I have mentioned before that I didn’t take up running events and triathlon until I was 33. How that happened all comes down to my mother. With this being Mother’s Day, I figure now is a fitting time to write about how it all began. My mother had me later in life and by the time I was 7 years old she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. It started in her hands but quickly spread to her entire body. Ultimately she was diagnosed with every bone disease except bone cancer. There was not a time in my life that I remember her not having arthritis. Despite her crippling diseases, she did everything possible to make sure my sister and I didn’t suffer as a result of her suffering. I may be biased here, but she truly was an awesome mother. She defined unconditional love.
Athleticism was not her strong suit. She grew up during the Great Depression, long before Title Nine and even if she had a burning desire for sports, funding it was impossible. I discovered fitness on my own, mostly in high school and college. I would go to the gym to workout, but I never considered myself a runner. I preferred the stair machine truth be told. Philanthropy has always been an interest of mine and since arthritis was such a huge part of my life, I wanted to get involved with the Arthritis Foundation. Then one day in April of 1999 a flier showed up in my mail and it changed my life. It was from the Arthritis Foundation soliciting people to join their program Joints In Motion. So many charities have the programs – they train you to run a marathon at a fun destination and in return you fund raise to cover your cost and raise money for the organization. Joints in Motion was training to run or walk a marathon in Dublin, Ireland. Heck, I would walk 26.2 miles to see Dublin! I signed up and two things quickly happened. At the first meeting I saw a variety of body types – from athletic to couch potato – and most were going to run the marathon, not walk it. Well, peer pressure won and I decided to run it. The second thing that happen was I fell in love with running.
I raised over $4,300 in honor of my mother and I ran in Dublin. Through the experience I also met many people in the running community. I had no idea that such a huge sub-culture existed. The moment I crossed the finish line in Dublin I knew I would run another marathon. Shortly after Dublin I began exploring triathlon. I got a good bike and learned that cycling was my strongest of the three. As many of my readers know, swimming continues to be my work in progress. But I am progressing.
Through it all, I have experienced the ups and downs. Mantras have helped me through so much. So has my mother. She was in incredible pain for over 35 years. Never did she decide she was going to live in bed and be waited on. Just the opposite. She mastered walking holding on to furniture to get to her walker or scooter – instead of asking someone to help her. She pressed on. That motivation keeps me pressing on. The pain a marathoner experiences during and after the race is terrible. She lived that pain daily. That is what keeps me going when I hurt. It was my motivation as I ran 10 good miles today. Ultimately she died from pancreatic cancer. My sister and I believe it developed as a result of her weakened immune system due to the drugs she took for so long to manage her pain. She always maintained her dignity, she was graceful and the true definition of a lady. And she is why I got into endurance sports and will always be my greatest motivation.