"You have how many kids?" is the normal response I get when I meet people for the first time. Yes, being the mother of a half dozen children, ages 17 to 3, tends to raise a few eyebrows. When people learn how many marathons I run, they are really shocked; wondering how I juggle the responsibilities of a large family with the challenges of marathon training.
Running is my oxygen mask. It's the weapon I use to handle the stress in my life. Occasionally, being the mother of six leaves me feeling overwhelmed and overextended. Running is the one activity that allows me to have a sliver of time to myself. Often, it is the only time during the week in which I can hear my own thoughts. While running, I prioritize my "to do" lists; plan my family's schedule; and think about each child's needs.
How did I get involved in marathon running? I don't have an amazing transformation story to tell. I have been passionate about fitness since my teenage years. I have worked out religiously all of my adult life, exercising right up until the day of delivery with all six of my pregnancies. Six years ago, I joined my husband as he began a training program for his first marathon. Little did I know that I would learn to fall in love with the marathon distance and it's endless challenges.
Three years ago, I had my sixth child. Although I opted not to run marathons during this pregnancy, I picked up my training shortly after my son's delivery. In the past five years, I have run a total of 45 marathons in 37 different states. My family supports and encourages me to pursue my goal of the completion of a marathon in each of the 50 states plus DC. I hope to see my dream fulfilled by the fall of 2013. Soon, I will also tackle my goal of running a marathon on each of the seven continents. In February, I am taking a week long trip to the Southern Hemisphere where I will run marathons in both Chile and Antarctica.
Another unique feature of my personal marathon story is the history of my race times. Over time (and the more marathons I run), I seem to be consistently improving my race times. I have diligently worked to reduce my marathon finish times in hopes of one day qualifying for Boston. It took me more than 30 marathons and a little over five years to get my times down to the Boston qualification standards. In the past three months, I have run Boston qualifying times at five different marathons.
As a woman who made the choice to leave a promising career 15 years ago to stay home with my children, I want to encourage others to never lose sight of their own dreams. The tangible, measurable goal that I am accomplishing through my marathon running has increased my self-esteem. The renewed sense of zest for life that I have gained through the fulfillment of this dream has benefitted not only me but my family.
The next time you are on a plane, listen closely. In the event of an emergency, it is always advised that you, the adult, put on your oxygen mask before your child's. As I check off marathons in each state, I am putting on my oxygen mask. I am more mentally and physically nourished. I am better able to give my best to my husband and six children.