For Hood-to-Coast: Inspired by mamas
We wrote this piece about our running inspiration for a contest held by the Run Oregon blog. We didn't win: but we poured (all of) our hearts and souls into it, so ecco! You inspire us:
It is early, early in the morning one Saturday in August, 2007. I am in a field somewhere in the winding roads and misty mountains of Northwest Oregon and I am stealing a little sleep with my six-and-a-half week-old baby. When he wakes to eat, I put him in the sling and walk through the rows of vans with a friend, who's been helping to care for him these past 20-some hours.
A voice catches us with wisdom, smiles, from between two vans. "Oh! A baby!" says one woman. She's at least 15 years my senior, maybe more. She's with her teammate. "Oh, so many babies have been nursed in our vans," says the other. There are tears at the corners of their eyes. It is nostalgia but something else: a camaraderie rooted in millennia, "The Red Tent" but different, modern and ancient at once. We have been where you are, we know. My own teammate and I look at each other, overcome in that inimitable way we are so often in the 30-some hours a year we spend running the Hood-to-Coast relay, flushed with the warmth despite the chill wet air, here, in a grass parking lot near Birkenfeld, Oregon.
We are an all-mama team; under the care of this year's 12 women are 28 children. And what inspires us most is each other, and all the other mamas whose paths we cross on the road, in the parking lots, and the ones we've left at home cheering us on. We are inspired by mamas.
I have only to click slowly, randomly through a slide show of our three years' experience and tears again spring to my eyes. Last year, there was Hau, nine weeks pregnant with her third. She hadn't told many of us yet and at 2 a.m. Saturday morning there she was, running an extra three miles when our Van 1 went to the wrong exchange. I remember how dark it was. And how fun. How my teammates leaned out the window to cheer one another on as we pounded, pregnant and not pregnant, mile after un-lonely mile through the darkest, zaniest sleepover we've ever imagined.
There is Andrea, who in 2008 shared her breast pump with me when I could stand the plugged ducts no longer; there is every mother who has ever hand-expressed milk into a ditch, joking about the precious liquid's expendability when it becomes this: a hot tight pain that fills your chest and takes precedence over blister, shin splint, sore muscles. There is Robyn, who in 2007 ran through an injury, cheerfully reminding us that it wasn't nearly as bad as childbirth.
There is Shetha, who planned her second pregnancy around our failed entry in Hood-to-Coast 2006. We were given a spot in April; she met us at the finish line with congratulations, snacks and her eight-months belly. There is Olivia, whose happy accident of a third pregnancy wasn't going to stop her from running this year -- until her baby's placenta moved into an awkward position and her obstetrician ordered her grounded. In their absence, their longing to run with us, they inspire us, they push us with their expansive love down those gravelly roads in the middle of the night, up those hills in the heat of an August noon.
There are our children and husbands: they are proud, they love us, they support us, they greet us at the finish line with sticky hugs and kisses that do not mind our sweat. But it is each other that inspires us, the mamaraderie, that generous giddy togetherness that is like nothing else. In no other weekend do we have that opportunity to, for once, share one another's spirit and pain and triumph and struggle in a team endeavor that is purely physical and at the same time entirely emotional, rift through with yoga and sleeplessness and music and laughter and love and esprit de corps and the constant reminder that this, this is worth doing not so much for the test of our mettle but for the window it opens into each other's souls and oh! the grace, the love, the inspiration.