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A Love Letter from a Mother to Her Running Daughter

Smiles all around after our debut run

Dear Daphne,

It was a decade-long dream come true to have you run with me. Ever since your big sister, Phoebe, was born—no, conceived—I’ve fantasized about having a child run alongside of me. Then you and your brother came into this world, and I suddenly had three precious children to share my beloved sport with. Yet until you started asking to run with me, none of you had shown any interest in running (well, other than chasing each other around the house, driving me bonkers as I cook dinner).

Then, there you came last Sunday, tearing into the kitchen the moment I walked in the back door after an easy three-mile run. I’d had to tell you the day before that, no, you could not run 20 miles with me, but that the next day you could run part of my three-miler. With the sky spitting on that overcast day, I wasn’t sure you’d still be game, so I finished my prescribed run (because your mother is, if you don’t know already, fanatical about doing exactly what her training plan calls for). Silly me: You’re an Oregonian through and through, and you were raring to go. Your New Balance running kicks were double-knotted (are you really old enough to tie them yourself?); you had on lavender long underwear that is about 3” too short, thus transformed into capris like your mama sports; and a zipped-up hoodie. Ready to rock, roll, and run.

We headed east on Brazee, a smile spreading across your impish face—and my usually stern one. And like any two gals who run side by side, we fell into easy conversation. When we’re at home, amidst the chaos, you are often a solo operator, playing with Little Pet Shops by yourself or drawing, as you absent-mindedly sing a song to yourself. Yet running, you were delightfully chatty. You pointed out that you and your bestie, Lucy, run together on Tuesday mornings when your class does laps around the school. I explained that we call women who run together, “BRFs.” Before I could explain to you it stood for “best running friends,” you blurted out, “Just like BFFs, best friends forever!” Clever girl.

A blossoming daphne

When we turned right onto 28th, you got excited to run past “the cat house,” the big house on the corner that puts a massive, inflatable cat in the yard on Halloween. Then you got me talking about why I love running and why it’s my job to run. (That’s the popular theory floating amongst you and your sibs, and I don’t discourage it—it offers justification for why I travel so many weekends.) Just the night before, out of the blue, you’d asked how people get jobs. As we dodged a puddle, I wrapped your questions together into a teaching moment, telling you I don’t run because it’s my job. Rather, I love running, thus I turned it into my job. At that point, I think I might have even parroted Poppy [my Southern dad] and said, “Let your avocation be your vocation.”

A block later, instead of turning north toward our house, we continued straight: You were still bounding with excitement, and I wanted this moment to last forever. You suddenly blurted out, “When we get home, I get chocolate milk!” Oh, it’s Pavlovian: You’ve see me drink enough chocolate cow juice straight from the jug after a run to know it’s the ideal post-run refresher. I laughed and agreed.

Yummmmy: well-earned chocolate milk

I exclaimed over a cherry tree that had a few blossoms on it already, and you pointed at a namesake daphne bush covered in tight buds. Rounding the last corner before our house, you looked up at me and said, “When I grow up, we can do our jobs together.” It took me a few seconds to silently work through your 6-year-old logic. When I realized it was your way of saying that one day you, too, will be another mother runner, I simultaneously chortled and teared up.

In the kitchen, after you chug-a-lugged your chocolate milk, you took off your sweatshirt to reveal a T-shirt belonging to your big sister. It read, “Future Marathon Runner.”

All my love,

Your Exquisitely Proud Mother

123 responses to “A Love Letter from a Mother to Her Running Daughter

  1. I teared up reading this…thank you. My 3year-old daughter always tells me she’s going to run with me when she gets big and I cannot wait for the day!

  2. I’m actually crying at this. I’ve got a 16 month old at home, and I am hoping for something like this some day – it must be the greatest feeling in the world!

