Did you do your homework?

Did you do your homework?

Steve Marra  /  October 14, 2014

I’ve done marathon and greater distances, survived Badwater, Death Valley at 123F, but this upcoming trail night marathon was going to be pushing it. 26.2 miles in the dark on narrow trails with 5,000 feet of climbing was pretty much all I was thinking about while driving to Golden Gate Recreation area. Upon arriving, it was still light enough to see the terrain and if I was intimidated by the fog and wind, I was really nervous when I saw how hilly the area was. It reminded me how I felt becoming a parent, nervous and thinking I can probably do this. The race started and immediately went up hill, really up hill, steeply uphill, sort of scary uphill. There were other runners around so there were little cones of light here and there but soon we were pretty spread out and alone. Just like parenting, at first aunts and uncles and friends are around and then at some point, there you are alone with this kid that you have to take care of.

I made it to the first aid station and was thrilled to be in a lighted tent with other runners and race volunteers who re filled my hydration pack and gave me hot soup to drink and who I think were happy they were not out there in the dark. I left the aid station and soon was totally alone and it felt like I was running but not moving, just a cone of light and a nagging feeling that more then likely I was going the right way but not really sure. Wow, this run feels exactly like parenting. Did I handle that interaction ok, is this the right way to parent? I came to trail junctions and was not sure which way to turn. Yes, this is like deciding to send your kid to pre-school or stay home with the kid, which is the right way to go?

I searched for the yellow ribbons that marked the course and hoped for the best. But there are no yellow ribbons to tell parents the right way to go. I thought about my kids at home safe and sound and about past interactions and how I might have responded differently. I thought about how my endurance events link to how I parent. I tell my daughters that when faced with some seemingly huge task not to think about the entire task but to break it down into manageable chunks. Just run to the next tree is the same as just get the next homework assignment done. When I’m doing a long event like a marathon, I can’t think about 26.2 miles, it is just too big of a number to process but I can run to the next tree and the tree after that. I set small micro goals that eventual lead to a successful conclusion. I suggest to my college applying daughter, just get the essay written and then move on to the next task.

Endurance events are really a long series of micro goals to achieve and parenting is the same. Make it through dinner, clean up after dinner, walk the dog and just keep going. The Zen part of being in the moment never clicked for me but the micro goal part sure has. Anyway, this was the stuff I was thinking about during that long windy cold foggy night of 26.2 miles. Then I crossed the Finish Line and thought about parenting, accepting that unlike a race, for us parents there is no Finish Line. So I’ll keep running and asking “did you do your homework?”