Part 1: Traveling mom = Running mom
It still amazes me that I run. As in, I’m surprised every single time I do it.
For many years one of my favorite jokes is that I would only ever run if I discovered a lion roaming my neighborhood. No marathons or races of any kind for me. No training. No discussion, ever, of my workouts. No workouts to discuss beyond hot yoga classes and a bit of vigorous walking.
But the reality is that as my children got older, I also aged. And in what I view as a supremely unfair machination of the universe, as they grew more competent and strong, I felt less so. There were aches and pains where once I had none. My midsection softened and spread with no respect for the boundaries of clothing or decency.
But most importantly, I realized at some point during the past several years that if I wanted to continue to climb and ski down mountains with my boys, if I wanted to scale ropes courses and tackle mountain biking, if I wanted to be the kind of energetic and powerful person that our life necessitated, I needed to take steps to stay strong.
Up until that point being a traveling mom was always about how I planned things for our family – about creating great itineraries, seizing opportunities, making plans, and having fun together. I thought about what gear we needed and what to pack. I made sure there were snacks for our bellies and chose cultural locations that would feed all our minds. But now there was a new element to consider: Making sure my body was fit for travel.
And so I started running. And I kind of liked it.
I also kind of hated it.
But I kept doing it.
I’m not especially fast. I don’t go especially far; my basic run is a 5K and I don’t venture too much beyond that. It usually hurts somewhere. Some weeks I run one day; others I do three or four.
But run I do. With some sit-ups and burpees and push-ups on the side just for good measure. And as I have done it I’ve come to realize that just as traveling is an inherent part of my parenting life, so now too is fitness. I want to stay healthy to be there at my boys’ sides, hopefully for many years to come. I want them to see me taking care of myself.
Part 2: Challenging myself with the Dirty Girl Mud Run
I thought this was where it would end – I would run and be in good shape for our travels and that would be that. I certainly didn’t think I’d ever be writing a blog post about myself running. I didn’t think running might be a thing unto itself.
But then, out of the blue, a friend I haven’t seen in a long time emailed and asked me if I’d like the chance to take an overnight trip to run a muddy obstacle course. I’d be running in woods. I’d be climbing things and going through pits. Water and fire both seem to be involved somehow. I’d be with lots of other women.
Did I mention there would be mud?
This was an entirely new idea – that my running would actually be the point of a trip – a trip that I took on my own to challenge myself. Hello Dirty Girl Mud Run, nice to meet you.
Dirty Girl runs are about empowerment. They aren’t races – no one times you. And you don’t have to complete every obstacle if you feel like you can’t. The website claims (in all capital letters no less) that everyone gets to the finish line.
I’ll admit I was intrigued – and a bit proud of the fact that I could even contemplate participating because, well, now I’m a runner right? Then I read that many women participate in memory of someone who died of breast cancer or to celebrate a survivor they know and I realized that this run might really be right up my alley.
Part 3: The cancer connection
Breast cancer has affected me in many ways, starting when I was 26 and my mother was diagnosed with it. She had never had a mammogram.
I was at her side when she had a double mastectomy, when the bandages were removed, and when she underwent months of chemotherapy. I walked that darkness with her, the shame, the pain, the poison in her body. She emerged but not intact.
And it didn’t stop there. More than one dear friend has had breast cancer. Two of my aunts. There’s the specter of it hanging over me and my sister – I’ve had mammograms annually for almost twenty years.
It is not something that anyone should go through, that pain, the fear, the worry. It all becomes too much on some days. I remember spending countless nights with my friends looking up things like critical illness insurance – is it worth it? Or what are the best things that you can do to help keep your cancer at bay, of course, all of those nights just created a lot of stress and fear at what would happen if things went south…
The charity partner for Dirty Girl Mud Runs is an organization called Bright Pink. What I love about their work is that they focus on helping younger women prevent and detect breast and ovarian cancer through education and empowerment. Dirty Girl’s parent organization donated $50,000 to Bright Pink earlier this year and run participants can add $5 to their registration fee to help the effort as well.
So now the running has gotten bigger still. I’ll be doing it for the boys, as part of showing them what it means to be a strong traveling mom. I’ll be doing it for myself to see what I can do. And I’ll be doing it for all the women I know who have had breast cancer.
I’ll admit that I’m a little bit scared. What if I can’t do the obstacles? What if I start to run and keel over from exhaustion halfway through? The course has detours, but I’d like to see if I can complete it without them.
I feel like I’m headed for a true adventure – a place I’ve never been.
Do you want to run too?
Dirty Girl has events in 15 cities in 2015 between now and the middle of September. I’m going to be running the course in Scranton, Pennsylvania on May 2 if you’d like to join me. But there are also twelve places to run after that ranging from Virginia Beach to Chicago to Copper Mountain, Colorado. You can register online for any of them, with an option to donate money to Bright Pink when you do so.
And here’s a special deal for the readers of The Mother of all Trips: Use the discount code MOAT10 at checkout and get 10 percent off your sign-up fee.
My family won’t be with me in Scranton, just my friend and all the other women around me participating. And I’m OK with that. I know that as I run, I will not be alone – my mother will be with me, as will the cadre of women I know who have overcome breast cancer or who are fighting it now.
My boys will share the journey as they always do, even if they aren’t cheering on the sidelines. I’ll be running for them – to be strong for them, to be there for them, so that we can, if grace allows, travel together for years to come.
And I’ll also be there for myself. Because as I’m realizing more and more that’s exactly what I need to stay strong and adventurous.
My registration fee for the Dirty Girl Mud Run has been waived in exchange for a bit of volunteering, although I will be making a donation to Bright Pink in honor of all my breast cancer heroines.