It has been a month and two days since my third Chicago Marathon. The last time I completed a marathon was in 2011, back when it was just me and Jaz and we could really just do anything we wanted anytime we wanted. That was two years before Justine came along and completely changed how I viewed life. This year I wanted to tackle this accomplishment again, now knowing I had a little more behind me – the experience of being a parent.
This year, to add more motivation to stick with the training, I fundraised for the Ronald McDonald House. They helped Jazmine and I so much while Justine was in the NICU at Lurie Children’s Hospital. It was a very different experience fundraising for them compared to other charities I have fundraised for in the past. We have a Facebook group where all of the current and past runners for RMHC come to share experiences both on the course and off. I cried reading some of those stories, sometimes because it sounded so much like us and sometimes because they were not as fortunate as us. I knew that this group was what I needed to keep me going through training.
In my previous marathons, I did not have to coordinate times around a child’s sleep schedule. As Justine gets older, her sleep habits have not been consistent. Some nights she sleeps 10 hours, some night only 6 hours. She may or may not take a nap in the middle of the day. And the worst of it was that this summer we were weaning her off of one medication, so she would wake up screaming when she would finally sleep. We are convinced she was going through some kind of withdrawal. For about 4 months she was not a happy camper so that led to very early runs for me, running at lunch time, or right after work to make sure I was home as soon as possible to relieve Jaz of her Stay at Home Mom duties. Occasionally Justine required much more attention so I had to skip a few scheduled runs. I admit, early on I was irritated when I would miss a run. If you are a runner you know how missing a run can really mess with your head. I came to the realization that my situation was not like others and that everyone has to deal with their own obstacles to get their training in. Life is far from perfect, but that should not stop you from doing the things you want to do.
I am not a fast runner. Some may call it jogging, or quick walking. My goal this entire season was to just finish the marathon. Because of this, I take a longer time finishing training runs than most people training for a marathon. It was ok early on. But when the mileage built up to 6-7 mile runs during the week and then up to 16-20 miles over the weekend, that is a lot of time away from the family. In previous years after those long run Saturdays, I would just crash in my bed and fall asleep for hours. Now, having a family, I did not want to miss out on our weekend together so I always made it a point to go out with Jaz and Justine right after I got back from my long run. As much as I needed the long run for my training, I needed the family time with Jaz and Justine for balance. I never wanted to appear selfish about taking too much time away from my family while training for the race.
I was satisfied with how I trained this year. I trained smart, backing off when I felt like I needed to and pushing when I knew I had more in the tank. My biggest worry through the entire season was making sure I was still a good father and husband to my family. All of the hours I ran, or thought about running, or getting ready to run, or going somewhere to run was time away from my family that I knew was necessary for training. I wanted to be healthy enough to finish the marathon as well as be functional and not too sore to hang out with my family. That was the hardest and most rewarding part of training, balancing running with my life. And in the end, I hope that I am a better father and husband for it.