My Six-Year-Old Inspired Me to Run a Half Marathon

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We’ve invited moms who inspire us to share their stories with Momtastic for our Super Mom Series. In the fall of 2012, Mary and her husband adopted their first child together, a son from Ethiopia. A.A. inspired Mary to run her first half-marathon at the age of 51. In addition to wanting to get back into an exercise regime after the holidays and the excitement of having A.A. join their family, the self-described "half-a#sed runner" says she had larger motivations for taking on this challenge. "I needed my son to see his 50-something mom tackle something big."

I've always said I would never do a half marathon (and I can rant on how it's bad for one's body), but when my pal Juno suggested I do the More/Fitness Half last year, she caught me in a weak moment. I was web-surfing from my Brooklyn couch while our son A.A. was sleeping. I had just finished with maternity leave after adopting our five-year-old son from Ethiopia. So there I was returning to the office and learning, along with my husband, how to raise a child, to make him feel safe and secure with his forever family, and to teach him English — while working full time. Why not add a half-marathon (13.1 miles) to my docket?

But I needed to do something. I had just turned 51, and I had let exercise get away from me, particularly after the holidays and the excitement (and busy-ness) of our expanded family. So I persuaded a few other women to join me on the newly formed "Team Juno," but our idea to train together was just a pipe dream. 

I'm a half-a#sed runner. When not in training — and I'm usually not in training — I run (jog, really) perhaps two times a week (30 minutes max), do a couple of short sessions of free weights, and walk up a lot of mountain roads with my family. So I followed a beginner training schedule to the T, doing every suggested cross-training and weight-strengthening exercise in addition to the grueling four-times-per-week running schedule. Come a beautiful race day in New York's Central Park in 2013, I was happy to average 12-minute miles. It was no runner's high, mind you. I was beat, but I didn't feel too bad physically and I was ecstatic I finished.

This year, as expected, most of Team Juno dropped out, but two co-workers and I signed up anyway. Then my husband threw down the gauntlet: "It's not in the cards for you this year," he said.  What? Why not? I needed his support, not his doubts. Matter-of-factly he listed his reservations: I had an early morning work schedule (8 a.m.), he worked on Sundays, and our first grader wanted us home more. All true, but his challenge was the last thing I needed to keep going. In particular, I wasn't just doing this for myself, I needed for A.A. to see his 50-something mom tackle something big. After every run, he guessed how many miles I had run. Two? Three? Eight? Any number above six and I'd get a "Sweet, wow!" look. Anything below five and he'd say, "That's all? I did that in gym class."  

I started the 12-week training schedule in January, and I had to admit my husband might be right. I was a little heavier (just 5 pounds but still), and the elements were against me. The long brutal winter forced me to run 10 excruciatingly boring laps per mile at the Y gym (fortunately a high school track team was inspiring and entertaining as I endlessly circled). And in the Catskills, where we spend time on the weekends, the icy temperatures numbed whatever enjoyment I might have mustered from the great outdoors. To throw in yet another obstacle, I had to cut short an eight-mile run halfway because a German Shepherd bit me in the a#s! Not a terrible wound, but a small puncture wound, a huge bruise on my butt and to my ego — and I was traumatized. Besides the idiocy of a neighbor letting a known biting dog off his leash, I was angry my training was interrupted. I needed every single session. I wasn't doing all the cross training and the free weights this time around, and I was nervous as race day approached. 

I felt okay, not great, but okay, after the last long run, a 12-mile session. I was slow, but it was on the mountain roads, I told myself. The last week before the race, I felt sluggish during shorter three-mile training runs, and I was constantly ravenous (don't run a half-marathon to lose weight, it won't work) and craved chocolate. 

And then the half-marathon gods tossed another obstacle my way. It's funny really. The queens of menopause and kings of hot flashes decided to take a break and bring on PMS and then my monthly bill (which had become bi-annual) the day before.
But I made it to the race, blood and all. They say you don't sleep before a race and it's true. I got about five hours of sleep, but once I arrived for my two-plus loops around Central Park, the flowers of spring and the other runners, perked me up. I put on my headphones and did it. All by myself. With 8,000 other runners. My husband J.R. and A.A. were at mile seven with a sweet sign, "Go Mary," adorned with butterflies and flowers. I was slightly slower than last year but my last mile was my fastest and I happily waved to hubby and son as I zoomed into the finish line. Afterwards I gave A.A. my medal. I had already gotten my gold — showing them and myself what a 52-year-old working mom can do.