Racing as a Master – my perspective has changed!

I will always like to run, whether I’m competing or not, but often enough the urge strikes me to register for a race and compete. By this I mean, run as fast as I can, test myself, and try to hit a certain time. I usually have a pretty good idea of where I will rank among finishers, depending on the size of the event. Sometimes in the smaller races I win outright, and sometimes I’m happy with a top-10 finish. I don’t really care about beating specific people, as my own time is what I’m aiming for. I would rather run with fast people who beat me but pull me to a faster time than come first with a slower time.

But I won’t lie: it’s nice to “medal”. Especially as my times are starting to slow down with age. I usually know on the start line by looking around whether I’ll be in the mix for a top-3 finish or not. In any races where there is significant prize money and elites show up, I put myself way down the list. Until this year when I turned 40. Suddenly there was a new (lower) bar. I could compete against older runners for a top podium spot! I’d be competing against women who had families, careers, and other major priorities outside of running. People who were older, busier, and fitting in training where they could.

I had mixed feelings. I knew (or thought) I would fare better in this new group, but I sort of felt like I’d been put out to pasture. I was competing against the “B” Team. Oh well – I would compete in this new category, but maybe really still measure myself against the runners in the open race.

The first race I competed in as an elite master was the Race Roster Spring Run-Off in April. It was -12C and windy (and hilly as it always is). At the beginning my toes and fingers were frozen, and by the end my mouth was too frozen to speak.  But the conditions were tough for everyone. If my time wasn’t the best, I still had places to run for. And this is where I learned how tough these other masters women are! I ran one of my faster times on that course and I still didn’t make the podium as a master! This was a bit of a shock to me, but also oddly exhilarating. This is no “softie” category – these women are serious athletes who kick butt! I am so pumped to be one of them – even if I’m not the best 😉 I love having others out there setting the bar high. These ladies are fierce and fearless. They have nothing to prove to anyone. Pretty sure they’re all doing this just for themselves. The funny thing is they are also super friendly and warm and seem genuinely happy that I’ve joined their ranks. No one takes themselves too seriously. We’re all “something” first, and runners maybe second, third or fourth. But don’t let that cause you to let your guard down. We will run fast and hard all the way to the finish. I am so excited for this new phase in my competitive running. Look out ladies – I’m comin’ for ya!

The top 10 finishers in this elite race show a nice range of ages!

The top 10 finishers in this elite race show a nice range of ages!

The sad reality for kids of runners

I feel badly for them sometimes, I do. They didn’t ask to be the kids of a runner. It’s not their fault their mom runs every day – sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes hills, sometimes on a treadmill, sometimes long, sometimes short. Every day I run. That, they are fine with. It’s been part of their ‘normal’ since they were born. No one questions it or wishes it weren’t so. Mom running is like mom making them food when they’re hungry or kissing them when they’re hurt – it is a given.

But what they are left with is this: a mom who is ALWAYS in need of a good foot massage. And whose feet are pretty calloused up and rough to boot. Whenever we are all lying down together – watching t.v. on the couch or reading in bed, I start to feel the irresistible urge to ask someone to massage my feet. That’s when the bargaining begins: “But they’re so GROSS!!!” “Please? I’ll read you an extra chapter…” “Can you wear double socks?” “Ok, but you’ll have to do it harder” and so on. In reality I usually do 15 minutes extra of reading for one or two half-hearted squeezes to my arches, but it never stops me from asking.

The other weekend was Mother’s Day. I could tell my son was very excited about the gift he was going to give me. He almost gave it away, but managed to keep it a secret until he presented it to me in the morning after I’d returned from my run. It was a diamond encrusted electric foot buffer. But let’s call it what it really is: a callous shaver with the hardest substance known to man ready to take on my rock-hard feet.

The most powerful callous warrior I've met

The machine with tiny diamonds encrusted on the belt

His gift was that he was going to buff my feet until they were baby smooth, and THEN give me a foot massage that he could bear. (I suspect the fact that the machine was electric and looked and sounded like an industrial wood planer added to the appeal for him.) So we sat down and I read while he went to work on my feet. I couldn’t help but laugh at how seriously he took it! He was so intent on filing down every single patch of rough skin. There was “dust” (aka dead callous skin) flying while he worked away, never tiring, just planing away at my feet with all the effort he could muster. The buzzing went on for so long and was so intense that my husband said after he wondered whether I’d have any feet left at all. But they ended up perfectly, beautifully smooth. My son had done an amazing job. (He then half-heartedly massaged them, but the real effort had been done). It was the best Mother’s Day gift ever.

It occurred to me that this may not have been the same Mother’s Day experience as most of his peers. But breakfast in bed will never work for me. I’m up and running and building foot callouses before anyone else is up. This is my kids’ reality – like it or not. They got a runner as a mom.