“Momma is going to run a marathon.”
Vaughn looked at me, his nose wrinkled, “What’s that?”
“It’s a really, long, long run.” How can I expect him, a four-year old, to wrap his mind around this when I, a 39-year old, was struggling to? In an attempt to gain a better understanding, I searched for a city that was 26 miles from my home in Saint Paul. That city, to the east, is Wisconsin. I will be running the same distance from Saint Paul to Wisconsin. Even though I find this fact staggering, on March 11, as I filled out the registration form for the Twin Cities Marathon, running 26.2 miles is what I committed to do. Call it a mid-life crisis, call it a bucket-list check, it’s both of those things, and on October 6, 2019, I joined the exclusive club.
As I set out on this endeavor, I knew I would learn a lot, but I also knew it would hold countless teaching opportunities. What better way to teach my kids about setting goals and working hard to achieve them than to train for and run a marathon? And what better way to teach my kids about the importance of healthy foods and how they fuel the body?
Over the past several months of my training, there were many good lessons. I was able to teach my kids about commitment, determination, endurance, persistence, perseverance…basically all the words found on framed inspirational posters paired with landscapes. They tagged along as I went to the gym for strength training on my days off from cardio. They played on the playground as I ran countless circles around it. They practiced yoga with me when my muscles were screaming for a stretch. They rang bells and cheered for me from the sidelines of many 5Ks and a half marathon. I explained to them how my training was practice and I needed to practice a lot to get stronger. They know if I am strong and healthy, I would be better equipped to complete the race. And although the marathon was a race, they were aware that I wasn’t competing against anyone or trying to win, far from it. My goal was to simply cross the finish line (despite there being nothing simple about it) and “finish what I started.”
On many mornings throughout the summer, my kids woke to momma already on the run. I walked through our door, soaked in sweat as they rushed towards me, still in pajamas, asking excitedly, “How many miles today?” With every response (even though they can’t grasp the distance) their wide eyes were accompanied by very impressed “wows!” and “whoas!” Their words influenced by my husband’s teachings of how to be encouraging, supportive and to celebrate the little victories. I ate these words up and they fueled my motivation.
Speaking of fuel, this was also the perfect opportunity to elaborate on healthy foods vs. unhealthy foods. Fruits and vegetables are “super foods” because they contain vitamins and minerals. “Power foods” are foods that contain healthy carbohydrates and proteins. We talked about how “you are what you eat” and the systems of the body and how they all work together to breakdown the foods we consume and use the nutrients for energy and to repair muscles. We also talked about processed foods, “treats,” and sugar rush and subsequent crash. But it wasn’t all talk, it was also action. They watched me make and drink “Momma’s morning juice” (kale, spinach, carrots, ginger, turmeric and apple cider vinegar) daily. They were in the cart at the grocery store where most of our time and money was spent in the produce section. We also have a “fruit stand” in the corner of the kitchen, where they are welcome to snack on anything from it, at any time, without asking permission. They fully understand that our bodies are like engines and need clean fuel to run well.
On race day, I loaded up my fanny pack with energy gels, got my playlist cued up and attached one of my boy’s stuffed sloths named “slow-mo” to my belt (I would give him a squeeze and think about my boys when I needed a power boost). As all the runners loaded into our starting corrals, I thought about all the preparation, the miles run, the power foods eaten, the cowbells bought, the posters made and the last link I tore off the paper chain that counted down the days until my big race; everything comes down to this. With a blare of a horn, we were off. They refer to the Twin Cities Marathon as “the most beautiful urban marathon” and although I’ve never run any other for comparison (and I might be a bit bias), I would have to agree. The run snakes through downtown Minneapolis, through the chain of lakes, along and then across the Mississippi River with the final miles stretching on Summit Ave to the Cathedral with the finish line at the capitol. My family was able to track me on the app with my chip and show up along the route to cheer for me (and several thousand other runners). My boys’ faces would light up when they saw me and their already aggressive bell ringing would escalate. I would stop and give them kisses, tell them they were doing a great job cheering. They kept me motivated to run those 62,926 steps to the finish line like a mother!
From the moment I clicked submit on the registration, I planned for my kids to be an integral part of my marathon process. My boys were there for every step until I crossed the finish line. I knew it would be an opportunity to show them that I am the super hero they already think I am and to teach them how to be super heroes of their own.