It’s game day.

Or, more specifically, meet day. As I’m writing this, three of my four daughters are gearing up for their first cross country meet of the season. The nervous energy in our home is almost too thick to walk through.

The youngest girls are twins; they’re freshmen. The meet is their first high school sporting event. Actually, it’s their first competitive event ever. They spent most of their childhood following their older sisters around to their events and had no desire to follow suit. While I was absolutely fine with the twins wanting to play a supporting role when they were young, I encouraged them to find something they could participate in now that they are older. The chosen activity … cross country.

Let’s be honest. Long-distance running isn’t for the faint of heart. In fact, your heart must be in it, or your mind will bounce out on you the second things get tough. And when you’re running for miles and miles, things get tough all the freaking time.

Can I get an amen?

As I prepare for another Des Moines IMT half marathon, it’s painfully obvious that I don’t know anything about running. Not really, anyway. I google training plans and listen to podcasts for nutrition advice. Then, I have to talk myself into long runs … and out of margaritas. I am the definition of an amateur. I’m not qualified to be handing out running advice to anyone.

However, I have learned some things about our sport that qualify me to be a runner’s mom. Or, in my case, several runners. When one of my girls sat beside me on the couch and confessed her pre-race concerns, this is how I responded:

What if I’m the last one?

I’ll be cheering the loudest for the last one. That last one is truly tough. The runner who crosses the finish line behind the others is kicking the butts of those who never even dared to start in the first place.

I feel pressure because you will be watching.

Baby girl, I’m going to be your cheerleader for the rest of your life. I’m not analyzing you; I’m supporting you always, no matter what. We all need those types of people in our lives, and we need to be that person for others.

My sister told me not to go out hard and to run with her.

This is your race. You run your race. Your sister will run her race. You are not competing against each other. You are competing against all the things that will make you want to quit.

What if I have to walk?

Then you walk. But you keep moving. As long as you’re not hurt, fight to put one foot in front of the other until you cross the finish line.

What if I’m slow?

Oh, sweet girl … what if you fly?

 I could answer my daughter’s musings because I’ve wrestled with the same concerns time and time again. Running has forced me to face so many insecurities. I didn’t start running until my 40s, so I assumed I wouldn’t be “good” at it. Breaking through that mindset took a lot of work.

Most importantly, however, I’m overall a better thinker than I used to be. Running has made me wiser. More tactical. Thoughtful in my approach. I have almost mastered the voices in my head that try to go negative.

I’m not sure if my pep talk helped my daughter, but I know she was incredible at the cross country meet. In fact, all three of them were fantastic. None of them walked. They weren’t last. And in the end, they were proud of themselves. It’s exciting to know that they will learn their own life lessons at their own pace, one race at a time.

As we get closer to our “Game Day,” known as the IMT Des Moines Marathon, I want you to know that I’m in the amateur trenches with you. I’m a mom, putting my money where my mouth is, showing my girls that tough things are accomplished when we get out of our own way.

I invite you to connect with me. Let me know how your training is going. Would you have answered my daughter’s concerns differently? What’s your internal pep talk sound like during a race? I’d love to hear what’s on your mind. Please email me at aclinton00@gmail.com.

Stay well, my friends.

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