  3. I have an 8 year old daughter and i pray she will be running with me someday,however sometimes life has a way of sometimes going different than we plan so i will consider to be just as blessed one day if my 6 year old son decides he rather join me instead. I’ve already set the path for my 21 year old son who does choose to run with me every now and then but he is a college boy onhis way to other things -so each run we do or an occassional 5k ,8k , or any type of race we have a chance to experience together is one great experience more than some moms ever get with any of their children in a whole life time.I pray my older son continues always with his running journey for his mind and body just to stay focused and healthy and someday i pray my little ones will start their own running journey with me and set their path for a long healthy and active life-thanks for letting me share God Bless!

  4. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one with tears in my eyes. My own daughter is only 10 months old, and, for now, she shares the miles with me from her stroller.

  5. Love this! My 16 year old daughter’s Christmas present to me this year was the gift of running a 1/2 marathon together. I cherish our training runs. No topic is off limits for conversation. The time together is precious and, as the college offers hitting the mailbox daily remind me, limited.
    CJ- you are in for a real treat. I coach GOTR. You and your daughter are going to have so much fun!

  6. I just experienced this for the first time this week with my 10 year old daughter. She has asked twice to go run with me at 5:30 am! What a happy proud wonderful time! It sounds likes your Daphne is much like my Katie. This morning she talked to me the entire time!

  7. I needed this today. I had many of these same thoughts the day my 7yr old daughter ran her first mile race this year. Watching her smile as she crossed the finish line was a moment I’ll never forget.

  8. Well, you managed to get me to tear up on this! A few months ago, I went for a run with my 6 year old son, and it was pretty much the same as you describe here. It was supposed to be a quick lap around the block, but we turned it into over a mile of chatting, secret trading and bonding time. And a nice big glass of Chocolate Milk at home too!

  9. I’m teary-eyed, as well. Thank you for posting this. I had a similar moment when my then 5 year old daughter told me that she wanted to celebrate her 6th birthday by running a 5K. My husband and I accompanied her on her 1st 5K. There was some running, some walking and much lively conversation. It was a wish fulfilled for everyone involved. As a side note, my family business is a dairy/creamery and we have some delicious chocolate milk. If you ever return to Philadelphia, I’ll be sure to bring you some.

  10. Thank you so much, Sarah, for sharing this beautiful letter to Daphne. I have 3 daughters that I hope will someday want to run with me. I am tearing up thinking of that priceless moment when you get to give this letter to your daughter. Letters from parent to child are about the most special gift I can think of. Thank you for letting us peek at it.

  11. My sons made my day (and got me to the finish) at my last marathon. I could not have pr’d without them. The proud mom moments just keep coming.

  12. tearing up at my computer now, what a fantastically beautiful letter. My daughter is only 3 months old but I’m hoping that some day she’ll want to join me for a run, even more so now that I’ve read this. 🙂

  13. Sarah,
    What a great letter!!! My daughter and I just got into running about a year ago. We are running our 2nd 1/2 marathon together in April. She is away at school.When we do get a chance to run together I LOVE it. it give us time to have some really great talks. So I am REALLY looking forward to it! She will be turning 20 on Thursday and I am so proud of her accomplishments. I was wondering what to get her for her birthday and i think you gave me a great idea. I will write her a note! 🙂
    BTW, I am RE-reading RLM to get myself pumped and will be reading TLM as soon as it comes out.
    Thank you again!

  14. Oh my word you had me at running daughter! I love running and racing with my son but there is a special place in my heart for the day my daughter runs with me…. 🙂 This was touching and I loved every second. Well done 🙂 xxoo

  15. That was beautiful, sarah. Such a gift. You are one great mom. Lucky girl to have her mom as her ‘BRF’. Great pictures, too!

  16. SBS-thanks for this. My 3 year old did a kids dash at a Turkey Trot this past Thanksgiving and keeps asking when she can do another race with me. I hope we can have more running moments together!

  17. What a beautiful, beautiful priceless letter!!!! I am cleaning my face of tears as I type this,……I also run sometimes with my son, he is 7 years old, and for some reason he likes to run hand in hand, like that moment means to him being like one….how precious and infinite is this amazing privilege of sharing our love for running with the love of our lives…our beloved children…. Thank you for sharing this with us!!!! BRFs !!!!

