Mile 26

Walden Pond near Concord, MA.
So lots of people complained about this year’s early fall weather, but I l-o-v-e it. I love everything about fall, and the cool temperatures this year mean our baby is just about ready to join us. I remember thinking, when the snow melted in April, that we’d have to make it through two more seasons before we’d get to meet him.
One of my favorite things about fall- my favorite Sunday of the whole year, in fact- is the Twin Cities Marathon. The course is beautiful and well-attended. I’ve run it twice and enthusiastically spectated several times. When we calculated our late September due date, one of my first thoughts was that if he was early enough, we’d be able to bring him to see his first race, and if he was late enough, he might be born on Marathon Sunday, which would also make me so happy.

The leaders of the pack at Mile 3.

If you live in the metro and have never gone to see the marathon, go. Go this year, with two pieces of advice: first, ride your bike to avoid the maddening traffic jams; and second, cheer for the runners loudly and sincerely, but remember that the one thing you should never, ever say to them is, “You’re almost there!” unless you are literally standing 50 yards from the finish line. At Mile 22, another four might not seem like a comparatively long way, but first of all, it’s four-point-two more miles and more importantly, the runner you’re trying to support has already run 22 miles and every step at that point is a challenge, if not something close to agony.

I am nearly 40 weeks pregnant now, and from the beginning, I have framed my pregnancy and labor experiences in terms of a marathon. As a first-time mother and three-time marathon finisher, this was the closest analog I could find. (Even more fitting is that at this year’s TC Marathon, runners will get Summit beer after they cross the finish line, and if you don’t think beer is part of my labor plan, then we are clearly not close friends.) It is particularly salient at the moment because, though it’s true that our baby could safely be born at this very minute, it is also true that he might not make an appearance for another two weeks. Among the more common comments I’ve fielded lately:

“See you tomorrow- maybe!”

“It’s any day now!”

If you’re available next week, we can plan x, y, or z.”

And of course:

“You’re almost there!”

People are only well-meaning, I know, but I find myself constantly reminding them that the majority of first babies are born after their due dates, which is to say that I’m constantly reminding myself that I will likely have this baby in very late September, maybe even in early October. This is okay with me. As a teacher, I’ve had a lot of practice with patience, and while I do still swear when I get stuck behind buses, I no longer give the finger to the drivers. So you see, I can exercise patience- but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

When you run a marathon, you can’t think about Mile 26 or 22 or even 14 when you’re at Mile 10. You have to keep yourself in the moment because otherwise the task ahead of you is too daunting. You have to think about putting one foot in front of the other, about swinging your left arm and then your right arm, about one more mile. Perhaps people who win marathons require a sense of urgency to stay ahead of the pack, but since the only way I’d win a marathon is if I rode on some superstar’s back and so far all of my requests to do this have been denied, what I need most in a long race is patience.

I had to give up running at 24 weeks because the pressure on my bladder made it not so much fun anymore, and I miss it like whoa. But in just a little while, I’ll be back at it, and I can wait. Just don’t remind me that that’s what I’m doing.

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