In 2003, at the suggestion of my mom, I trained for and ran my first marathon. As a recent college grad, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain when she suggested that running a marathon would change my life. I wasn’t sure exactly how it would change but I was willing to take the chance. The day I crossed the finish line of that race I was forever changed. No longer a girl who didn’t believe in herself, I had found the confidence I lacked growing up.
Fast forward 13 years and I’m still running marathons—and still running with my mom. She was there with me in those final miles of my first marathon and in less than a month she will be with me for all 26.2 miles of my 32nd marathon (her 24th marathon). It’s a special bond that we have, one that I appreciate more as time goes on.
Here are a few of the many things I’ve learned over the years from running and training with my mom.
Everything will be okay.
No really, it will. In 2001, I started running on a consistent basis, with my mom by my side for many of those miles. At that point in life I felt like I was at rock bottom—a tough place to be at any age—but one that felt extra miserable as a teenager. Over the years we have run together through our various ups and downs. At times it felt like both of our worlds were crashing down only to find ourselves on top of the mountain back again a couple of years later. Everything has always worked out. Yes, there have been losses and moments of growth that we didn’t want to experience, but in the end both of us have always come out stronger. Everything has always turned out okay, we have always been okay.
Age truly is a number (one that we shouldn’t let define us).
My mom started running as an adult. She wasn’t athletically gifted and didn’t grow up doing sports. Yet in 2014 she came in first in her age group at the Marine Corps Marathon! Having qualified for and completed the Boston Marathon nine times, she has at no point used her age as a reason not to give it her all. When I am feeling down about my running, she reminds me that I am not even close to the age she was when she had her best running year. It reminds me that age is just a number, and thinking that I’m getting too old for something is crazy talk. She also reminds me that our best years might not be those years that are filled with PR’s.
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Her advice is sound.
Runs are a great time to talk things out, both with yourself and others. Getting advice from someone who has quite literally known you your whole life is nothing short of amazing. When we go on 20 mile runs and talk through what is happening in both of our lives, we don’t have to give the back story, we know it because we both have lived it.
Irrational fears are just that: Irrational.
In college I was diagnosed with social anxiety and have worked hard over the years to minimize its impact on my life. Running has helped me tremendously, but I’d be lying if I said that anxiety isn’t now manifesting itself in other ways. Talking out my fears with my mom on runs has been one of the most valuable aspects of having a mom who runs. She is my mom, she knows how my mind works and can tell me when what I am thinking is irrational and not true.
Off days happen even to the best of runners.
My mom ran her first marathon before I did; a feat that I couldn’t believe she was capable of doing. When she told me if she could do it I could do it, a part of me doubted that because I looked up to her as someone who was stronger than I was. She was correct however, I could do it, and I did do it, and I keep doing it. When she has an off day or month, it reminds me that even strong runners have off days. Just because I may not be where I want to be on a specific day doesn’t mean I am not a strong runner.
Long runs are often about more than fitness.
We run long because we like marathons, but often those runs are about so much more than fitness. While my mom is my rock, she also needs a rock sometimes. Long runs prove to both of us over and over that we can do hard things. Which takes me back to point number one: Everything will be okay.
I always have someone in my corner.
Friends come and go in life. Some stick around forever and some only enter our lives for a season. My mom, though? She is with me through and through. Sometimes (to my embarrassment) she is my biggest fan and greatest cheerleader. When she tells me that I am amazing, I know at her core she believes that to be true. It’s a wonderful thing in life to know that you are deeply loved and cared about.
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Branching out is good for the soul.
I’m one of those people who likes the thought of running with others, but when it comes down to it, I often let anxiety keep me from meeting up for runs. Training mostly alone can get boring and lonely at times. My mom, however, is one of those people who will always make the effort to meet up with friends or go for a run with someone new—even if it means driving more miles than she plans on running. Every time she has dragged me to a run with her friends I’ve left the run feeling renewed. It’s good to branch out and get out of your comfort zone.
You can do anything for 3 minutes.
This is one of our favorite things to say to each other when we don’t want to take another step. We can do anything for 3 minutes. You can do anything for 3 minutes. I can do anything for 3 minutes. When that 3 minutes is up and we find ourselves saying holy effing shiz I don’t want to go any farther, one of us says, “Three minutes, we can do anything for 3 minutes.” There have been runs that we have done this for countless miles. Three minutes later reevaluate if you have another 3 minutes in you.
Follow along as my mom and I finish up our last weeks of training for Marine Corps Marathon on Instagram at @mileposts and @misslesleyruns!