  18. What a beautiful story!!! Thank you for sharing something so close to your heart with us. I have been lucky enough to go on a few runs with my girls and I can tell you for me those are the best runs I have done!

  19. One of my favorite race moments of last year was running a 5K with my kindergartner. No he didn’t run the whole thing, but he ran the first mile and he continued to run/walk the rest of the 5K distance. Reading your post today brought me back to that memory- in fact he mentioned the other day how “mom we are going to run that School Race again right”. Our running definitely makes us better moms and overall people.

  20. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story. I’m sure it meant just as much to her as it did you. These are the moments we live for with our children.

  21. Tears are streaming down my face right now! How sweet! I did what I thought would be a 2-mile fun walk with my 5- and 8-year-old sons which turned into me chasing my 8-year-old (who had slowly gotten ahead of us during the first mile) through the second mile plus of a 5K course after leaving my 5-year-old with a friend. At the end he exclaimed “Mom, I want to do this with you again!” which put the biggest smile on my face!

  22. That seriously chocked me up! What a blessed mother runner you are! I hope one day my son will want to “run with mommy” (even though he just about faster than me at 3)! Enjoy your big day, girl!

  23. That was wonderful! I’m doing a fun run Saturday with my 5 year old son – I have no doubt it will be my favorite race this year!

  24. Yet another teary-eyed mom here! Your daughter is adorable. She’ll get tears in her own eyes one day when she’s an adult and reads what you wrote here.

  25. What a truly amazing post. I loved reading every word of it. My 7 year old did a 5k with me last year on Thanksgiving. This post really reminds me of how it felt. I didn’t follow my passion in the same way you did (and didn’t have the talent you do either). I didn’t make writing and running my job. I didn’t write anything about that day, so I thank you for writing this. It was a great reminder, and I’m happy for you as well.

  26. Wow! This totally got me teary-eyed! I have always dreamed of my little girl running with me too. She is only two years old and the other day I got called to SUB at the Middle School. I had to be there before she woke up so my husband got her up and she was immediately wondering where I was. My husband said that she looked around the house for me and finally asked, “Is Mommy Running?” and he said she did the arm motions I taught her for running! ;o) It warmed my heart!

  27. I love this post! What a great idea to write your experience as a letter to your daughter. We have four daughters and our oldest runs three days a week with me. She just turned 13 and I love the opportunity to chat with her on our 2 1/2 mile runs. There is no pressure to talk and yet she feels free to open up with me during these times. We have a grown closer over the last 6 months and I know it is because of the bond we have through running. I am hoping my other daughters will have the same desire to run with mom as well. If not, than hopefully they will at least get a taste of my love of running. I think I will go write a letter to my daughter! Thanks Sarah!

  28. Love this! This past weekend we got to the first point where Fast Daddy Runner, and Slower Mother Runner, competed in a 5K where the little daughter runners, ages 7, 8 and 9 could run without us. I circled back and crossed the finish lines 3 times!

    Love that our kids can run the distance and are nonchalant about chips, bibs and courses. Also glad they were there to see us pick up age group awards and place in the “Sweetheart Division” of the race.

    I guess we are a running family, now.

  29. So beautiful. Like so many others, I have tears streaming down my face. My baby daughter girl is 22 years old and does not run but bikes. When I hear her talking about her challenges and goals on her bike and how strong she feels when she makes it up the huge Seattle hills, I know that my running has inspired her. I know I have modeled health and strength and the joy of setting and reaching physical goals. I am proud of her for choosing her own sport and proud of myself for showing her how to be a strong, fit woman!! Our children are always watching and what we do truly influences who they will become!

  30. I’m tearing up too! How awesome to be able to share the running experience with your daughter. One of the reasons that I keep running is so my kids can see that it’s a positive thing and having one of them want to run with me would just be the icing on the cake. Proof that I’m doing the right thing and they’re learning from watching me. What a proud moment!

