Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Great Race - Two Perspectives

Before a real race.  The matching shirts are a story for another time.

BY Melissa Kinsey and her daughter 

In my imagination, I am racing through the forest like Daniel Day-Lewis in "Last of the Mohicans," chasing the deer ahead of me.  I run low to the ground, fairly dancing as I maneuver over tree roots, rocks and other obstacles in pursuit of my prey.

In reality, I am a middle-aged mother and my "prey" is my young-adult daughter, who took a sizable lead on the run out and, having slapped me a low-five when passing on her return, is running strong ahead of me.

With the aid of the gentle downhill, I have picked up speed and confidence and am running at near top-speed.  As I hit the flat part of the run, I spy Natalie ahead and immediately envy her relaxed running form.  But she is not as far ahead as I had thought and there is a chance I can catch her.  Knowing I will struggle on the hill just before the final stretch, I kick into high gear while on the flats.  I have given this run pretty much my all, but pride allows me to dig just a little deeper and I push just that much harder.

When I see Natalie turn the last corner at the crest of the hill, I resolve to take that hill strong for a change as we have just a short distance remaining to the finish line.  My legs ache and my lungs burn but I pump my arms and push, push to the top.  Stomach churning now, pending victory allows me to ignore it and I break into a sprint.  As I approach, Natalie glances over her shoulder and I register the look of shock on her face.  She picks up her pace but too late!  I surge ahead and hang on past the water fountain and to victory!

As I turn to watch Natalie cross the finish line, I raise my arms in victorious display.  "I can't believe I beat you!" I manage to get out, breathlessly.  Eerily unwinded, she replies: "I wish I'd have known we were racing . . . "

Hm.  Still a victory, right?  And anyway, isn't every run a race?!

I never even knew we were racing.  I innocently thought this was another mother-daughter run on our favorite trail, Tryon Creek State Park in Portland, Oregon.  In what had become somewhat of a routine, we belted out the 4 Non-Blondes feminist anthem “What’s Up?” on the drive over, and I was still hearing the “yeah yeah yeah’s” as I wound my way along the path. 

Tryon Creek is one of the best places to run in the Portland metropolitan area.  Our favorite loop is a 4-mile out-and-back route that starts with a wide path and a downward slope, but transitions into a single-file path with an array of cramp-inducing hills and a variety of obstacles (rocks, roots, rivulets, and bridges included) after a half-mile.  Knowing that my mom likes to run solo (I’d been told, “I can’t talk!” and “stop talking to me!” enough times), and that her pace is typically considerably slower than mine, I started out strong to put some distance between us. I was enjoying the light rain that I had come to expect from Oregon, the sound of the wind in my ears, and the pending feeling of success against a worthy opponent (although in this case, I viewed the trail as the opponent - not my mother).  I careened up and over the undulating terrain; navigating whatever obstacles I approached, willing myself to the top of the final ascent before turning around.

Passing my mom on the way back I silently slipped her a sisterly five, thinking how great it was that she was out here pushing herself at her age. "Good for her!" I thought to myself.  And with that, I eased up.  With an idea of the distance between us, and the knowledge that I’d have to stand around in the cold rain waiting for her, it seemed, at the time, like the best decision. 

As I was mounting the final, grueling hill, the slower pace caught up with me.  Funnily enough, the slower I took the hill the harder it felt on my legs, the unnatural rhythm hindering my pace.  Finally cresting the beast and approaching the finish line I heard huffing and puffing behind me and as I turned, alarmed, I was surprised to see my mom, with a look of focused determination, "sprinting" at near top-speed.  At this point, I knew what she was doing, and feebly tried to will my legs to go faster.  It was no use.  As she struggled past me and crossed the finish line, she lifted her arms in victory, and ever the gracious winner, shouted, "I beat you!"

Frick. I should have known better.  After all, I am my mother's daughter and everything is a race.

1 comment:

  1. Natalie, I've read through some of your recent blogs and they are very well written. Are you now living in Portland OR?