Running the Course

LeeAdianez Rodriguez had been running late. And then she was just running. And running. And running.

The 12-year-old New York girl had meant to line up for a family 5k race in Rochester, a run of about three miles. Somewhere along mile four, she realized something had gone wrong. Quickly checking with another runner, Lee learned the truth – in her rush, she had accidentally joined the competitors for the half-marathon instead, a 13.1 mile competition.

By then, according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, her mom was trying to find her. The police were trying to find her. And, unaware of that, Lee had decided to keep on running

“I was like, I’m going to finish this, I’m going to keep going,” she told NBC New York.

Finish she did.

“It was such a scary moment for her, but rewarding in the end,” her mom, Brendalee Espada, told the Democrat & Chronicle. “I don’t even know how she did it.”

Sound familiar?

Mind you, I don’t expect that any of us has ever signed up for the Turkey Trot and then accidentally run to Twenty Ninth Street in Boulder for a little shopping. But we all know about getting on a course that’s longer and more exhausting than we’d planned. That’s how life works.

When Heather and I first got married, for example, we thought we’d mapped out the course pretty well. On our first dates, where most people learn about their favorite books and movies, we had filled each other in on our medical history. (OK, so we’re a little weird.) She learned about my epilepsy. I learned about her Crohn’s disease and her endometriosis.

All planned and prepared, right?

Well, except for the part where she got diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis a few years later. And multiple sclerosis a few years after that. And of course, the part in between all that where we became guardians to her disabled aunt, Missy, a constant source of wonder and amazement to both of us.

Other than that, I suppose we were ready. Which is a little like saying “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

We had no clue what we’d signed up for. But we kept running anyway. And so far, we’re still in the race.

It doesn’t have to be that dramatic, of course. But it’s going to happen. Jobs, families, and even hobbies hold unexpected on-ramps and detours that can carry us way out into the countryside before we know what’s happened. (One of my personal favorites remains getting handpicked for the lead in an Oscar Wilde play, with its beautiful, witty language – and then being told I had exactly three weeks to learn the script.) When it comes to signage, life makes the Colorado highway system look clear and sensible.

And most of the time, all we can do is run the race out.

Well, maybe not all we can do. If we’re paying attention at all, we also learn a few things about strength and patience and endurance. We probably get some lessons in flexibility and humor as well. And we definitely discover some experiences that we would never have chosen for ourselves.

Most of all, most of the time, we learn that we can do it. We can last. We can keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when we’d rather just curl up in a ball for a while. We don’t always want to. It’s not always fun and it’s rarely easy. But it’s there.

“I’m going to finish this. I’m going to keep going.”

Words to live by.

After all, what’s another mile or ten between friends?

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