Something’s happening lately with the parents of young kids, a cultural phenomenon so pervasive I can’t avoid it. At Moms’ Night Out, school drop-off and even at your average business meeting, someone is doing it or talking about doing it. I can't even order a piece of Reduced Fat Banana Nut Coffeecake at Starbucks without hearing at least one person mention it. What is this craze that has captured the hearts of moms and dads? Marathons.
I understand the desire to be fit. Before starting Families in the Loop, I was a typical gym mama, hitting the elliptical for 45 minutes 5 days a week, doing my core-strengthening Bosu exercises, and running errands afterwards in my only lululemon zip-up hoodie. Even now, after a few too many days without a workout, I’ll start to ask hubby if I look lumpy, mushy, doughy, muffin top-ish, love-handle laden, etc. (He’s demanded that I no longer ask him if I looked you-know-what, so I have to get creative with my descriptors). I’m as preoccupied as the next mama with my body and all its real and imaginary flaws. But run a marathon? I simply don’t get it.
As I watched the muscles on my mom friends’ calves get firmer and firmer, I decided that to better understand this curious crop of Marathon Parents, I’d begin running myself. That lasted about 11 minutes and 45 seconds, the time it took me to huff and puff my way through one mile on the treadmill. I quickly realized that experiencing the marathon as a participant was not going to happen. But I still wanted to know: what are we running for?
My sense, even though I haven’t asked too many people (see, I’m a lazy exerciser and a lazy blogger who doesn’t even conduct a proper survey), is that my parent peers run marathons because they want to set and achieve a goal, a BIG goal. Those long races and the training that comes along with them are an obstacle to overcome, a challenge to meet head on.
And that happens to be exactly why I don’t want to run; I’m already completely overwhelmed by all of the goals in my life. Build a successful business, get kid into a good school, make sure husband doesn’t feel neglected, decrease carbon footprint, pluck eyebrows evenly – I’m on goal overload. My body is the one area where I need a break. No symbolic mountains to climb, no best times to beat, just an hour or so of cardio at a reasonably raised heart rate and a few weights here and there to keep the body somewhat firm and the osteoporosis at bay.
Why else do moms and dads run marathons? A few more reasons come to mind. From the entreaties every day on my Facebook page, many run to raise money and awareness for important causes. I get it, I love it, and I imagine it makes the 13.1094/26.2 miles seem so much more worthwhile. But I just wish that more of us would donate anyway, without our loved ones having to deal with bloody blisters, broken toenails and horrible back pain. (Running friends: if I’ve led you to believe that I’ll only give if you run, I totally suck!)
Another reason why parents run may actually be less about altruism and more about ego. I think marathoners enjoy telling others about their efforts. Maybe our lives are so much about kids, spouses, careers, and Disney vacations that we want something that connotes tremendous health, perseverance and commitment (a healthy mid-life crisis?). To be honest, sometimes I wonder if I want to train for a marathon or a triathlon not because I want to run, swim and bike, but because I want to see the impressed look on other’s faces when I tell them my plans.
So, for all of you lacing up your racing shoes this weekend, remember this at mile 20: there are many parents out there, including me, who are envious of your endurance, low resting heart rate, healthy cholesterol levels, and killer abs.
And, in all seriousness, please also remember the many of us who are beyond words grateful to you for raising awareness and money for diseases such as leukemia, which claimed the life of a dear friend of mine way before it was her time to go.
Even though I’m sure you’re about to post a comment here that’s somewhere along the lines of “I don’t care what others think about me running” or “I don’t run for anyone but myself” or “you’re just jealous because you couldn’t run to Sweet Mandy B’s and back,” I wish you a wonderful race this weekend. Know that the lazy and/or goal-overloaded are rooting for you, from the comfort of our lumpy bumpy, over-used couches.
~By Wendy Widom, Partner, Families in the Loop
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