  31. The BEST blog post. Loved this and it left me so anxious for the day when my little ones are old enough to handle going for a jog with mom!!! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  32. I love this post, Sarah! Daphne is beautiful and it sounds like a wonderful run. Both you and she will be so happy someday that you documented all the details, down to the well-deserved chocolate milk at the end. My fingers are crossed that one of my kids will want to run with me (or both–how cool would that be?), and I plan to emulate you and write it up so they and I will remember it.

    1. Thank you, Terzah. Daphne’s twin bro has joined us for the last two forays. They chatter like little monkeys by my side. My son kept saying yesterday how he loved being outside and seeing so many things–which is one of the top reasons why I run. It’s funny how “genetic” some things can be.

  33. Hell’s bells… you made me get all weepy! {Love it!} My kiddo ran her first 5k when she was 12. As I waited for her to finish, I saw all the other runners coming in under the banner and a fire was lit within me. I committed that day to train for my first 5k b/c I wanted to feel like what I preceived they felt like when they crossed that finish line. Thanks to my girl, I’ve now finished two half marathons (along with a smattering of 5 and 10 ks.)
    Running daughters ROCK!

  34. Ok, I’m a wreak. A very good touching story. As a mother of 5 I understood it all. Thank you SO very much for sharing your special mommy daughter moment with us all. Love the end & what was on her tee shirt. Tell your daughter to keep up the great work from another mother runner. So proud of her. Take care.

  35. Awesome! I ran a 5k with my son, and have done a few fun runs with both my son and daughter. It’s so amazing when they want to accompany me. 🙂

  36. Tears welling up in my eyes as I know that proud moment also! My 4-year-old daughter begs to run with me often. She understands that when I leave to run it is because “that is your time to exercise, Mommy, because you don’t get to have recess at your job!” I cannot wait for the day when she can run several miles with me. She has walked/ran two 1-mile Fun Runs with me and was so proud of her ribbon and race t-shirt! I can only imagine the lovely conversations that will one day occur as we run together.

  37. Thanks for a great story of life wrapped up in a little blog post.
    It made me cry because I can’t think of a better thing to happen post-run especially when mine are ready to leave home and go to college. I hope you’ll have the patience to allow her (or any of your kids) to join you on future runs.

    1. Thank you for the perspective. I know Daphne could lose interest at any moment, so I’m savoring it. Marathon training sets us up with a nice pattern: I run long on Saturday, then on Sunday run 3 or 4 easy miles. I stop back at the house, and we head out for about 3/4-mile. So far we’ve gone three times, going a different direction each time.

  38. Beautiful Sarah. My 4y.o. daughter is always saying she wants to be a runner like mommy and it makes me so proud. My niece/goddaughter is a natural on the track and I can barely watch HER without getting choked up. I can’t imagine what it will be like once my own daughter is doing it. Thanks for sharing your moment with us.

  39. Oh, eyes full of tears. And wishing, for just one tiny second, that I had a daughter with whom I could share this love of running.

  40. I love this, it brought me to tears, and it couldn’t have come at a better time! My husband bought our 6 yr old daughter basketball shoes on Friday night and my 4 yr old daughter went along with them and asked if she could get shoes too – like mom’s – running shoes. Our busy weekend included me running 10 miles on Saturday and a 5k yesterday and sadly she has only worn them around the house asking when we can go for a run. After seeing this I promised to take her this afternoon. Thank you!

  41. The leaky faucets are at it again! How delightfully wonderful for you. I hope that one of my 3 DDs will really get it one day; so far, only my son will run with me. This makes me hopeful!

  42. That is so awesome! My oldest is starting to get into running now, and every now and then my 7yo tries to run with me at the track (distracted almost instantly by playground equipment though). It makes me feel good that I can inspire them, and I’m sure you feel the same!

  43. Love. It. The timing was perfect too. My nearly 7 year old just started running with me. We are training for the Shamrock 5K here in Portland. Yesterday, we ran together and I specifically noted to myself how easy the conversation got going. And, how I wanted to make sure we kept this up well into her teen years (when I think talking to our kids is of critical import!) I also secretly loved that she wanted to do yesterday’s training run with me, not Dad. Thank you for sharing, SBS.

