Last weekend which was beastly hot and humid, my husband and I headed north to crew for our son Andy in the Vermont 100, an endurance running race of 100 miles, You heard me, 300 athletes choosing to run that far…crazy, I admit, but nonetheless, a respectable sport for many. In any case, these runners need some assistance, “handlers” we’re called, and as such, part of a team that we hadn’t (as a family) been part of for a long time.
Packed in the trunk of the car was a cooler full of ice, organic turkey, avocado, Greek yogurt, Gatorade, and water, while the rest of the supplies were tucked neatly in the back seat…bouillon, ginger tablets, Succeed, Goop, and more. He had given us a shopping list of necessities, having run these races for ten years now and knew precisely what nourishment was needed to accomplish such a feat.
The start was in a pasture where Chariots of Fire music blared over a P.A. system at 4 am as the gun went off. We watched him run mightily into the dark knowing that we wouldn’t see him for 4 hours, at which point he would have run the equivalent of a marathon! We had learned at a pre-race meeting that each runner had developed their own survival techniques…”they know what they need,” the race director advised. “You, the crew, are there to take orders and support.”
As planned and on schedule, Andy reappeared at Stage Road, one of three at the head of the pack, with a determination in his eyes that said get me my nourishment without me having to break my stride. As he walked along gobbling yogurt, while grabbing Goop, and reaching for his two refilled bottles, he was off in less than 30 seconds, not unlike the roadrunner of cartoon fame.
With adrenaline flowing, we jumped into the car and sped off to the next station reconfiguring how we could streamline the procedure at the next aid station. This went on throughout the day…as the temperature increased, and other runners cramped or dropped, my husband and I, although increasingly worn could not admit it under the circumstances…we were driving…he was running!
In the end, Andy came in first and we were both stunned and proud.
But as we stood there watching his radiant smile and observing his stable condition, we were even more gifted by his answers to questions from onlookers and the press.
It occurred to me that you can’t run the race for your child, husband or anyone else for that matter. The runner runs his race, and we can only support him.
Moreover, endurance for any of life’s challenges takes focus, discipline, positive thinking, and a strong will. Just like when one is giving birth and the mother cannot think of another thing, so it is for many significant events.
When I asked Andy why he didn’t just run 100 K’s (which are 60 miles) he was quick with his answer: “Oh, I wouldn’t win them,” he said. “It’s the extra forty miles that most people can’t do…where they break down. That’s where my strength is…going beyond the ordinary.”
How true I thought…that everything I have ever done that I believed in took not only an extra push but all the qualities I just witnessed in my son during this race. As he says and I now concur: “It’s the hard that makes it great.”