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Out There: No Meddling Needed

Columnist Susan Lacke took a step back as her sister completed a big goal.

Last year, my little sister, Meghan, ran her first half marathon.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

You see, I am a Very Helpful Person. If you ask me for advice, I’ll happily give it to you. If you don’t ask me for advice, I’ll happily give it to you anyway, because that’s what Very Helpful People do.

This is especially true when it comes to Meghan. In my role as big sister, I feel the need to set the ropes, remove all obstacles, and light the way for my favorite person in the whole world. Naturally, when she said she wanted to train for her first half marathon, I immediately went into Very Helpful Person mode:

“You should sign up for the half I’m doing this winter, and then I can pace you! What’s your expected pace, anyway? Have you been doing tempo workouts? I’m going to send you some exercises to do for cross-training, and you should –“

“Actually,” Meghan interrupted, “I already know the race I’m doing, and I’ve got my training plan set up. I’ve been working with a trainer once a week for strength work, too.”

“Oh!” I exclaimed. “E-mail me the details. I’ll take a look at it all, make sure it’s solid.”

“Nah, I’m good.”

And with that, Meghan went off to blaze her own trail. Meanwhile, I stood there, stunned. Didn’t she see the path I had already set for her? How could she turn down the aid of an experienced runner like me? Didn’t she know I was a Very Helpful Person, dammit?

“Maybe you don’t need to meddle in this one, dear,” said my husband, Neil, as I voiced my outrage. “It sounds like she’s got it figured out.”

“Meddle?” I scoffed. “I don’t meddle. I help.”

“You meddle.”

“What if she screws up? She needs me.”

Neil shrugged. “What if she doesn’t?”

Determined to prove everyone wrong, I sat back and waited for Meghan to self-destruct. Surely, she’d realize she needed my aid soon. I harbored fantasies of the day she would grovel at my feet, admitting she should have called upon my seniority in life and in running.

One day, my phone buzzed with a text from Meghan:

I just did my longest run ever! Seven miles!

The next week, she gushed over her 8-mile accomplishment; the following week, 9. Though my reply was always joyful, I worried she was increasing her mileage too quickly. Was she staying on top of her strength training? Was she running hills? Had she practiced her nutrition yet? Was she scheduling rest days?

Do you need anything from me? I always asked.

Nah, I’m good, Meghan always replied. She didn’t bite the Very Helpful bait I was dangling, and it drove me crazy. I had no choice but to simply share in her joy and silently wait for her to encounter a situation she couldn’t handle. Eventually, she’d need her older, wiser, more proficient big sister, right?

As it turns out—yes, she did eventually need me: On race day, for a big hug at the finish line. Not only did Meghan finish her first half marathon, but she did so faster than she had anticipated.

Over post-race brunch, my little sister—now donning a shiny new finisher’s medal—looked…different. Stronger. More confident. Like someone who didn’t need her big sister’s help anymore.

“I can’t believe I did that!” Meghan laughed.

“You did that—and spectacularly so, I might add.” I replied.

“Thanks for being here.”

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

“And thanks for not meddling when I would talk about my training.”

“I don’t meddle. I help.”

“You meddle.”

We both laughed. Meghan adjusted the medal hanging around her neck—the one she had earned all by herself.

“Hey, Meg?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m really proud of you.”

Meghan smiled and extended her arms wide for a hug.

“I couldn’t have done it without you.”

***

About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). Susan lives and trains in Salt Lake City, Utah with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke.