47. Waterworks

47. Waterworks

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners


Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.
~Steel Magnolias

I slowly made my way to the finish line. The baby rolled in my large belly and I had to stop until she finished adjusting.

“Only four weeks left,” I reminded myself when she finally settled in and I started off again. “Come on, or we’ll miss your dad,” I told my three boys. We were going to support my husband as he ran his first 5K.

We found a spot where we could watch the runners cross the finish line. My boys ran circles around me as we waited. I felt like a sun with all my little worlds circling around me. No wonder pregnant women feel like the center of the universe, I was large enough to have my own gravitational pull.

A ripple went through the crowd as the first runners came into view. I looked at the time clock and my jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe that someone could run so fast. I watched as people cheered for their spouses and children and kids cheered for their parents. There was this surge of emotion and everything in view started swimming as my eyes filled with tears. I was so proud of each runner.

“You made it,” I’d yell and clap as they ran past me.

One lady was struggling. “You’re almost there!” I encouraged.

Then my husband came into view. “Cheer for Dad,” I told my boys.

They lined up and started yelling, “Go Dad! Yeah Dad!” their little hands clapping hard and fast. If I had been holding back the tears before, I couldn’t now. Watching my boys cheering for their hero struck a chord and, while my smile was as wide as the race was long, tears streamed down my cheeks.

Craig crossed the finish line and found us. I kissed him in congratulations and he wiped my cheeks. We both laughed off the tears as hormones. I may have been emotional, but after three other pregnancies I’d learned to laugh at myself.

“Next year I’m running with you,” I told him.

So the next year we lined up together with the other runners. This time I had butterflies in my tummy and no matter what I did they wouldn’t settle down. I had been running for a couple of months and felt ready to run 3.2 miles, but the whole race atmosphere was new.

The course wound through a small town — past the church and school and through a couple of neighborhoods. There was only one hill to climb and that was at the start of the last mile. I could do this.

The race official yelled, “On your mark,” and my adrenaline spiked.

I heard her yell “Go,” and it was all I could do not to break into a sprint. Craig took off and stayed thirty feet ahead of me for the remainder of the race. I wasn’t really worried about beating him — because there was no way it was going to happen. I focused on regulating my breathing.

I’d been going steady for about two and a half miles when a little boy and his dad came running out of their house and started cheering for the woman ten feet ahead of me.

“Go Mom!” the boy shouted as he pumped his fists in the air. Mom smiled and waved with both hands. It was so touching that my heart opened up and tears fell out. I was crying — again. Arg! What was with me and crying at races? I slowed down as my breath came a little harder. I hit a button on my iPod and a hard pounding song blasted into my ears. I shook myself — literally — and was able to keep going.

I hit the hill and climbed it like a champ. I was feeling so high. I headed around the last turn and had the finish line in sight. Right next to the timekeeper was Craig and he was yelling for me. I was so happy and proud that I started tearing up. I reached down and found the reserve I’d held and sprinted to the finish. I ran past him and took another twenty feet to slow down. I stopped for just a moment and leaned over to catch my breath.

“How was it?” Craig asked as he rubbed my back.

I looked up, showing the tears on my cheeks, and saw the concern on his face. “What’s the matter?” he asked.

“Oh this?” I wiped the tears from my face. “I always cry at a run.” He shook his head and laughed at me as I laughed at myself.

I’ve run many races since that day and there hasn’t been one that I haven’t cried at. I never know when the tears are going to strike or what will set them off. Kids cheering for their parents do it to me every time. Other times it’s feelings of gratitude for what my body is able to do. Sometimes it’s just the feeling of accomplishment as I beat my last time. They are good tears — tears of pride, of happiness, of hope, of admiration — I guess I get emotional when I run. I’m not usually an emotional person, but running gives me such a high that I can’t hold back.

So I’ll see you at the races — I’ll be the one with a box of tissues.

~Christina Dymock

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