Running to Stand Still

…busy Dad trying to make it all work

The Good Enough Runner

On Memorial Day weekend I’ll be running the Fleet Feet Soldier Field 10 Mile on a ACS DetermiNation team captained by my awesome neighbor Noreen McGowan, a first generation American raised in a large Irish household in Glenview, Il.  She has lived in Chicago for over 30 years where she and her husband are raising their three kids.  She enjoys all that the city offers except for the Chicago Public Schools!  Noreen is active in her synagogue, Emanuel Congregation where she is Vice-President.  She is also my first guest-blogger!

My goal setting mentality began when I was in high school.  I would create a goal, usually setting high expectations for myself, but usually ending up “good enough.”

My first goal was to join the Peace Corps after college. I took French and Spanish in high school and was a nice Catholic “save the people” kind of kid.  When I was a high school senior, my father asked me, “What will you major in when you go to college Nora?”

“I’m going to join the Peace Corps, dad, and help people”

“Ay, but you can’t major in ‘The Peace Corps,’” said Joe McGowan with equal parts Irish brogue and paternal wisdom.

So, instead I went to college and became a nurse, a good enough choice. I worked for a while as a Labor and Delivery nurse and decided on a new goal: I wanted to be a midwife. I applied to graduate schools and because my grades were “good enough” I was accepted to the Nurse-Midwifery Program at the University of Mississippi.  Living in Mississippi in the late 70’s was sort of like being in the Peace Corps.

I returned to Chicago and took a job as a midwife at Cook County Hospital—another “Save the People” type job. I was young, living in Chicago and life was fun.  My new goal: lower infant mortality for poor women and enable my patients to have meaningful birth experiences at Cook County.  Was I given the midwife of year award? Uh, I don’t think so, but I was good enough.

During the late 1980’s, I decided that I would get in shape and possibly while doing this, I would meet guys.  So, I joined a Health Club and my friend, Suzie showed me the basics of running. I lived in Lincoln Park and ran on Chicago’s beautiful lakefront. I wasn’t a great runner, but I made a goal: my first 5K with my friends Pat and Gib Schneider and their children in the Western Springs Tower Trot.  Back then it was a small race and runners could choose the 5K or 10K race. My friend, Gib created ribbons for the “Schneider Family Tower Trot” each year. I was amazed when in 1989; I finished in 4th place in my age division in the 5K.  Remember, it was a small race and the faster runners ran the 10K.  But, hey, 4th place—it was good enough!

A few years after I began running, I met my husband and we were married. I was going to be the best wife, but by now, you probably see the pattern: I was good enough.

I anticipated being a mother and like all women, my goal was to be the best.  I wanted to experience natural labor — uh, I made it without an epidural, and now I know why water boarding is an effective interrogation technique.   When it came to mothering, I had really high goals, but when it comes down to it, the job was so hard. I’m lucky to think I’m making it, barely, and I’m just good enough.

Flash forward to January.  New goal: Train for the Soldier Field 10 Mile race.  Why?

Because my nephew, Alonso, a wonderful 17 year old boy who should be worrying about getting ready for his ACT, discovered last November that he has Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that affects mostly males in late childhood to young adulthood.  After talking to my friend, Ed Schober, I organized The Kick Cancer in the Arse Clan, part of the ACS Team Determination.  My sister, Margie McGowan, Alonso’s mom, a great runner is also on our team.

Because I hadn’t been running for the last four years, I needed to lose weight and get training. Without seeking advice from my running friends, I jumped on the treadmill and started running. After about one week, I thought that I needed to increase my intensity (speed) if I was going to run faster. Faster? How about running longer? I injured my knee and tried to do the usual treatment: ice, Advil, and rest. When this didn’t work, I sought medical advice. Why? The goal was to run the whole 10 miles and return to my glory days as a runner. I just turned 60, but I’m still setting goals. This goal is to raise money for cancer treatment and research. And I’m the captain of this effort. I went to an ortho doc who is also a runner and told him my story.  He understood my story and told me that had been a runner for Team Determination. It turns out I had some fluid under my kneecap and some inflammation, so he gave me a shot of cortisone and told me to keep my goal in sight.

“Isn’t your goal to run with your family and the sense of camaraderie?” asked Dr. Cohen.  “What does it matter if you do a run and walk type race?”

So, here I am again, with my usual modus operandi: I am the good enough runner.  But maybe good enough is what Alonso needs from us. Good enough is Alonso, cancer-free.  Good enough is plenty good enough.

Noreen and little Hannah

3 responses to “The Good Enough Runner

  1. Do North May 5, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    Great post Noreen. I think we forget that our best effort in life is often ‘good enough’.

  2. Kathy Merrick Shuler May 6, 2013 at 7:53 am

    I love this girl Noreen McGowan! And love is what your post, our friendship, our choices, and life is all about. And we know that is definitely good enough. Run strong, love strong, Nor!

  3. donna smith May 8, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    well said, noreen. and thank you for sharing, ed. i’m cheering for you and for alonso.

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