What wheelbarrows and the Boston Marathon have in common

wheelbarrow endurance

Last week Facebook gave me a flashback to an old memory. Just after we came to the farm six years ago, I achieved a feat of true endurance and moved 33 wheelbarrows of dirt in one day–wildly surpassing the work of the men.

This memory happened in the same week that there was lots of after-discussion of how American Desiree Linden conquered the Boston Marathon, winning the race far ahead of her other female competitors in a torrential downpour and freezing temperatures.

What do women, wheelbarrows, and marathons have in common? Endurance.

Women crushed the Boston Marathon this year

Collectively the woman toasted the men this year. Men usually drop out of the Boston Marathon in lower numbers than the women.  But this year the rates of men dropping out were up nearly 80% (for a total of 5% dropping out) whereas the rates of women dropping out–despite truly awful weather–were only up 12% (for a total of 3.8% dropping out). Lots of the analysis speculated about why women were able to endure the race this year in such bleak conditions. There was silly talk of body-fat percentages and the strength that the pain of childbirth gives you.

My thought was: “Dude, how many 30-to-40-something-year-old women do you know??” There is a FAR simpler answer staring us in the face.

It all comes down to: How bad do you want it?

The backstory on the wheelbarrows is that we were putting on the foundation of our veranda. It turned out that it was going to require a tremendous amount of fill. Since we live on the top of a hill, fill can be found by just shaving off a high part. The family men did about 8 loads of chipping out earth with a pickax, shoveling it into the wheelbarrow, and moving it across the yard to the foundation. After that they declared it too exhausting, and gave up.

On the other hand, I really wanted that foundation. Since the day we moved to the farm, I have dreamed of sipping my morning coffee from that veranda as I gaze at our spectacular Brazilian mountain view. When the cistern overflowed and we tracked mud in from that unfinished dooryard, guess who usually cleaned it? I had a serious hankering for that concrete platform. Since the men wouldn’t let me play with the blocks and concrete with them, I decided my contribution would be moving the earth. Once they had given up and I kept going, I started keeping count. 33.

Women know endurance

As I’ve been working to grow this blog, I’ve handed over my e-mail for access to countless online freebies and trainings. My inbox these days is awash with newsletters and promotions from bloggers. You guys–so many e-mails. And I’m starting to notice a theme.

The conversation from the female bloggers is different. There’s an intimate sort of mentoring that comes through, a sisterly “here’s how I do it, you can too” that is different from the advice from the men. Over and over they talk about how they get up at 3am, 5am to get it all done. To date, I have yet to hear from one man who juggles such a schedule (maybe they’re just not admitting it, but the few who have talked about it seem to get up at a wholesome 7am or 8am). Check out this roster of bloggers that I follow:

  • For years Glennon Doyle rose for years at 4am to blog from her closet-office.
  • Gina Horkey gets up at 5:30am so that she can get in some exercise and work before the kids. She describes a pre-work regimen that tops my daily achievements.
  • Tasha Agruso rises early and blogs at night while her husband watches TV at night.
  • Julie Stoian gets up early to get ready before a big presentation, and at 5:30am while her curly hair dries she sends off emails to her thousands of followers. (Because that woman does not know how to savor an extra cup of coffee!)
  • Ruth Soukup gets up at 3:30am many mornings to keep her online dynasty ticking.

Goddamn, these women are putting in the hours. And every single one says the same thing: if you really want a thing you set your eyes on it, and you keep doing whatever you need to make it work.

Jessica Chinchester won 5th place in the women’s category in this year’s Boston Marathon. Her time was only 23 seconds over the time needed for her to make the Olympic qualifiers. She went home to work a 10 hour shift as a nurse the next day. In addition, the second-, third-, and fourth-place titles on the women’s side all went to runners with full-time jobs (a nurse anesthetista dietitian, and a Spanish professor, respectively). Goddamn, you peaceful warriors, you.

Setting aside the pain of childbirth, I would still argue that women know endurance. We know about setting a goal and putting one foot in front of another until you get there, no matter what. Especially women who are in their 30’s to 40’s. We’ve seen some battles in our life. Whether you have kids or not, if you’re a middle-aged woman you probably have seen inhospitable workplaces and faced decks stacked against you. You’ve probably stared down people who thought you couldn’t, and you’ve gone and done it anyway. I talk to my friends who are now cresting into their early 40s with me, and we all have a sense of our own power because by now we’ve all climbed some mountains. Those were the kind of women who stuck out the Boston Marathon.

Quietly getting it done

It wasn’t that women have an extra layer of body fat, it was that women know how to hang in there when the going gets ugly. We know because we’ve had to. Women know endurance. We train for it daily. This isn’t an essay putting down men; it’s a lifting up of what women quietly do every day for survival and success. Even when we aren’t acknowledged or given any prize money.

We do it so quietly every day, in fact, that the newspapers didn’t even think to comment on it as a factor. Or maybe mentioning that pushing back against a lifetime of quiet oppression was the training that poised those women for victory was a little too radical for mainstream media. Perhaps.

Anyhow, all you grown-ass women out there doing what you do to make it all work–I see you. I see you winning every day in ways that many didn’t even know you were running a race. Bravo. You keep doing what you’re doing. You can make it.

Me, I’ll be the one waiting for you at your personal finish line with the confetti and champagne. You got this.

Keep enduring. I’ll be waiting for you at the finish line.

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  1. Malvina! 🙌🏼 <- How many of these emojis is too many for this post? I want to fill the comment box. "This isn’t an essay putting down men; it’s a lifting up of what women quietly do every day for survival and success." I can't say much more than: you hit the nail on the head. You've articulated a sentiment I've felt for years. Bravo!

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