Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Unexpected Victory

If you had told me when the Boys were little that one of them would grow up to be President of the United States, or a Nobel Prize winner, or an astronaut, or the conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, I wouldn't have laughed. I would have thought about the possibilities for a second, nodded, then said "Yeah, that sounds about right."

If you had told me one of the Boys would grow up to run a marathon, though, I would have giggled hysterically.

Of all the many fine qualities our Boys can claim, athleticism is not one. The gene pools combined by  Husband and me predestined them to be ultra-competitive, which is an asset to an athlete, but also slow, which is not. Husband added extreme near-sightedness and I contributed total lack of eye-hand coordination to the DNA mix, so it was a huge relief when they aged out of team sports in eighth grade and we no longer had to endure the just-missed soccer goals and innings spent in left field.

It wasn't until he had graduated from college that Boy#2 decided he wanted to run. He started jogging to drop the pounds undergraduate life had slipped onto his long frame and I didn't quite understand that decision. Do you like to run? I asked him. No, he told me, but I like having run.

It's easier to do something you don't really like to do if you have a goal, so he ran a 5K, then a 10K, then he persuaded Boy#4 to join him in running the Bearathon, a half-marathon that raises scholarship funds at the university they both attended. And last weekend Two ran the Rock and Roll Marathon in Washington.

He had prepared for the race by sending me a link to an article that detailed the various ways marathon runners can die in a race, and photos of racers who had pooped their pants (explosively) while they ran. In the interest of your eyeball health I am not linking to these pictures, and Google them at your own peril. Apparently this is a thing, which I had known nothing about. So helpful, that son of mine.

On Saturday I walked with him to the start line. Marathon runners are typically tiny and compact--think Frank Shorter, or those angular Kenyans who win Olympic golds. Two, by contrast, is nearly 6'4". He was not the most unusual-looking in the race, though; this was the weekend before St. Patrick's Day and there were leprechauns galore, as well as one bearded runner in a shamrock-covered full-body unitard. I kept track of Two in the sea of 25,000 runners by watching for the guy in the banana suit who crossed the start line at the same time. But I kept thinking about how unlike a runner my son is. Did those runners who died share his body type?

The next time we saw Two he was at the halfway point of the race. His normal daily runs are 13 miles, so he was still fresh and joking as he posed for a picture with his brothers and Lovely Girl, gulped down Gatorade, filled his pockets with Gummi Bears, and stepped back into the stream of runners.

And then, at the 25 mile point, I hit the video button on my camera phone when we saw him coming down the hill toward the spot where were cheering on the runners. "Woooooo, Two!" you hear me shrieking in playback. "You're doing great! WOOOOOOOOO!" and then my voice drops as I whisper to Lovely Girl "Oh, my gosh, he looks terrible," and amplifies again. "Only a mile to go! You can do this!"

Later he would admit that he felt just as terrible as he looked, but when I saw him next he was coming toward me wrapped in one of those space blankets, and he was wearing a finisher's medal and a grin. He had completed the course that took him past Washington's most scenic spots and then through its seedier side before dropping into the finish line at RFK Stadium. He finished with a respectable time, midway through all finishers and his age group.

In the middle of hugging him I realized I was on the verge of tears, verklempt with pride that was mixed with relief that he had not died. Kids never finish surprising their parents, but this was an achievement I would never have predicted:

Boy#2 ran a marathon.

1 comment:

  1. Please tell Two how proud, amazed and in awe I am of him!! I came from similar a gene pool as Two (and passed them right on down the stream), and can not imagine overcoming the struggles of the training and actual the event. His perseverance will pay off in more ways that that medal around his neck - although it's a lovely medal. :)
    And from the Mom's view - I too would have been breathing a sigh of relief to see him finish on his feet (especially after seeing him in the throes of exhaustion). I've found often enough that this Mom-job is fraught with times of anxiety, but it sure teaches us how wonderful it is to celebrate another's accomplishments.