  44. Amazing. Brought tears to my eyes…I also have 3 kids, and FINALLY last fall my oldest (10) daughter wanted to run with me. I had been in the midst of VERY focused training (I too am a slave to a training plan) and had shrugged off the 20 milers with her…but after the marathon, we trained for the Turkey Trot 5K together and had the most fan-tab-u-lous time running that first ever 5K together (4 of her cousins all ran with us too!). As she was chugging the chocolate milk and pounding the salted nut rolls afterwards…she asked when we could put another 5K on the calendar. Proud mama!! Thanks for sharing — I hope to share many miles with my kids as they grow up!!

    1. It does, indeed, say Nebraska…but it’s a random zip-up from H&M. We call it her “Lady Gaga” sweatshirt since Lady Gaga mentions Nebraska so much in one song. Random all the way around.

  45. What a sweet sweet post. I just started going for walks with my daughter, she will be 4 fingers in a couple days. She wants to run, but for now just likes the walking part-lol. I’ve come to love and cherish those walks. Its amazing seeing her grow up and get to know her.

  46. Dimity, you had me tearing up during my lunch hour. How beautiful and perfect. My 8-year-old son has run with me once (a 2-mile fun run that I had to push him through) and is one of my favorite memories. Thanks for sharing this oh-so-personal and tender moment.

  47. What a beautiful post! My husband and I are both runners. We keep all of our medals on the mirror in our bedroom (he gets one side, I get the other) and our son Jack (2) loves to wear the medals around and play with all of them. We are going to have our second, a daughter, in May. We both hope that our love of running will rub off on our kids too some day.

    My sister and I have been running for years and finally got our mom into it too. She will be running her second marathon next month. But my runs with my mom are some of my favorite.

    Thanks for sharing, SBS.

  48. I cried, thanks, it reminded me of my first run and race with my 7 year old. I love having that BRF being my own daughter, how cool!

  49. Loved this letter!!!
    My story is the opposite of this. I started running after I saw the success my son was having in high school XC and track. My only 2 races were run with him, although he is much faster. It is a great feeling to high five him in an out-and-back race (he is at the 2 mile mark while I am at the 1 mile mark) and to find him at the finish line cheering me on.

  50. I loved, loved, loved, this. I have 2 boys, ages 9 and 11 that run with me, and it is great. But I love even more that my 3 yr old daughter wants to run with me. She already has her toddler sized Saucony’s that she wears when I come home from a run, and will say “let’s go running”. We head back out the door, and she runs a couple houses up the street and back, smiling and giggling the whole way.
    I hope she consider me her ” BRF” someday.

  51. One of my favorite posts of all time. What a beautiful tribute, and I felt like I was right there on your run with you. I typically do my runs without my kids- before they wake up. My daughter has mentioned running with me and now I am going to figure out how to do that.

    Thanks for sharing such precious moments with us.

  52. Lovely, thank you so much for sharing such a special moment with your daughter. I have to admit sharing a run with my kids has been a secret wish of mine too.

  53. Ugh, I’m torn between smiles and tears of happiness for you and intense jealousy because neither my 10 year old daughter nor my 13 year old son are even slightly interested in joining me in my love for running! Where did I go wrong???? I hope and pray that one of these days my kiddos will come around. Until then, I will envy you a bit…

    1. Jana, I’ve come to accept that it’s not something a parent does or not. Our older daughter, Phoebe, wants NOTHING to do with running with me, despite fact she loves soccer and likes basketball a fair bit. I am currently revising a feature about the experience Phoebe and I had with Girls on the Run. It’s proof to me that it’s gotta come from within.

      1. actually, it’s probably less about running with Phoebe, and more about that first child/’Oh gawd, my mother is soooo embarrassing’ phase that some girls go through. 😉 She may end up running with you yet.

  54. Hard to believe Daphne is running with her proud momma. I recall swaddling her less than 48 hours after she was born. A wonderful tribute, Sarah, and just the beginning of yet another chapter in your lives together. So much to look forward to and in this case, so many miles to conquer together. Enjoy!

