My First Marathon – one proud mamathoner

My daughter and I shared our first marathon together on January 16, 2016 at the Charleston Marathon.  She lives 5 states away and we were unable to train together, but we ran this race together, stride for stride.

As an added bonus we stayed with my bff, Kelly,  and her boy, Anthony.  (sign and photos courtesy of Miss Kelly)

Training: I had been training specifically for this race for about 18 weeks.  Flu over Christmas – ugh.  Two fellow runners think this flu actually saved me and is why I felt so great during the actual marathon – forced rest and pull back from the mileage.  That it was, indeed.  Bill, my husband, continues to tell me how much he hated the training schedule that I followed.  He plowed through it with me, though.  My biggest supporter – no question. He ran with me during every single run and pushed me when I wanted to slack.  Even though he could not run the distances on the long run days, he was out there running every step he could as he cheered me on.

Alexis, also affectionately referred to as YaYa, returned home for Thanksgiving and we were able to run 16 together. That day I thought to myself how apparent our ages have become.  We stayed together most of the day, but she took off at the end and crushed the last 2 miles.  (deep sigh)

After that day I ran 17 and another 16 with lots of lower mile days in there.  But over Christmas Break, when we planned on running 20 together, I came down with the flu and it kicked my butt.  I was in bed for the whole of our Christmas break and did not run a step for 2 and half weeks – which felt like an eternity.  Even when I did run after that – I wanted to just stop.  3 miles felt like 15.  Mentally, I felt defeated before I ever started the race.

Race day:  Alexis and  I decided we were going to run the first five miles at an eleven minute pace – nice and easy.  Then the next five at 10:45….then the next five at 10:30 or under. We wanted to keep dropping by 15 seconds until we hit the wall and just couldn’t anymore. Then, YaYa slammed into the wall – knees first – at mile 15.  Actually, just before mile 15.  Around 13 I was struggling a little bit and wanted to slow down (we were actually running at, like 10:15).  My belly was cramping.  She talked me through it as best as she could when I told her I needed her to encourage me.  She was great.  We rounded the corner from the marina, just after crossing over an overpass and hearing the speaker shout out our current time.  I dashed to the porta pottie to no avail as YaYa stretched in the street.   The runners had really thinned out at this point.

We got back to it and shortly after that, she just could not overcome.  She kept expecting to move beyond whatever was hurting her and push through and it just never happened. She told me on a few occasions that if I left her, she would quit – as a way to say thank you for the support.  Around mile 23 she told me that finishing this race was, by far, the hardest thing she has ever had to do.  Really?  Now, like on that 16 mile run over Thanksgiving Break – our ages became very apparent once again.

I was conflicted, I am embarrassed to say.  I wanted to stay with her so badly.  I wanted to support her and be a team.  But I was frustrated that I had trained so hard, for what seemed so long – only to fall short of my goals.  I thought to myself about the 2 other times in my life I trained for a marathon.   The first time, I just gave up mid training – excuses are there, but I can’t remember them now.  Then the next time I had my appendix out mid training and I just could not mentally overcome that.  As I write this now, I do also remember being alone for both failures.  Perhaps that drove my ultimate decision.

Keep in mind – we have run shorter races together before, and when someone gets a groove on, well, she takes off!  This is a perfectly acceptable practice.

I had staggered, graded goals (What can I say, I am a teacher).  Alexis actually gave me the idea.  She learned it from a marathon course she had taken as an undergrad at Clemson University.  A – under 4:30, B – under 5, C – finish.  There really was not option D or F – Finish I must.

I felt really good from the first step that day and thought, briefly, I might hit the A goal. YaYa had to hold me back early on so I would not burn out – which is why we started at 11 minute miles.  As we continued on with the 5 hour pacer guy, I realized that under 5 was still solid and perfectly respectable.  As we went on I realized how challenging even this was going to be with my now aching daughter.  At 24 miles, honestly, when the 5:30 pacer passed us – a little part of me really felt sad (I don’t want to say died, that’s a little too dramatic).  But my frustration peeked.  I was so torn…be a good mom, be a team player or own your training, compete, run! – oh my competitive side yelled at me the whole way.  Well, now I have this stored energy, we are nearing the end, and I want to run.  I mean, there are only 2 miles left – surely you can make that on your own after what we have been through.  As we slowed for her knees, I began to cramp in my hips and thighs because I needed a full stride, desperately.

So, question of the hour, should I let her fail here?  She is 24 years old.  She admitted to not training like she should have.  But she ran 16 twice with no issues of any kind.  Something hurt this time.  What if it was just a wall, or just a fluke? So what. We were going to do it together.   How would I have reacted or finished if the roles were reversed and she took off and left me because I was struggling.  It may have made it harder on me, but I guarantee I would have finished.   She would have, too. I cried at 23 ish because I was so overwhelmed with emotion.  I think it was mostly from feeling like my daughter actually needed me for the first time in what seemed like a decade.  How could I turn my back on her no matter how much my ego cried out for an A?  What kind of person would that have made me? What kind of mother?  She doesn’t need to learn a lesson here – I do.

I am allowed to have feelings. AND it is what I do with those that make me who I am, right?  Well, my enthusiasm and joy could not be diminished by my competitive ego and I continued DSC_0823 (2)to bounce and smile and sing (seemingly obnoxiously) until the very last step over the finish line with my daughter at my side.  I will forever remember the high fives at every mile, even the 26th, and her tears the entire last mile.  Time: 5 hours and 35 minutes.

One proud mamathoner.

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The Smash Book

Every trip I take abroad with students can be relived while flipping through the smash book I created while on tour.  Just keep things as you go and take notes – when you have a free hour, spend some time writing, pasting, and doodling.  The end product is practically finished when you arrive home.  The practice has grown on my trips and now multiple members of the group work on them as we travel.  As for the others in the group, although they don’t care to complete a book, they do enjoy seeking out items to include in the smash book.

Post cards, maps, brochures.  I am always sure to put several clips and various types of pockets in the book before I leave.  It is also fun to try to fancy a pocket out of a travel trinket of some sort.  This just adds to the unique, one of kind souvenir I take home.  Also, I love to grab every free brochure at the hotels to cut the little picture out of the places that we end up going to.  I also like to use the words and titles in them.

When I do finally make it home and print out all of my pictures from a trip, I will always get extra prints of a few of my favorite shots – usually the ones with the people in them – and put them in the book, too.