A flashback photo for this post: me in 6th grade after a road race. I see so much of Grace in this photo!
I’ve written before about the metaphor that cross-country is and has been to me for parenting. As Grace’s second season comes to a close, I’m thinking about another analogy that the sport presents, this time to life itself. There are two particular ways that – in my opinion – cross-country metaphorically represents life itself: pacing and peer groupl.
One thing you learn as you become a cross-country runner and experience racing is how to pace yourself. Do you start out in the front of the pack, and try to stay ahead of others for the whole race? Do you start slower and trust that you can gain? How do you gauge how much gas is in your tank, and how fast you can go, and for how long? I asked Grace these questions recently and found myself a bit surprised that she had fluent answers to them. She’d clearly thought about these things. Her answer, in case you’re wondering, is not to lead but to stay with the front group and then feel like she has enough in reserve to sprint to the finish.
I had the great privilege of attending a small breakfast with Anne-Marie Slaughter at the end of October. There were a great many things that moved me in her comments, but one in particular feels resonant here. She said that she thinks people – not women, notably, but people – should view their careers as interval training.
This of course brought cross-country to mind. So much of life is about pacing – how fast you go, how long you can keep going, when you push and when you ease up. The interval training analogy presupposes that life has seasons, and that sometimes are more flexible than others. I believe this fiercely.
Secondly, so much of life is about who you run with, isn’t it? Who do you want to follow as your pace-setter, who do you want to accompany into the woods, who do you trust to lead you out of them? Who do you want to hear breathing at your shoulder, who do you want to push you, who do you maybe want to lose to?
Two themes in my writing – and in my life itself – are metaphors and running. The former is how I understand the world and the latter is an important mechanism to help me live in it. You are probably growing weary of both. If so, I apologize!
Grace warming up before the race last Saturday. I love this photo of her, in her own world even with hundreds of people around, and in flight.
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