Sunday, September 25, 2011

RUN Stella. RUN!

Before the race.
Today the Palomino girls participated in the Run of Hope Seattle 5k Race/3K walk. This fundraising event benefits and supports pediatric brain tumor research at Seattle Children’s Hospital. This hits very close to home for our family. Peyton Rudkin, a child very close to us, was diagnosed last November with DIPG or Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. This is a rare inoperable brain tumor. Today we ran and walked for Peyton and the non-profit corporation, set up in her name, Peyton’s Ranch and Comfort Critters.

I had signed up for the run a couple months ago. I was planning on having the girls walk with one of the other families that were going. On our way to Seattle this morning, Stella said, “I want to do the run with you Mom.” My first response was “No, Stella, I don’t think you are ready to run that distance.” She kept begging to do it. We drove a few more miles while I thought about this. I said, “Okay, Stella. Let’s do it. But you have to try and do your best. No wimping out. No complaining.” I decided that because she and Peyton have been close since they were one and two years old, it would be a great experience to support  her dear friend. Sophia decided to do the walk with her other friends that were participating.

Happy to finish!
So once I agreed, Stella began predicting how the race would go. I have run with Stella a few times. She’s quick, but her endurance isn’t very good. She was chiding me saying things, like, “What if I beat you Mom? What if I have to leave you behind?” I said, “No, Stella, no matter what, we are running together, side by side, and we will cross the finish line together.” She giggled and reminded me of what a great runner she is. Where does she get this ultra competitive nature? I have no idea, whatsoever. . .

We get Stella registered for the 5K. She was so tickled to get her timing chip on her shoe and her number pinned on her shirt. She was ready! I warned her, “We are going to start out slow to keep our pace. I don’t want you getting too tired, too quick.” She assured me, this was not going happen.

The race begins. We are around a quarter mile in and she looks at me and says, “I have a side ache.” I told her to keep breathing, relax, and it would go away. And we were not stopping. Another quarter mile goes by. She is not having fun at this point because she has realized that running is hard. She says to me, “I’m not having fun. This hurts. This sucks.” I say to her, “We will slow down. You will be fine.” Another quarter mile. “I want to stop.” I said, “No. Keep going.” She didn’t want to be left behind, so she kept up. Let me assure you that I have run over a mile with Stella several times so I know what she’s capable of. This wasn’t child abuse.

I told her at one mile, we could walk a few steps. It was during this last leg of the first mile that I was thinking about what life lesson this was teaching her. I began talking to her to keep her mind occupied. I told her that we were running for all of the little children that didn’t get to use their legs anymore. I reminded her how much Peyton wishes she could still run through the neighborhood with her. I told her that we were blessed to be able to use our bodies this way. I said, “Keep going for Peyton.” She did.

What I didn’t say to her, was the realization that came to me while thinking of the finish. These children didn’t get to choose this path – this distance. They don’t get to quit when it becomes unbearable. Neither do their parents. They are forced to endure the pain. They are forced to keep going until they reach what is to be their finish line. And I was more determined than ever to make Stella finish this race and understand why we have to suffer through what is sometimes very hard for us.

At mile two, we turned a corner and I saw a big, nasty hill ahead of us. Stella looked up and said, “Oh my gosh, Mom!” Then she started crying. I told her I was proud of her and we needed to run up it until she really needed a break. She made it half way up. We walked a bit. I told her the great thing about hills, is that we get to head back down it on the other side! She was not convinced. She was tired. Working those little legs! Her face was red and she was breathing hard. But she was fine. And I was certain of this, or I wouldn’t have kept pushing her.

Nearing mile 3, I told her we were almost there. Her response was, “How the heck far is .1 miles?!” I said, “Not very far baby.” I told her again, how proud of her I was. I spotted the finish line. She said she needed to walk, but she could see it up ahead. We took 5 steps and I said, “We are going to run the rest! Let’s go!”

We crossed the finish line. People cheered us on. I could see the smile of accomplishment on her face. We were both exhausted – me, mentally, her, physically. We finished in 37:52. The anger she felt toward me during the run, for pushing her so hard, melted away. She hugged me and said, “We did it Mom!”

When we got home, we talked again about why we did this. How we did it for the kids that can’t. Why our bodies are blessings. Why moving freely is a gift, that unfortunately, can be taken from us. And as she curled up in a blanket on the couch, she said to me, “I get it.” But does she? At eight? I doubt it. How can she, possibly? I can hardly grasp the unfairness of life at 41.

But I tried to make her understand. And someday she will. She will look back and recall the day her Mom made her keep going when she wanted to stop.

I hope she will be grateful for what I was trying to teach her.

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