I started running the October of 2013. I was obsessed with it and was running 6 days a week. I didn’t know anything about running, just that I needed it in my life. Often, my 10 year old daughter Keely would join me on her bike (2-5 miles). She would ride beside me, blaring Pandora from a phone in her basket, and we would talk above the music as we went. Sometimes, I would let her set the pace. She would urge me to go faster to keep up with her, laughing along the way. Those were amazing days. The days life are made of. We both lived for the time that work and school ended, so we could get outside together. Little did I know, by watching my struggle and growth in running, by asking her to join me on my journey, I had planted a seed.
The Fall of 2015 Keely turned 12. One day she comes home from school and announces that she has joined the cross country team. Practice is that evening and she asks me to run with her. I’m thrilled! Plus, Keely is asthmatic and has not been running, so I want to be able to monitor her. Though it was her first practice, it was well into the second week of practice for the team. It was also hill day.
The first thing you need to know is that West Virginia has hills. It lies in the Appalachian Mountain Range. The second thing to know is the cross country coach had found a good one.
By the time the team had ran to the hill, Keely was struggling. It was a hot, humid day. Standing at the foot of the hill was daunting, but we started up. Keely started complaining about her asthma part of the way up. I told her we could walk the rest, and the top was near. I couldn’t have been more wrong. A turn in the road proved we were not even halfway up yet. She panicked. I talked her down and she completed the loop, only to discover she had to repeat it again.
Keeky had finished most of the second loop and was in tears. She told me that she couldn’t do this, she wanted to quit. I do not believe in quitting (my kids know this), but I also was not sure about her competing at this level with asthma. It was an unknown to me. The protective mother in me came out and I said something my children have never heard. I told her it was okay to quit. She burst into hysterics at that point and told me she couldn’t quit, her team needed her to compete as a team. She couldn’t let the team down and she was stuck doing what was right although she hated it and it was all my fault. I looked at her surprised and said- I didn’t even know there was a cross country team until two hours ago, how is this my fault? She looked at me and said she wanted to run distance like me and make me proud. My heart melted.
I had raised a child that knew the difference of right and wrong. That knew what a team stood for and how teamwork worked. She was tough, stubborn, and kind. I was in awe of her at that moment. Here she stood, hot, sweaty, scared, and beaten… yet she refused to fall. She would go the distance. I told her I loved her no matter what she chose and I would always be proud of her. I said that running is hard, it doesn’t get easier, you just get tougher. I hugged her. She took a moment to compose herself, looked at me, and said, “lets finish this.” So we did.
Keely continued to go to practice. I continued to run with her every day for those first weeks, then I let her fly. I started dropping her off and letting her grow on her own. Her coach was amazing. At her first meet, I ran almost as much as she did, going from point to point, letting her know how much further she had to go and what her times were. I continued to do that for any meet I could run at. She grew stronger and faster. More importantly, she was enjoying it.
One day after a meet, the coach told the team about a night trail run for that evening. It was a Halloween run, done in the dark (using headlamps), with people jumping out on the trail. There were 3 and 7 mile options. He was running it as well as several of her teammates. Keely was intrigued. Though it had been raining all day and was cold, we decided to go.
Keely was excited as we got ready in matching zombie themed running gear. She said happily, “Most moms take their girls shopping at the mall or to get pedicures. Not my mom. My mom takes me running in the woods at night in the rain and mud!” I loved it! She was going to get a small taste of my world.