I don’t have many regrets in life, but I do wish I had been more of an athletic mentor for my daughters as they were growing up. Since I didn’t have any talent, I didn’t take much interest in their athletic ventures, so except for a few years when a charismatic soccer coach lured them onto the field, they didn’t take sports seriously either.
I was 47-years old when I took up running. I had half-heartedly jogged on and off in my thirties and forties. But I got serious about it when I finally decided to shed those forty-five pounds I had lost and gained so many times over the years. When I finally reached my weight goal, I felt so alive I decided to celebrate with a marathon. That was four years and seven races ago.
Like a lot of women, I took care of others for years. Once I learned how to take care of myself, the weight came off for good. Now I use marathons as a way to reinforce the self-care message. Learn how to take care of yourself on a 26.2 mile run and chances are you’ll know how to take care of yourself in life.
I’ve also learned that mentoring doesn’t stop when kids are teens. When I first started running, Maggy and Sharon sat back and just watched for a while. I can’t blame them. Nothing in my life to that point would have led them to believe that running was anything more than a passing fad.
But three years ago Maggy ran the ten-mile option on my Ocean Drive Marathon in Cape May, NJ and went on to run several races, including a half-marathon, for charity. Sharon started running in earnest her last year or so of college, and earlier this year she decided to run my 8th marathon with me.
At the beginning she and I trained together, but then I went away for the summer and she moved away from home. We talked regularly about our progress, but there wasn’t much to say until she ran sixteen.
In Boston for a July wedding, she and a friend had chosen a lovely coastal route (read, no shade) with “frequent” water fountains. Their late night before meant a late start that morning, and let’s just say they were a little dehydrated. Turns out some of those many water fountains were in locked buildings until sunbathing hour. And although she brought along some hard candies, she hadn’t eaten anything before she started. Her first twelve miles were dreamy beautiful, but after that she hit the wall, and her last four were utter misery. That day the rookie died and she became a real runner. After that, everything I had tried to share with her started to make sense.
Like all first-time marathoners, Sharon was cautiously nervous on race day, but we had a plan. Early morning we would eat lean ham between two slices of Wonder Bread (for quick digestion) and then a banana an hour before the race. We would walk a minute at every mile marker and suck on hard candies and tootsie rolls as needed for the first twenty miles with a GU packet for a final energy burst. We’d listen to our IPods only after running a half marathon. Our time goal: 4:45.
While we were at it, we also planned our celebratory post-race dinner—crab cakes and champagne, followed by rack of lamb and Chateauneuf du Pape. Maybe a little cheese to wash down those last few sips of wine?
Our plan worked. I honestly don’t think there were two happier marathoners than Sharon and me that day. We got so much love from the bystanders all along the way, and we gave it right back. Fantasies of our post race meal kept us motivated.
The last mile, however, I started to fade and could see I was holding Sharon back. We had made it this far together, but I knew she needed to push ahead. “Go!” I said. She took off and sprinted to the finish line at 4:48. I crossed over two minutes later. What redemption: I finally knew what it was like as an athlete to show my daughter the way.
On one count, however, I failed her. Never, ever eat, drink, or wear anything new on race day; test everything before the big day. I knew that. But since I never had any problems eating that pasty GU packet at mile 20, I didn’t think she would either. Something in that power gel did not agree with poor Sharon’s stomach.
There were a few stops along the way, but we made it home. And although we managed to enjoy champagne and crab cakes, neither one of us was up for the rest of the meal. Our bodies were much happier with my no-stir risotto.
You just had to bring up the GU, huh? In front of all these people? That was pretty miserable. But I think the worst part was that Wonder Bread and ham sandwich at 5 am. I really don’t like to eat in the morning anyway (I’m a coffee with whole milk till noon kind of girl), but chilly bread with hunks of ham inside that were fraught with little tendons or bits of fat like freaky textural landmines…UGH! It took me almost 20 minutes that get that stupid sandwich down, and I wasn’t sure it was going to stay down, either.
Honestly, I was super nervous the day of the race. I started out training vigorously in the early spring, but the summer, moving, school, and myriad other things kept me from doing every single run I was scheduled to complete. On race day, I kept thinking one thing…What if I just can’t finish? What if I hit a wall and I just can’t go anymore?
That never happened. Not. Even. Close. I also knew I had my mom right by me the whole way, and that no matter what happened she’d make sure I was okay.
The race was incredible. Mom and I had an absolute blast! I have to say what surprised me most was how my body converted the excitement of the spectators handing out water, orange slices, candy, or just little words of praise, into pure energy. And really, there is no feeling that tops the moment you cross the finish, or those precious few hours afterwards where still can’t believe what you’ve accomplished that day (or how many calories you’ve burned—the great irony of which is that exactly the moment you can eat whatever you want, you don’t feel like it!)
I remember right before the marathon saying: I am only doing this to raise money for Maggy’s project. I am never doing this again. And not halfway through the race I was already asking Mom when we were running our next one. Mom always says, the best indicator of a well-run race is…do you want to run another one? My answer is a resounding “hell, yeah!”
First of all, I couldn’t be more proud of you two for running the marathon. Particularly you, Sharon, as it was your first. A big accomplishment. But crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles wasn’t their only achievement. Collectively, Sharon and Mom raised thousands of dollars for my project in Malawi through sponsorship from family and friends. So there were two reasons to crack open the champagne that night. Congratulations and thank you!
There is something so wonderful about planning a celebratory meal. A completely over-the-top, decadent affair – complete with courses, carefully coupled wines, cheese and even dessert. As a food lover, I’ll find any reason to make a meal like this, but the difference is in not just wanting it, but deserving it, truly celebrating something. For you, that night, I’m sure the food tasted better for the simple fact that you had worked so hard, the thought of that meal propelling you to the finish line. Wish I had been there with you, but next year, move over and make room at the start line. It’s going to be three abreast.
