When a race becomes much more than a race
I'm a sentimental person with moments in time. Objects too, which can be seen on my living room mantle in the three jars of beach mementos from last summer's adventures with my son. But, mostly it's the moments. Which probably explains why I have tens of thousands of photos marking those moments.
It's also how the "Summer Solstice" 5-kilometer run/walk has become such a treasured event in the timeline of my life.
In June of 2014, being the nice, and kind sister that I am, I more or less forced my younger sister into her first 5K road race. She had been running, putting in the work to do a road race, over the course of several months and had mentioned she had wanted to do one. So, out of sisterly love, I gave her a push. Or shove.
I signed us both up for that year's "Summer Solstice" 5K, gave her no option of backing out, and away we went.
The next day, after that race, I found out I was pregnant.
Taking it back a few steps, this was long awaited news. Several years of doctors appointments, tests, medications, travel and disappointment. Just two months before, my husband, Justin, and I had been dealt a major blow as we were given the news that our odds of having a child were virtually non-existent even with medical intervention.
It was a long road, and a devastating one. I was, and still am thankful that I had plenty to delve into to keep myself occupied, and focused more on the positive in my life, than the negative. It was what kept me going.
I have something called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a disease that causes infertility, among an array of other things, including diabetes and cystic ovaries.
On the outside, looking in, I had a lot of people judging my lifestyle of being active as the reason why. Implying maybe if I ate a little different, worked out a little less, did this one thing a little more, all my ills would be fixed and we'd be able to have a baby. That just wasn't the case. I had done absolutely nothing to cause my situation, and my doctors over the span of those years always repeated the same thing:
"You're doing everything right."
After all of that, here we were, experiencing our sense of a miracle. And suddenly running, and that one particular road race, took on an entirely different meaning in my life.
In 2015, I was just four months out from having my son, Carter, when the next "Summer Solstice" race came around. I was walking almost every day with my son, and I was just starting to get back into workouts, but I knew that my body wasn't ready for a run of any kind.
As much as I wanted to run this now, incredibly meaningful race, I sat out.
Then, somewhere along the way, I never really picked running back up. Sure, I wanted to, but I was suddenly just as content taking leisurely strolls down the road with my son tucked in his stroller. We'd walk down to the harbor, look at the boats. Stop at Highland's Cafe in Thomaston and have a snack and a smoothie. And that would be that.
By the time June of 2016 rolled around, I had run a total of three times in 2016. Yet, the week before the "Summer Solstice" race, on a whim, I signed myself up and gave myself zero options of backing out.
This race marked such a pivotal moment in my life, I couldn't just sit it out or let another race go by.
Completely unprepared, even at the starting line, I tried to talk myself out of it. I'm not very competitive with others, but I'm very competitive with myself. My life's approach has always been to strive to be a better person at whatever it is I'm doing at that moment, than I was the day before.
Somehow, that mindset was shoved to the back of my mind as I was at that starting line, huddled in the back, my son buckled in his stroller, I was failing at doing whatever I could to keep myself psyched up to run off with the masses at the word "Go!"
I was going to have to walk some. It was inevitable. I had run since having a child, but not much. I was pushing a bulky stroller with a toddler tucked inside. There was no way I was going to run a mile and a half, let alone three.
That's where I struggled. When I started my running journey, all of those years ago, walking was a common occurrence. It took a lot of focus and work to get myself to the point where I could do three, four, 10, even 15 miles at one point, running the entire way. Here I was, back at zero.
This also was where I needed to snap out of it, and practice what I have told each of the moms that I have and do work with for my side gig as a prenatal and postnatal personal trainer.
"It's not about being the best, it's about giving it your best."
I had to give this race my well-deserved best. Even if it meant walking most of it, or even all of it.
An interesting thing happened once I snapped out of it. I ran. I ran flat out for just over the first mile and a half. Then I slowed just enough to check on my son (he is now 2 years old), who had fallen asleep somewhere between that point and the first full mile. Picking my pace back up, I passed by others, keeping a slow and steady pace.
I remember the following Monday, just two days after that run, posting on social media about the run.
In that post, I made a reference to my legs and heart not giving up on me for that run, just as my heart never gave up hope during our time of trying to conceive.
Yet again, there was that race, giving me more than just 20-some-odd minutes of feet fleeting over the pavement.
This year, that one run is the sole road race on my calendar. I plan on being slightly better prepared for it than I was last year. I have a few more runs under my laces than I did at this time last year.
We're not missing it.
Holly Vanorse Spicer is a member of the Courier Publications/VillageSoup/VStv sports department.
Editorial Assistant/theSCENE Director
207-594-4401, ext. 119
Holly has been part of the team at Courier Publications since mid-2009, working mostly with the sports department and with theSCENE, but occasionally lending a hand throughout the company.
She holds degrees in photography from Maine Media Workshop and University of Maine.
When she's not in the office, Holly enjoys spending time with her family, and can often be found in her garden, kayaking, running with her son, or working out. She is an avid racing fan, and enjoys watching European League Football and Major League Soccer.
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