EMPTY NEST SYNDROME.
No, its not the typical kind, kids leaving for college or just leaving home. Its a different type of empty nest feeling I'm referring to: My friend Jan is heading off to Chicago Saturday for her annual attempt at qualifying for Boston. She will most likely make it this year, and when she does, or lives will change forever. Our story goes back several years.
Six years ago, I was limping along in a 10k race when I came upon Jan running with some of her friends. We were about 4 miles into a 10k race on a wickedly hot day. I was going through one of my many injured periods and was not only surprised but a little annoyed to see her there, doing great. I didn't even realize she was a runner. I saw her husband frequently at the races over the years and assumed he was the runner, only to find out he was her ever loyal support crew.
After that day, we talked from time to time about running and her goals. She pumped me for information and frequently asked my advice. While I had had many years' experience in running and had just started on the triathlon scene, I guess I knew something about which I spoke, but I was always in one of those "forever injured" states it seemed--something was constantly needing fixing, so I have seen little progress over these years.
When she did her first marathon, I was there to support her and was there every step of the way, virtually of course, but there nonetheless. I was at the Great Floridian that year, so it must have been 2000, and she ran the Chicago marathon as her first marathon. While I do not remember her time, it was impressive for a first marathon, and I remember calling her from the road to find out her time. She did great, probably around 4:35, so close to my first time.
Year after year, she trained and trained and trained, running one or two marathons a year, all in the hopes of qualifying for Boston, but that magic time always alluded her. Still, she did not give up her dream.
Last year, she did her first triathlon and beat me by several minutes. This year, she improved her time (I had to miss that one!) by several minutes as well, as much from her improved running as her determination to do well. Her distant dream is to do an Ironman.
But first and foremost is her need to qualify for Boston. This year, I can see that she is on the brink of conquering that distance. So, as she is getting ready for the big event again this year, I have looked back and reflected on our time together in her quest for this goal.
What I see here now is that she no longer needs me to succeed. She doesn't need any advice from me, although she frequently flatters me by asking for it. She doesn't need me to tell her what she has to do, because she knows. And then I compare our lives and what I see is that she has more money--to get those weekly massages, to buy all the coolest running gear, to finance her marathon trips--a more flexible schedule--she can take off during the day to go train or come in as late as she wants in the morning or just take a day off whenever she wants--a husband who dotes on her--someone who does everything for her and follows her to every race, being supportive and present--and many other things I do not have to help me succeed in this way. But then I realize that it doesn't matter what you have or don't have. The bottom line is that she puts in her time on the road and the road is finally rewarding her. No matter how many pluses she has over me, she has done the work. She deserves whatever reward is there.
So here I am like a mother bird, watching her last baby leave the nest, feeling proud and sad at the same time. I can only hope that our flight patterns cross and that we can continue to find a common ground as she soars above the clouds.