Terri A says
That’s awesome! Congratulations to both of you on finishing! I started running at age 41, have done 4 half marathons, but really don’t have a desire to do a full. My last half (in September), really defeated me mentally, so I’m taking a little break from running, but you’ve inspired me to stick with it. Baby steps to get back…
This is so inspirational! I just turned 46 and look longingly at runners out on their morning runs. So it’s truly not too late for me to get started?!
Thank you for sharing your story of how running led to a unique bonding experience for you and your daughter. I love running and hope my daughter, who is in the jogging stroller phase right now, will too. I’d love to run a marathon with her.
Lynn from For Love or Funny says
I play a lot of tennis and golf, but I don’t run. Today, I tried to run 1 mile. It was more of a slow jog than a “run,” but I felt such a sense of accomplishment afterwards. Now, after reading your blog post, I’m even more inspired to see how far I can go tomorrow!
I just started a running program that I downloaded from ITunes called Couch to 5K. You train for 9 weeks and after 9 weeks you should be able to fun a 5K. I’m 47 and thought am I too old for this? After reading this post, I feel good about my decision to start. I want to be a runner. I too look longingly at runners. So, we’ll see how it goes. It’s only day 2, do I like it yet. No, but I’m going to stick with it. All the review have been positive.
Unless you all have some condition I don’t know about, of course you can run.
I love running because it doesn’t require lots of skill or talent. You just have to be relatively faithful to the training and endure.
I don’t think I’d love running quite as much if I didn’t get a 1-minute walk break after every mile, a Jeff Galloway technique. Not only is it good psychologically (you’re never more than 10 minutes or so from relief), I know his technique has kept me practically injury free these past several years.
My other savior is my IPod. I can do just about anything if I can listen to good music.
Keep it up and feel free to write if you’ve got questions.
I crave the way I breathe when I run. Darn Winters in NE… I wanna be OUT there.
Susan Hickok says
Thanks for the inspiration, girls — got my running shoes on and headed out the door!!
Lisa S in IL says
WOW – I’m impressed and proud…and I don’t even know ya! I do not run unless there is a horse under me. Then I’m happy to run. I also feed ’em 2X/day, hump hay endlessly and oh yea, scoop poop.
Congrats on the great run.
Pam, I agree, simple tasks are soothing. You’ve reduced running to a few basic rules and as a result you can keep doing it year after year. That’s encouraging. Once you get a method that you know is sound, you can just keep executing.
I am also a big advocate of the ‘Couch to 5k’ program for new runners. I did the program 2.5 years ago, when I had never run more than a few hundred metres and was about 60 pounds overweight.
This plan is so good because it only requires 20 minutes three times a week. Anyone can find that much time! It also starts out really slowly with a walk-run-walk approach, which stops the problem of people starting out too hard and then feeling horrible.
I completed the program and kept increasing my mileage from there. I did my first marathon within a year. I enjoyed the running so much that it led me to triathlon, and has completed changed my lifestyle!
Give Couch to 5k a try!
Truly inspirational ladies. What an excellent bonding exercise.
I used to run many years ago, but became less active as the years passed. i have just started back walking a few miles each morning with the view to getting fit once more.
I will certainly look out for the Couch to 5K program.
I found your website through ‘The Pioneer Woman Cooks’ and I am so glad I did, Lots of interesting snippets to get absorbed in.
I’m new to your site, just wandered over from PW, but I had to comment on this one. I ran my first marathon this year after taking up running seriously 2 years ago just after giving birth to my 4th baby. It’s something that I always poo-poohed and said I’d NEVER do, that only crazy people do those sorts of things, but now I have my eye on an ultramarathon for next season. It is so very liberating to conquer something that previously felt impossible.
My mother ran her first marathon 4 years ago, at the age of 58, alongside several of my siblings. I was pregnant at the time and unable to join them, but that started the fire burning in my belly. I’m unstoppable now :).
If you’re looking for a better fuel source on tender bellies (and I have tried many), I highly recommend Hammer brand products. GU has simple sugars in it that cause your gut to need to pull in a lot of extra water to balance out the sudden spike in osmolality, hence the burst of GI sensitivity and diarrhea experienced by many. Check out http://www.hammernutrition.com for more information. My running buddies and I are all totally hooked on raspberry hammer gel and endurolytes, plus perpetuem for the 2 hour+ runs.
Thank you Heidi, for the Hammer tip. Sharon and I will both give it a try next race. I’m training for the National Breast Cancer Marathon in Jacksonville, FL on 2/21. Anyone game? If you haven’t started training yet, it’s a little late, but maybe next year we’ll make a plan.
OK, I had just looked up the C25K thing and was considering it. We have a local 5K in May. I have been successful in losing about 25 pounds, but need to loose about 50 more. Should I wait to start it until I have lost more, or just go for it? Found this thread to be pretty darn inspiring!
Without knowing your complete story, it’s hard to give advice, but if you’re feeling the urge to run, I think you should give it a try. Start easy–walk a minute/run a minute–and see how that feels. Then take it from there.
Running certainly helped me lose weight, but I didn’t start race-training until after I had lost most of the weight.
For me running was a great way to lose weight. Races, on the other hand, are a better way to stay motivated to run.
As I always say, “I marathon to run. I don’t run to marathon.”
You know, I’d love to try a race at lower altitude just to see what I can do with an extra 5000 ft worth of air to breathe :). However, that’s a tad far for me to travel. Good luck with your training and enjoy it! I think it’s way fun that you are doing this together. Marathons are SO much more fun with good company!