Every starting line is a new opportunity. A new chance. A slate wiped clean. A place to be curious. Don’t write the end of the story before it even begins. I see athletes do this all the time. “It won’t be a PR day….. it’s hot / windy / etc”.
PR’s don’t really exist if you think about it. On any given day weather can sway times. Look at the winning times of Ironman Lake Placid through the years. No two courses are the same. There are certainly places like the pool, velodrome or track where conditions can be replicated. But out there, let it go. Don’t hold yourself to something so finite. Be full of wonder. Give your all. Allow what happens to unfold and don’t give it a judgement due to a time (fast or slow).
For me a starting line is a place to dream.
For the second week in a row I got to toe a starting line. This week it was the return of Johnny’s Runnin of the Green 5 Miler. This race made its return after a 2 year pandemic hiatus and the wonderful people of Rochester Running Company / Robinhood Racing have taken it over for the late Bill Kehoe. If you knew Bill…. then you know. I love these people and what they and Medved mean to our community. We have a lot of good humans around this city in fact.
Last week’s Shamrock Run 5 miler in Buffalo was the perfect place for me to hit my first starting line after losing my Dad. Buffalo was his city and I felt him everywhere. I moved to Rochester 21 years ago, and this feels like home. Running at home felt really good this week.
I appreciated all who extended such kind words about my Dad. People are uncomfortable around grief. For many it makes you face your own mortality, for others it’s painful for other reasons. I have realized that so many of us have been through deep loss, and it’s good to talk about it. People have shared with me their losses, whether it’s been their parents, siblings, friends, children. There is collective strength in grief and on Saturday on that starting line I felt that strength.
I was lucky once again to feel strong, in control, smooth and just so very happy during the race. High fives and cheers kept happening and I love that about sport. I loved seeing Luc run so strong and so many people I get to call friends … together again.
My parents raised my sister and I as athletes and encouraged us to pursue post collegiate athletics. In the wake of losing my Dad I am of course in my multisport world, my sister is preparing for her first Boston Marathon, and my Mom has continued her illustrious tennis career, picked up pickleball and other fitness classes (she missed the memo that the’s older than 74, don’t tell her). So the three of us are continuing to use movement to help us process such an unimaginable loss. Dad loves this, I know he does.
When he died three months ago the thought of ever pinning a race bib on was so unfathomable. But the ability to move every day has literally pulled me through so many dark days and moments. When I signed up for Ironman this year I did so knowing full well he would likely not be here so see me finish #10.
But then again, he will be there.
There is beauty in grief. There is strength. There is community. There is gratitude and there is so much freaking love. Learning to stand next to someone and just be there with them, that’s one of the greatest gifts you can give them.
Or in my case…. that mid race high five, or cheer, or post race hug. And knowing that this grief club is a club no one wants to be part of, all of us will have a membership at some point in our lives, but if you open yourself to it, the members here are so beautiful. They will carry you when you stumble. I promise.
Not only does a starting line present opportunity to learn and grow, but so do the great losses in our lives. I think the trick to both is being open to it. And not trying to write the end of the story. Instead, allow it to happen. Life doesn’t happen TO us. It happens FOR us.