Kizmet. Serendipity. Destiny. Meant to be. Sometimes a gift comes along that you know you were meant to have.
I don’t know if my running gave me her friendship, or if her friendship gave me running. They are mixed together like coffee and cream, like sugar in tea--dissolving into each other, each making the other better. She’s my best friend.
For all of us, friendship matters in our quality of life, but I’ve never found this more true for me than in my days as a stay-at-home mom. It can be a lonely time, because between the moments of blissed-out motherhood are unparalleled doldrums and disconnection. So maybe it was desperation that made me do it. When this preschool mom came to me with the idea of running a marathon, I said yes.
My first impression of her was that she was petite (a body-type that has always greened me with envy), and that she possessed the self-assured friendliness (again, making me green) that puts a person at ease. In contrast, I’m a strange breed of extroverted introvert, or introverted extrovert. I love people; they cheer me up, motivate me, and give me something to look forward to...until I need to run away and hide in a hole for a few hours or days to recuperate from social exertion. I am an extro-intro. (I’m officially copyrighting the shortening of introverted and extroverted to intro and extro.)
She was a young mom too, staying home with her kiddos. She had been a runner in high school. She was smart, which was apparent from our first conversation, and she was nice. (She’ll swear she’s not, but don’t believe her.) Apparently I fooled her into thinking I had some mix of running nice-smartness in me too, so when she overheard me mention that I had run a few half-marathons (or maybe she saw me wear one of my race shirts), she suggested I step it up and run the whole shebang. 26.2 miles. The distance between Marathon and Athens that killed Pheidippides when he ran it. She ignored my “by-the-time-I’m-forty” delay tactic, and hammered the last nail in my coffin the next day by bringing in a handwritten 5-month plan, charting every run and rest day, that would make me marathon-ready. And it all fit on one page!
How did she know I would be convinced by the optical illusion of fitting it all on one sheet of paper? Do I look that gullible? How could she guess that I was thirsty for the implicit offer of friendship and support during the process? Did I look that desperate? Maybe so. I’m so glad. Because by scratching out, with thick, deep pen-scratches, everyone of those 88 training runs on that itsy-bitsy piece of paper--okay, I skipped a couple--I made it to race day. I became a marathoner. And that offer of friendship? She more than made good on it.
Better than good. For every marathon I’ve run, she’s run the race too. She’s speedier than the Road Runner, so she always finishes with enough time to spare to refuel, rest up just a bit, and yes even fit in a quick shower, before she retraces her hard-earned miles to meet me and run me in as I finish my race in a state of tearful, expletive-laden decay.
And during training, she celebrates my strong long runs and talks me off the ledge when a slow short run with lead-heavy legs makes me feel like a loser and a fraud.
And when a little stress in my life makes me feel like I’m metaphorically running up a mountain, she reminds me to be grateful. Because our uphill is the rest of the world’s downhill, and on a bad day I’ve got it better than 99.9% of the world, and people wish they had my problems.
And as my kids grow, she sees and knows them and their beauty and accomplishments, and she offers her own children to them as true, dear friends.
And when my dad was so sick we didn’t know if he would make it through the night, I knew I could call her so my kids could stay over at her house and Gene could sit with me through those hard and scary hours. I didn’t even have to ask; I knew she was there for me to give me what I needed, damn the disruption to her schedule or routines.
And she understands that though I am often conflicted and confused, I can be trusted to act from conviction. And she believes that writing my blog isn’t a waste of my time and reading it isn’t a waste of hers. And she listens when I ramble, and laughs with me when I laugh at myself. She’s patient with me as I learn how to be a better listener. She’s present for me as I learn to live in the moment.
We’re different. She’s fast; I’m slow. She’s skinny; I’m not. I cling; she relaxes. I believe in God; she doesn’t. None of it changes the gift I’ve gotten. She’s my best friend, and I aspire to be worthy of being hers. To listen as well as she does and support like she can and live with the hard-won, easy strength she emulates.
There is one thing I’m better at than she is. I brag; she doesn’t. You see, becoming a marathoner has taught me a lot about my own strength and capacity. Therefore, I believe it is a virtue to celebrate my accomplishments loudly in the presence of others. By doing so, I strip myself of the excuses that might keep me from trying harder or doing the right thing. So today, I’m gonna finish this blog by bragging for her. She deserves it:
3:05 marathon finishing time
10th female finisher overall
1st in her age division
That’s my best friend!