It has been nearly 25 years since I pushed myself to participate in a road race that was 6.2 miles long. Like most of the thousands of other people participating, the goal was to simply finish the race and get the t-shirt. I was at the back of the pack for a reason. I wanted to be with the race walkers.
My jog was never a real jog. It was a slow jog followed by a fast walk. My strategy was simple. Select a single race walker and stick to her like glue. Race walkers are excellent athletes. They practice the form and stride necessary to propel forward and walk at a pace that is very efficient and fast.
My jog would never propel me the entire 6.2 miles. However, I could keep a fairly good race walking pace. I just had to pick someone out to follow. I found a lady that matched my criteria. She looked the part with her physique. She was actually a bit older than I was and even had on colorful clothes that I could track.
I spent the entire race keeping up with her. She race walked the whole time. I alternated between my slow jog and fast walk to keep up. I was not going to let her bright clothing out of my sight. She was going to finish, and I would be right behind her at the finish line. The strategy worked. I claimed my prized t-shirt and the satisfaction of completing the task.
Caregiving will be the biggest challenge and the longest race of your life. Be assured, however, that you are much stronger and resilient than you may think. Stay strong and stay focused on the goal. Use tools, resources, and support groups to encourage you. Search out people who can guide you in the race. If it’s helpful, ask them to wear bright clothing so you can find them when you need help.
A caregiving life is not merely a 6.2 mile road race. It is a true marathon that may go on for years. It’s important to “train” with tools and resources to help you. It’s important to “hydrate” with rewards and indulgences that will personally make you happy. And of course, “load up on the carbs” with the support of friends and family to keep you going. We don’t know how long the race will be. We don’t even know how this race will turn out, but seeing our loved ones happy and healthy is the main goal.
Pace yourself. You are the turtle, not the hare. Be the speed walker, not the sprinter. Take care of yourself first, and everyone crosses the finish line at the same time.