Six Seconds

It's a pretty safe bet to say I got my emotions from my mom. I feel deeply. Sometimes too deeply. I cry easily. Often too easily. We're so alike in that way, and I don't mind. When I cry in her presence, I guarantee she's crying, too. Maybe that's motherhood, though. Protectiveness. 

I feel emotions in my chest, like a warning sign. There's a sort of constriction that happens. It's quick. It catches in my throat, warms my face and triggers tears. It happens so regularly, I've come to be able to stop it in its tracks. You know, during those moments when crying is otherwise unlikely.

Like, say, you're supposed to be working on a report, but instead you're distracted by a video of an animal rescue story on Buzzfeed. Or a friend posts photos from her beautiful wedding on Facebook when you're looking for client content, and the photo of her wiping tears from her groom's eyes at the altar begins the emotional onslaught. I literally can't even type this without the chest constriction.

But I can stop it. I am an emotional sorceress. 

There are moments, though, when the feelings are so aggressive that the constriction rips from my throat and pours from my face like emotion lava, and it is not pretty, you guys. It's a full-on assault of my person. But when that assault is triggered by happiness, there is no better feeling. Not one.

Unlike my mom, I had seen my dad cry two times. Two times in my whole life. Does that mean he doesn't cry? Probably not. It just means I haven't seen it. Both times were the result of deaths in the family, and I remember them clearly. The moments, not the family deaths. Do you ever really forget those? Of course not. But that's what we, as people, do when loved ones die. We cry. 

I remember thinking that first time, "Holy shit." Just, holy shit. Dads are strong, you know? Dads build swingsets and yell at the Packers on Sundays and replace the batteries in your car when they're kaput and you're a helpless teenager (and/or adult, let's be real). All of a sudden I realized, holy shit, dads cry. 

We already knew moms cried. And we definitely know that I cry. But dads. Woo, boy. They're just like us!

On Saturday I finished Grandma's Marathon in three hours, 29 minutes and six seconds. That's not only a personal best by nearly 11 minutes, it's also four minutes faster than my goal, and, most importantly, a Boston Marathon qualifying time by almost six minutes. Six minutes, when I'd dreamed and hoped for two. 

I ran for three hours and 29 minutes and only saw my parents one time that morning, and it was in those last six seconds.

Coming into the finish, the crowd was overwhelming. Loud. I knew somewhere in my overstimulated mind that a qualifying time was not only about to happen, but that it was about to be so much more than I expected. I also knew my parents were somewhere in that crowd, and I'd be goddamned if I was going to cross that finish line without seeing them. 

By this point, the constriction had started. I mean, sure, I'd just run 26.1 miles, was it possible I was probably actually going into cardiac arrest? I mean, maybe. But I know my body well enough to know it was emotional arrest. It's a thing. Look it up on WebMD. (Just kidding, don't, I'm lying).

I looked left, and there they were. My parents. The most amazing two people who ever graced my earth.

And, wait. Were they wearing matching sweatshirts? (Spoiler alert: they were).

But there they were. My people. My cheerleaders. My support system. My every whole thing. Waving those cowbells like maniacs, shouting, smiling, yelling, knowing. They knew, too, what was about to happen. Just before I crossed the finish line.

In that moment, in those final six seconds, emotion lava erupted from my being. I did it. I was doing it. I was actively finishing this marathon and qualifying for Boston and there was my mom and dad. I cried. I cried and I wasn't even done yet. 

I crossed the finish line, hands in the air, and was still crying. OK so I was sobbing by then, come on. A volunteer came over to ask if I was alright, and I don't blame him. There I was, hands on my knees, crying my eyes out. I wanted him to know I was happy crying, but the ugly cry was so full blast that, truly, it was not discernible. 

All I wanted then -- all I wanted -- was to hug my parents. I searched the crowd, got my medal. Searched the crowd, was handed a red carnation. Searched the crowd.


I started waving frantically. They were running toward the finish corral's fence. It was their turn to run now. I, conversely, hobbled. I'd found them. Mom had her camera ready.

I grabbed her first and sobbed my sweaty sob into her shoulder. She was crying, too, of course, because this is what we do. We cry. The happiest of cries. Dad came next. And I still cried. Hugged and cried. 

I don't even remember what anyone said in that moment, exactly. It was too full of laughing and disbelief and "you did it!" and "I did it!" and hugs and, damn, my legs hurt.

By then I was able to look at their matching sweatshirts. They each bought a Grandma's Marathon sweatshirt before leaving the hotel. And there they stood, my people, so proud, wearing matching Grandma's Marathon sweatshirts. In case you were wondering, or if I hadn't made that clear, my mom and dad are the best, most adorable people that ever parented. 

As I finally untangled myself from hugs and disbelief, I stood back and saw it while wiping emotions from my face. My dad had grabbed a tissue from somewhere (the pocket of his adorable matching sweatshirt, perhaps?). Just then, he reached under his glasses and wiped his eyes. 

And that, internet, is the third time I've ever seen my dad cry. 

There's more to come and more to say (photos! things! waterpark hotel! more feelings!), but this is the best moment in my memory. I'll leave you with this photo, taken later that day, full of so much joy.

You are absolutely goddamn right I bought that same matching sweatshirt.