Susan Kirk, MD, contributed this post. Kirk is co-director of UVA’s High Risk Medical Obstetrical Clinic and associate dean for Graduate Medical Education.
This year’s Four Miler is Sept. 1 and will again raise money for the UVA Breast Care Center. Are you participating? Leave a comment to share your story with us.
Sometimes my friends and family describe me as having a competitive streak. If that’s true, then I suppose there are times in my life that it has served me well. Although I never ran competitively until middle age, I was delighted by my finishing time in my first Four Miler and every year thereafter I tried hard to finish somewhere near those at the top of my age group. I enjoyed celebrating my birthdays even more when it meant I was moving into a new age group. Every five years I became one of the “young” runners again.
Several years ago my older daughter joined me and thousands of other women on a lovely Saturday morning along Garth Road. Caty had also never run competitively, although she is a very accomplished soccer player and was recruited to play in college. When she decided to run at a slower pace alongside her friend and soccer teammate, that freed me up to challenge myself for a faster time and a personal best. I gave it my all, finished well and then lined up along the fence to cheer Caty and her friend across the finish line. It was a great feeling. But as I watched other mothers and daughters, sisters and friends run, jog, walk and even dance across the finish line hand-in-hand, I realized I had missed an opportunity.
Caty left for pre-season training and college in New York a year later and couldn’t run the Four Miler with me again. I ran as I always did, aiming for a good time, maybe even a personal best. I was buoyed by the energy and camaraderie of the amazing crowd of runners, but I missed her.
The following year, my younger daughter, Hannah, asked to run with me. It was one of those years where I had just entered a new age group, and I was eager to see how high I could place. Hannah said she might want to run it with one of her friends but wasn’t sure. On the morning of the race, amidst the throng of women and girls lining up for the race, Hannah nervously asked if it was OK if I just stayed with her instead of trying to better my time from the previous year. “You bet,” I said.
It turned out to be the best race of my life. Not because of my time, but because I was with her and enjoyed each and every step of it. We ran, we walked, we cheered each other on as we climbed up the hill on Mile 3, and at the very end, we sprinted with every ounce of energy we had left. We finished holding hands. Hannah was a step ahead of me.
I came to truly understand the magic of the Women’s 4-Miler that year. We are all in it, and the race to cure cancer, together. Whether we run or walk, finish first or finish last, we are all winners. That competitive streak? I’m pretty sure it hasn’t gone anywhere (ask any of my friends and family who have played Scrabble with me recently). But enjoying such a great event with those that I love while supporting the important cause behind the Four Miler? That’s a personal best every year.