The boys in my life – husband, son, brother – take great and reoccurring joy in giving me grief about my fear of falling. Skiing? Bring on the bunny hill, snow plow, “ski like a mom” standup routine. Running in the dark? “I don’t know what you’re afraid of – just pick up your feet.” I have heard every version, and at this point I basically tune it out, but the last round made me pause. My son looked at me from across the kitchen island with all of the sincerity a 16-year old can muster and came out with this: “You know, Mom, if you don’t fall down once in a while, you just aren’t running hard enough.”
A week later, my husband and I were in Seattle for a getaway, test driving soon-to-be-empty-nester freedoms. Because we are who we are and do what we do, this included getting up in the dark and drizzle to run an extremely local, West Seattle Half Marathon as the first leg of an 18-mile marathon training day on the recommendation of another Wilder alum. I should further preface this by saying that in my corner of the world, Fall is mostly brown. In Seattle this particular weekend, the city was alive with all of autumn’s glory – vibrant and rich and impossible to ignore reds and golds set against deep evergreens and the slate grey of the sea.
And so it came to be that I had co-equal goals that race day: run the shit out of the race whilst leaf-peeping.
Predictably, running fast while looking up at the trees landed me firmly, awkwardly, painfully on all fours on the cement at mile 5.
I do not fall. And so, when I did, it was a hard and unexpected shock coupled with rapid fire panic and awareness: my marathon, my knees, my hands, the pain, and the beeping of runners’ Garmin watches as they paused mid-race to make sure that I was okay. There was the sound of my own deep breath as I stood. I’m standing. I am bleeding, I hurt, but, again, I am standing. Lauren Fleshman’s voice in the back of my mind: “Can you physically run?” I don’t know.
At first it was tentative and uncertain, assessing all of the aches and pains, then it turned to a steady but uncomfortable jog, before landing on a resolute and joyful run. Because I knew that I ran hard, I fell, I picked myself up, I mindfully shook it off, and I kept going.
I finished the 13.1, then I cleaned myself up, and ran 5 more.
“If you don’t fall down once in a while, you just aren’t running hard enough.”
I would add that if you don’t fall down once in a while, and learn how to get up and keep going, you will never know what you are capable of accomplishing.
Run hard. Push your limits. Know that you are okay if you fall. Pick yourself up again.
Then celebrate the fact that you can.