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.