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Modern Perspectives, Motherhood, Young Married Mom

January 12, 2013

Marathoning Mama

Don’t be alarmed. This post isn’t about me. I only participate in marathons when there are life-altering questions and jewelry involved.

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When we were preparing to move to Brooklyn, we met a couple through friends of friends. They were smart, faithful, fun, and really made us feel welcome in our new borough. We quickly came to call them friends, and though we don’t see as much of each other as we’d like, they and their fabulous little girl hold a very special place in our hearts.

 

The wife/mother/wonder woman of the family, Mary, has run with a group called Team in Training for longer than we’ve known her. She started with the group in part to honor a family member. Last year (or two years ago now!), the connection grew deeper: both her mother and her best friend were diagnosed with the kinds of lymphoma Mary raises money to treat and beat. Thank God, they are both in remission now. Mary’s most recent marathon was run to honor and give thanks for them. Pretty incredible, right?

 

Beautiful Mary was kind enough to allow me to share part of the letter she sent to those who supported her during her training here on the blog. I don’t think you have to know Mary personally to see how full of love her heart is and how strong her mind and body are. Her reflections on motherhood are spot-on and downright inspiring.

 

If you’d like to donate to Team in Training, click here: http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyc12/maryenquist

 

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. . . Just two weeks before [the Philadelphia Marathon], Hurricane Sandy had rocked New York City, and rightly so, the NYC Marathon was cancelled and its resources donated to families in need.  The Philly Marathon opened last minute slots for New York runners and made for a great Plan B race. It was to be my third full marathon, but the experience felt brand new as my first as a mother – an endurance event all its own!

Last spring when I signed up for another season of Team in Training, I was excited and energized towards this goal, but also approached it with a fair bit of trepidation and self-doubt, unsure if I’d really find a way to balance it all.  I remember emailing my coaches early in the season, begging them to hold me accountable and giving them permission to kick me in the rear if I wasn’t getting my rear out on the road.  I also knew that this year, more than any other year, would be meaningful with both my mom and my best friend newly in remission from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  I felt I had to do something to give back for the immense blessing of their effective treatments and reclaimed lives.

Five miles into the race I was feeling great.  I glanced down at my watch to see how I was doing on my time goal and was surprised to see a blank screen.  After fiddling with my watch unsuccessfully for a few steps, I realized that for the next 21+ miles I’d be flying blind and would have to run by feel.  In a way, being forced to throw my pre-calculated race plans out the window and move forward in faith was a fitting representation of a mindset I had grown accustomed to this season.

Becoming a mother changes everything.  Your priorities change, your body changes, and perhaps most surprising, your ability to be in control changes.  Sure, there were the logistical challenges of fitting in the training, but perhaps what was more daunting was how I would manage keeping up with an energetic toddler and the unanticipated hurdles that were out of my control.  In seasons past, I was disciplined and diligent in my training.  I’d head to bed early the night before a long run and would carve out my entire Saturday to recover.  Looking back on it, it was a pretty plush life.

This season was a little different.  As a working mom, I had to be a lot more creative in how and when I could fit in my training – like running home from work, rather than taking the subway.  I forced myself to develop the mental toughness to do most of my training alone and I made the commitment to myself to hire a babysitter after bedtime to be able to go out and do interval speed training and hill repeats with my running team once a week.  The runs still happened, but they needed to be much more flexible and coordinated around the needs of the family.  A full night’s sleep was a rarity, rather than a given.  Not wanting to miss an extra minute with Natalie, I raced home each Saturday morning, stretched in the shower, and continued running after the Little Miss the rest of the day.  My well-rested, former self could never have fathomed this being possible and probably would have bowed out in exhaustion, but motherhood changes you in another major way.  It makes you stronger.

The middle section of the marathon flew by in a blur.  Unsure of exactly how fast I was running, I tried to keep pace with familiar runners in the crowd.  I remember seeing someone named “Aaron” with their name on the back of their tee-shirt and a runner dressed up like a Spartan.  Feeling like you are part of something bigger than yourself is one of my favorite things about running a marathon.  In those miles, I found myself relying on my peers to set the pace.  Around mile 14, two fellow Team in Training runners from a New Jersey Chapter noticed my racing jersey and introduced themselves.  I honestly don’t remember their names and couldn’t pick them out of a crowd, but for their company at that point in time, I will be forever grateful.  Both, coincidentally, were mothers of young children and were incredibly encouraging of both my first marathon back and expressed deep empathy as they asked about my connection to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  There is nothing quite like running for a cause you deeply believe in and sharing your story on the run. With emotions running high, fueled by my love of my mother and best friend, I pushed ahead alone towards the finish line.

Our coaches have a saying that “the first 10 miles, you run with your head” (i.e., being smart on your pace, nutrition, and hydration plans).   “The second 10 miles, you run with your legs” (i.e., this is when your training kicks in). “The last 10K (6.2 miles), you run with your heart.”  For me, the back 10K was a spiritual experience.  I felt like my body was “just running” and my heart and soul were raised to a higher place…a place of deep gratitude and a concrete understanding of what might have been had my mother or Allison not responded to treatment or not had cutting-edge treatments available to them.  My heart ached thinking about families that have endured that loss.  My thoughts also turned to my daughter and how it might feel to have a doctor tell me she had cancer.  Picturing her waiting for me at the finish line charged me ahead with all I had left.

I finished in tears…tears of joy, tears of thanksgiving, and tears of exhaustion (part physical, but also part emotional).  What an insane and truly blessed year and a half this has been!

I finished in 3 hours and 49 minutes, a personal best of nearly 40 minutes from my pre-pregnancy marathon time.  I couldn’t have done it without you…and neither could have Mom or Allison.

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Thank you, Mary, for sharing your story with us.

  1. […] weekend, after months of busy schedules, I had the opportunity to hang out with my friend Mary, the mama who wrote a letter about motherhood and running I posted a while back. She’s been part of my inspiration to take up running, and it was only […]

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