Cross­ing the Line

Run­ning to Stand Still

Canadian Running - - FEATURES - By Lauren Stope

I’d not yet made it out of first pe­riod the first day of Grade 8 when I was sum­moned to the prin­ci­pal’s of­fice. Open on his desk was a high school year­book. 1972. He pointed at a black-and-white photo. Front and center stood a lithe, black-haired stun­ner. It was my mother, pride of the Burn­aby North Vik­ings track team. With my red hair and fair skin it was a stretch to be­lieve we shared dna but the prin­ci­pal didn’t care. It was not up for dis­cus­sion. Judy Forster’s daugh­ter would run. My mother was 18 when she was di­ag­nosed with mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis. By then she had al­ready raced, and won, ev­ery mid­dle and long dis­tance ti­tle in the re­gion. In her se­nior year she re­ceived her di­ag­no­sis and a track schol­ar­ship only days apart. Know­ing what lay ahead, and that her miles were num­bered, she es­chewed univer­sity al­to­gether.

I heeded or­ders from both the prin­ci­pal and my mother. The team prac­ticed sev­eral times a week and meets ap­pro­pri­ated valu­able week­end hours. Sev­eral sea­sons came and went and de­spite my mother’s hopes to the con­trary, I re­mained a re­luc­tant run­ner.

In a fit of high school re­bel­lion against my mother I re­tired from track. “Why do I run?” I asked her (and even more so, my­self ). Know­ing I’d spend the rest of my time on the track chas­ing her pace, never the fastest and al­ways feel­ing like a dis­ap­point­ment. Run­ning had been her thing and would never be mine.

My mother was mag­netic. She was a fire­cracker that could lead you deep into ad­ven­ture, oc­ca­sion­ally re­sult­ing in trou­ble, mostly re­sult­ing in laugh­ter and an in­fec­tious joy that was her trade­mark. Once a year, with­out warn­ing, she’d de­clare it race day. We’d es­tab­lish a fin­ish line and be off. For most of my life it was a for­gone con­clu­sion I’d lose. Her speed seemed im­prob­a­ble and her abil­ity unattain­able.

Some­thing shifted the day I was fi­nally able to over­take her. It would have been easy for the ca­sual ob­server to in­cor­rectly at­tribute it to age and the in­evitable slow­ing of the body. Since her di­ag­no­sis my mother had been run­ning a new race, one that would nip at her heels and tingle her fin­ger­tips as a dull but con­stant re­minder of the clock ’s tick­ing. The signs had been there for years but we avoided the ob­vi­ous. Her legs no longer served her as they once had. She was slowed and tired and walked across the fin­ish line. There was no glory in this vic­tory and the guilt hung heav­ier than the si­lence in which we both sat. In that mo­ment she was no longer the track star. No longer a record­holder I’d never beat. She was my mother and she was los­ing a bat­tle we both knew she could never win. The walk home couldn’t have been more than a few blocks but we trav­elled slowly, paus­ing when she needed to rest. Un­til this mo­ment we had only known each other in one way and the heav­i­ness of that left us both not quite know­ing the right thing to say. We never raced again. It wasn’t un­til many years af­ter we lost her that a friend forced me out for a run. She rou­tinely ran 50k races and I was winded within a kilo­me­tre.

It was a per­fect fall day and we trav­elled slowly, paus­ing when I needed to rest.

As a child I felt forced to run. As an adult I feel priv­i­leged to have the abil­ity. Time and age fi­nally al­lowed me to un­der­stand. This would be our con­nec­tion, no longer our di­vide. And so, 13 years af­ter her pass­ing, Judy Forster’s daugh­ter fi­nally be­came a run­ner.

I’ve since ac­cu­mu­lated mul­ti­ple half-marathon medals and a near daily com­mit­ment to run­ning. I’m no bet­ter than I was in high school. I’ll still never be the fastest or a sliver of the gifted ath­lete she was. So, why do I run?

For my mother, for ev­ery step she didn’t get to take – I run for her.

Lauren Stope can be found run­ning along Van­cou­ver’s beau­ti­ful beaches and for­est trails (weather per­mit­ting), and on rainy days spins or does pi­lates.

“She was slowed and tired and walked across the fin­ish line. There was no glory in this vic­tory and the guilt hung heav­ier than the si­lence in which we both sat.”

ABOVE Lauren Stope at the front of a lo­cal crew run

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.