What if you could do a half marathon with four generations of your family?

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In our crazy busy lives, it can be pretty difficult to get family together. Sometimes it can feel like nothing short of a miracle just to get everyone to meet up for brunch. So what one family—four generations of women, to be exact—is doing to stay connected is absolutely awe-inspiring. On June 5, matriarch Dorothy Joy, daughter Jenny Dean, granddaughter Mandey Marangakis and great-granddaughter Ashley Marangakis will participate in the Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon. Ranging in ages from 14 to 89, the event will mark their third race together.

Related: Lessons From Harriette Thompson, World’s Oldest Marathoner

So how does something so special come to be? In 2002, on the day before her 75th birthday, Dorothy accompanied her daughter to a race. As Jenny recalls, they went to pick up her race packet and “I guess Mom got caught up in all the excitement and decided to sign up for the race on the spot.”  For the next several years, the pair continued to complete races together. Eventually Jenny’s daughter Mandey came with them, and then two years ago Mandey’s daughter Ashley was finally old enough to join the rest of her family.

SURF CITY BACK

The group attracts a lot of attention when they participate in races; runners often remark how lucky they are to be able to have these experiences.  Dorothy notes that many people tell her they wish their mothers or daughters could run with them, and Jenny echoes that sentiment, calling it a “once in a lifetime experience.” Youngest Ashley concurs and is aware that she’s very lucky to be one of few kids her age to know her great-grandmother, adding that the experience of walking with her is humbling because “my great grandma can show me up—she’s like the energizer bunny!” She’s not kidding either—Dorothy has completed more than 50 half marathons and until recently finished first in her age group; she wears her age on the back of her shirt in every race to inspire other participants.

Despite the distance of their races, the accomplished foursome is pretty flexible with their training. Jenny and Dorothy walk 3-4 miles during the week and 4-8 miles on weekends, making sure to incorporate plenty of hill work. They also mix in weekly weight training and water aerobics. Ashley joins them on occasional walks and does regular tumbling and cheerleading workouts, while her mom Mandey prefers a more laid-back approach—“I just show up and walk!”

What makes their races so meaningful is what the women talk about during those 13.1 miles. When Mandey joined her mother and grandmother on their races, they started to go over their family history together. Once Ashley rounded out the group, “family history was passed on to the fourth generation” says Dorothy. It’s that invaluable time together that keeps them going and serves as an inspiration to other runners and families alike. As Mandey puts it, “Who better to run with than family?”