Phew, that’s a night then. Just got my two lovely children off to bed – I think – there was some talk of a sore thumb about 10 minutes ago, but I think the hug and bandaid fixed it.
I was pondering what to write about tonight, when it occurred to me – being a parent, as well as an athlete might be relevant to some of the readers out there. The days are long gone that I could simply plan to do what I wanted to do, and then get out and do it. These days, I’ll often plan a long run, and then be called upon to go on a class excursion (these, I never miss). Or there will be a costume to make – this week, we have the “Go to school as your favorite book character” and the “Charlie Brown theme” for assembly. No problems there, then, that will be simple. There is lunch to make, cuts to bandage, swimming lessons, and gymnastics, and soccer.
And then there’s little old me – juggling and juggling, trying hard to keep up with it all, as I increase my mileage in the quest of my first ultramarathon (in a relay team). So I’m tired as I juggle too. Every now and then a ball falls, and I have to consciously not beat myself up about it. Goals are set to slip by – yes, I’ll get my first coaching client this term. No, perhaps not. My first book updated and redesigned – well, that one will have to wait too. Re-organise my home office and buy new clothes – nope.
I don’t complain. I am blessed by the complexity and fullness of my life, by the friends who ask for coffee times, by the healthy children I get to nurture. But I do find I am juggling faster and getting a bit more tired than usual.
The pursuit of all great goals is difficult. The pursuit of them in the context of family life, more so. So tonight, I’m going to cut myself a break. No, I won’t vacuum my house, or fold those silly sheets. I’m going to, instead, delve deep and contemplate why I am doing what I am doing.
When I was 19, young and lost, alone at university for the first time, I stopped riding horses for a little while. One day, I found it again. It was a homecoming of sorts, as I’d ridden horses since I was 11, and only stopped because I didn’t know where the stable was at university. I was a physics major, and I was struggling. Struggling with change, and feeling alone, with being no good at physics, with living away from home for the first time. And suddenly, there I was again, on a horse’s back, high above the earth, so able, so competent. It was the first thing I was competent at there, the first thing that made me say, yes, I can do this.
That year, I decided to ditch physics and study psychology – I wanted to know why we are as we are. Because as I rode those horses, I uncovered a self that I’d forgotten about – a confident self, a self that knew what she was doing. I decided there and then that I’d do something for others – it was going to be therapeutic horsemanship – teaching others to believe in themselves through horseback riding.
Years went by, and the horseback riding turned into weight training, which turned into teaching BodyPump, which turned into teaching people to believe in themselves through weight training. I became a personal trainer, a psychologist who did coaching. I found adventure racing, and learned that I could do things I’d never before dreamed possible, tackle trails that were dangerous, climb waterfalls, scramble up rivers, throw myself off of a pier fully clothed, and swim to shore. That horseback-rider self was still there, just discovering new ways to believe in myself.
Trail running started there for me, back in Hong Kong, learning to run fast on technical terrain, learning to trust my body on steep downhills, narrow single-track. All in pursuit of that belief in myself I had first tasted at age 19.
And now, I do it to inspire others, to show them what can be done.
For the mothers out there, juggling all the same things as me, and maybe more, I say, it can be done. The depth that trail running adds to my life surely makes me a better parent, a better wife.
Within this mad juggle of family life and training, I like to see myself as a wide-based mountain, stable, solid, able to withstand the winds of change that family life demands. That is how training allows me to see myself. Without it, I am sure all the balls I juggle would seem much, much harder to manage.