Sunday, May 8, 2011

Moms and Running: Two Great Assets

Watching the PBS video “Buffet and Gates Go Back to School” I was struck by Warren Buffet’s advice “The most important investment you can make is in yourself." In light of Mother’s Day, his words seem out of context. Mothers make tremendous sacrifices for their children; they are paragons of unselfishness. Any mother with young children knows it can be very difficult to invest in oneself. And yet, I think he’s right. He added, “The best asset is your own self.” How does this claim hold true on a day like Mother’s Day? I think running gives an answer.One of my more interesting side jobs was to serve as a “wrangler” at the 2009 Nike Women’s Marathon. It was my responsibility to make sure that the race winner knew where to go upon completing her 26.2-mile victory. She couldn’t leave my sight; I had to “wrangle” her to the awards stand, away from the press and the crowd as needed. This job meant that I stood and waited at the finish line for over an hour. In that time of anticipation, I was a witness to some remarkable feats and legendary people. Distance running greats Joan Benoit and Kara Goucher, both sponsored by Nike waited beside me to congratulate the winner. I was struck by how tiny Benoit was. I thought this woman who is all of “a buck five” on the scale won the first Olympic gold medal for the women’s marathon in 1984?! Kara Goucher could not have been more regal, articulate and beautiful. What great role models for young women. The winner of the women’s half marathon was too.Carrie Dimoff of Portland, OR won the 13.1 journey without any competition in a time of 1:25:26. She was congratulated and interviewed at the finish. She wasn’t even winded. She was smiling from ear to ear and laughing (must have been that runner’s high). She commented on her tactics for running well and when asked, “Is there anything else you’d like to say?” she responded, “Yes, I’d like to dedicate this race to my son. He was born in May and we’ve been running together a lot. He got me here.” 

 I did the math. This woman had endured pregnancy and labor just five months earlier. And now she won the world’s largest all-women’s marathon and half marathon. 
Moms are so inspiring. So is running. To run is to invest in oneself—both physically and mentally. Running may be hard on the knees, but it good for the heart, weight management, bone density and all around endorphin release. When solo, running clears my mind. I am able to reflect on my day or work through problems, I think of lesson plans, and I dream. 

The mental health benefits are also social benefits. Running side by side with a friend is a gift. Perhaps it’s because you're both looking ahead but it seems to me that when I run with a friend, the most intimate of topics are revealed. It's funny, I don’t know how many times I have said “those 5 miles just flew by.” And running with a group can be silly or it can be silent. 
Although it’s rare, I love when I join a small pack of girls on my team and we complete a challenging run without words; all we hear are our footsteps and our breathing.

I’m glad so many moms who are both every day runners and serious competitors are investing in themselves. And these moms are easy to find. For example, in 2007 British runner Paula Radcliffe won the New York Marathon less than 10 months after giving birth. 2008 Olympian Kara Goucher competed in the 2011 Boston Marathon, where she ran a personal best for a fifth place finish in the women's division; she gave birth to her son Colt in September 2010. On the other end of the spectrum, at the age of 60 my beloved Aunt Wendy competed in her first marathon in Eugene in 2010. 

She was supported by her daughter, my cousin Amy who ran the last 6 miles with her (and this is after Amy, a great athlete, completed the half marathon), her husband/my uncle Jay and her eldest daughter/my cousin Jodi and me at the finish. To see my Aunt Wendy complete the 26.2 journey on Hayward Field smiling, exuberant and healthy was a privilege. It was an inspiring, humbling, awesome feat! Because of my health, it also was my last official race. I could not have asked for a better one, I wouldn’t go out any other way. I cherish memories from that race and that day.On this Mother’s Day, I have been thinking about the significance of the example our mother’s give us. I think when a mom is a runner, she gives a great example to her children of self-discipline and the importance of physical fitness, challenging oneself, reaching goals and having fun. Personally, I believe mothers are the best examples of God's love here on earth (not all, but a whole lot!). They feed and nurture us from the very moment of our being. They possess a healing power like no other. They are our cheerleaders and a model of selflessness. I hope on this day and many others we can give our moms more time and encouragement to invest in themselves. For when they do-- be it in running, their friendships and so forth, we all benefit. We may be our own best asset, but I think my mom is too.

Mother's Day Prayer by Gaynell Bordes Cronin
I love you, Mom.
I love your aliveness, your joy in living, your understanding, your giving.
And what I love best of all is that you love me.
God of all Mothers, thank you for my mom! 
—From the book Friend Jesus: Prayers for Children

Photo Credits
Aunt Wendy, Amy and I/Wendy at the finish taken by Jodi Herchold! Goucher, Benoit and Nike Women's Winner Paula Radcliffe

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