cover next. I breathe deep, trusting that I will settle into the right pace for this part of the race and knowing that it is a race the requires endurance and grit.
I will run my own race. See you at the finish.