Well, I did it. I ran that 10K that I promised I would back when I posted Return To The Gym, and as with any accomplishment, it felt pretty darn good. It was even better that my sister ran it with me. We chose Moms On The Run for our 10K debut, a local charity event that supports women in our community battling breast cancer. While we are fortunate to say that breast cancer hasn’t personally touched our lives, cancer has. And being women, there isn’t a day where I don’t realize the possibility which exists.
Held annually on Mother’s Day, a few years ago we participated in the 5K. My husband pushed our youngest in the stroller while I pushed my oldest to keep running every time she wanted to quit. My sister was there then, too; in addition to running her 5K, she took a Walk of Shame to retrieve my oldest when I lost her in the chaos of the finish line. We were all frantically searching when she heard the call from the MC asking for Peyton’s mom to please come to the grandstand.
We didn’t lose any kids this year (#MomGoals) and we were both proud of our race results. But more than that, even though our own mother was almost three-thousand miles away, it felt as though she was with us as we ran. So while we couldn’t take her out for brunch for Mother’s Day or all go get pedicures, it was a great way to pay tribute to the most incredible woman we know.
Growing up, our mother was a runner. My sister and I were not. There’s a classic story of how when my sister was in high school, she and her friend decided to go running with my mom. They were found literally writhing in the driveway…at the start of the run. That’s right. They ran to the end of the driveway and collapsed.
By the time my sister and I were both out of college, we began joining our mom at various 5K events. She would pay our entry fees so we felt obligated to attend. It was only slightly embarrassing to have our mom, who was then in her 50s, beating us by a landslide. She’d usually place in the top 3 for her age group, and while I managed to place once for mine, it just so happened for that race, I was the ONLY one in my age group.
It was the worst race of my life. A hell-like cross-country run in the middle of summer. Every step, my feet sank into the soft Long Island sand. The sun beat down on me, sweat stung my eyes, and my sides cramped as though I was being impaled by the very bamboo that lined the endless trail I was trapped on. To stop running only meant to succumb to swarms of blood-sucking mosquitos. It was 5K, Survivor-Style and I desperately wanted to be voted off. When I finally emerged at the finish line, I sat in a patch of shade, red-faced and out-of-breath. When they called my name to retrieve my medal, it was a true WTF moment. Oddly enough, it still felt good to have won something.
At Moms On The Run, we were approached by a camera woman from a local news station who asked us some questions: Were we running as a family? Were we running in honor of anyone? Did we want to say a few words on camera? We graciously declined the interview; however, as I was running, I replayed some of those questions in my head.
I was running for someone. In fact, I was running for a lot of people.
For starters, I was running for me. Every time I was keeping pace with another runner and they stopped to walk, or they surpassed me, I told myself that this wasn’t about how I compared to anyone else. This was my challenge. This was my race. As my own biggest critic, I could let the critic win—the one who tells me that I can’t, or I could listen to that other voice, the one that affirms all that I am capable of and motivates me to do more.
I was running for my girls. I was running to show them that when you set a goal, you don’t give up. I was running to teach them how important it is to be healthy, at every age.
I was running to support other women whose lives and whose families had been affected by cancer, knowing that if ever I was there, I would need the support of my community as well.
And I was running for my mom. A woman who taught me how important it is to care for our bodies, our minds, and our souls. A woman who tells me that she is proud of me, but may not realize how proud it makes me to have her as my mother.
When I was young, my mom would attend aerobics classes at night. She’d arrive home after my sister and I were already in bed, but she would come to tuck us in. She’d give a little piece of her chewing gum to our dog who would attempt to chomp on it in such a way that it would leave us in fits of laughter, falling asleep with smiles on our faces.
I remember her lifting weights, coining herself “The Ironian” (pronounced: eye-ron-ian)—a woman made of iron. To this day, “The Ironian” remains my Superhero.
She’d take us on long bike rides, over the Ponquogue Bridge, to the ocean and back. A drawbridge with a 55-foot clearance, I wished I owned a 10-speed like my sister. I pedaled my fourth-grade legs on my banana-seat bike knowing that once we reached the top, we would have an adrenaline-pumping thrill on the way down, but would have to work to do it all over again on the return.
Everything my mom did was hard work, but she never viewed it that way. Her running wasn’t working to stay in shape; it was a way to eliminate stress, something that mothers (single mothers especially) have plenty of. Exercising was about growing stronger, to be there for us as the best version of herself, because quite frankly, she was our everything.
Being a mom involves sacrifice. Ironically, the most selfless thing you can do for your children is to care of yourself—for them. This is what my mom taught me, even if it took me 39 years and this 10K for me to realize it.
As I crossed that finish line, I could almost hear her voice in my ear, encouraging me and cheering me on. For a woman who likes to tease me about the paybacks of motherhood, this was my opportunity to pay it forward…to my mom, for all she’s shown me, and to my girls, so that maybe one day, they’ll run races of their own.
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