I really don’t know the woman I’ve become.
You see, the junior-high version of me could barely pass the one-mile run test in PE. And she hated. every. minute.
But the 30-something version of me decided my next adventure in torture and exhilaration should include running. I began with 5Ks, then 10Ks, then half marathons. I have even done one full marathon — 26.2 miles of fun. Or something like that.
This past weekend, I completed my seventh half marathon during the OneAmerica Indy 500 Festival Mini Marathon. It rained the entire time. Not one stitch of my clothing was dry. My fingers and toes were, I was sure, permanently “raisin-ed.” (Yes, that’s a word.)
What did I discover during this experience?
The life lessons learned through running and through youth livestock shows overlap in amazing ways. Hopefully, my children can pick up a few of these lessons through their experience of watching their crazy momma on this crazy journey.
- You have to get out there and put in the work – day in and day out. No excuses. Whether it’s lacing up the running shoes for a training run in the sleet and rain, when running sounds like the dumbest idea ever – or whether it’s pulling on the chore boots when you just don’t feel like it, by golly – you’ll never see the results you desire if you don’t do the work at home.
- Great people exist, and they’ll help when you need it most.The weather on race day could not have been more horrific – rain, ranging from mist to torrential downpour. It was downright miserable.
Yes, running through puddles, in soaking clothes with raisin fingers and toes was one thing. But the entire course of every race I’ve run has been lined with hundreds of volunteers, and many supporters simply there to offer cheers and support. They stood, getting soaked to the core, for hours on end. Now that’s what I call miserable.
But they were cheering and clapping and shouting words of encouragement. And I’ll tell you what, when you’re just not sure of your legs will take you one more step at mile 22 of a full marathon, that simple, “You’re doing great!” can make a world of difference. (And cause a sap like me to cry, too.)
I’ve seen it time and again in the livestock show world, too. Fellow show parents stepping in to help when they see a fellow parent in need. They’re not doing it for the reward. They’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. And it’s incredible.
- Seek the advice of experts.Mentors are invaluable, regardless of the scenario. And I’ve found in both running and youth livestock shows, they’re more than happy to help someone in need. Throughout every race I’ve run, many running friends across the country have offered invaluable advice. On how to make it past “the wall” that hits many marathoners at Mile 20. (Or for me, on mile 13.4 of an 18-mile training run. What an ugly day.) Our friends in the cattle industry? Absolutely the same – and always there with advice when needed.
- Run your own race, not the race of the person next to you. One such experienced friend and runner, Regan, reminded me of this wisdom just before my first half marathon several years ago. How true – whether it be in running or in the show ring. Everyone is on a different journey. Everyone has different goals and experience. Don’t be discouraged by your point in the journey, in relation to the person next to you. The only one to compete against? The person you were yesterday.
- Family supports each other, no matter what.Did I mention how miserable the weather was on race day? It’s a trend. It rains for every race I run. (Yes, I’m a treat.)
But during that full marathon three years ago, I saw the greatest support from my family. My cousin and her then-boyfriend were standing at Mile 6 to cheer me on. And met me again at Mile 22, running alongside and offering encouragement for nearly a mile.
And when I entered the University of Illinois Memorial Stadium, which is home to the Illinois Marathon finish line, I could not have been more overwhelmed to see my husband, kids, mom, and cousins – smiling and cheering with their handmade, glitter-adorned, poster-board signs. And after running for 5 hours and 29 minutes – they were just the inspiration I needed to power through to the end. That’s just what family does.
My hope? That our children feel that same exhilaration and sense of pride when they see their parents and siblings awaiting them as they exit the ring at every show. My excitement for them is completely glittery-sign worthy. And if I could be holding up a handmade sign to cheer on my kids in the ring, I’d absolutely do it. (Oh, yes. I would.)
Yes, I learned far more than breathing techniques and the benefits of energy gels throughout my marathon training. I learned a lot about life, too.
Will I take on a half marathon again? I’m sure I will. A full marathon? Well, after three years, I’m still not feeling that need. But never say “never.”
One thing I know for certain. Whether it be in running or helping our children achieve their goals in the show ring, so many lessons are learned by staying the course.