  55. Yes, teared up for sure as I read that! Kind of defeated my actually making it to work on time this morning but so well worth reading! I have that same dream. I have a 7 year old son and an almost 5 year old daughter. I hope someday to have such a wonderful experience as this! <>

  56. Thank you for sharing. I am just shy of my 1 year anniversary since getting back into running and training for my my 2nd 1/2. I’m going to sign my oldest up for Girls on the Run this week. She has been asking for a long while now to run a BIG race like mommy. My youngest talks about the importance of fitness (at 4 yrs old) and has run several times with me the first MILE of my run before hopping into the jogger. This post has put a lump in my throat. I hope to pass on my love for running and have some awesome BRF’s along side me!

  57. Wow! I’m teary eyed after that one. I love those runs with my son, even if he’s still in the stroller! But I pray that he will one day double-knot his shoes and run with his mommy!

  58. Beautiful post, SBS. One of the (many) reasons having children is wonderful. Presley did the kids race at the Portland Marathon last year and is constantly asking to run “another marathon”. I love it!

  59. What a great story. You are lucky to have so many years of running together ahead of you. The first race my daughter ran with me, then 12 years old, she left me at mile 1 of the 4 miler and never looked back. She hadn’t trained to race, but proved that her youth and months of basketball practice made her a contender. She finished 9th overall for women (it was our local Turkey Trot). I couldn’t have been more proud being left in her dust.

    1. What a great perspective to share–about so many more years to come. I appreciate you writing this as already I’ve had a few pangs of, “Will this last? Will she burn out?” The run I wrote about was 2 weeks ago, and on the two Sundays since, Daphne’s twin brother, John, has actually joined us. It’s a bit like running with two chatty magpies, but it’s a ton of fun.

  60. Oh, my! What beautiful sentiments expressed to your daughter! I am a little teary-eyed and am glad I am reading this with no one around. One of my most cherished memories is the summer day my son woke up before I could get out the door for my run. It took me forever to get the jogging stroller put together, but I was so glad I finally did. I loved our run together that day. I can’t wait until his little feet can hit the pavement with me. My daughter has been wanting to run too, so I am loving this.

  61. i have tears in my eyes. what a special, special day. I try to remind myself with each run i am setting an example for my kiddo, with hopes that he one days joins in along side me. This encourages me that much more.

  62. Running my first 5k with my first born 10 year old daughter on March 18 we’re running for her mommy’s disease Heart disease she knows it she knows why and she can’t wait I will be running 13.1 right before praying God can grant me 3.1 more so I can stay by her side the whole way!

  63. This post has touched me more than any other. My 3 year old asks to run with me every day. A few times we have gone to a track and she does great! It makes me so proud. You are a lucky woman to have such a great running partner.

  64. Tears here too! I have 4 boys aged 10, 7, 4 and 20 months, and they are developing an interest and hopefully a love for running just as their mommy has being doing over the last year (have I only been running for a year?!). It’s nearly the 1 year anniversary of our (mine & my eldest’s) first 5k together so we’re really excited to do that again. Wondering which other son will be joining us soon!

  65. Seriously teared up while reading this. What a sweet, sweet morning you got to share together. I hope many more like this are to come! Hopefully one day I’ll have an experience like this with my daughter. Way to go on being such a good example to her, and taking opportunities to not only run with her but teach her along the way. She’s lucky to have you as her momma.

  66. Sweaty eyes here!!! Beautiful write up of your sweet girl, the future marathon runner. What an amazing joy this mothering gig is!!!

    1. Love the “sweaty eyes” call, Danielle. I wrote this post because I wanted to remember so many details about it, and I feel honored to have a community to share it with who understands why it means so much to me.

  67. that was wonderful, and i am sniveling as i think of the little chases around the block my 3 year old and i have had, and the time to come when she might want to go farther with me.

  68. I got big tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat reading this. I hope that whatever “job” Daphne ends up pursuing, running will always be part of her life. Thank you for this.

  69. Beautiful. This piece is making me teary thinking about last summer. My husband, son, and I were going to run a fourth of July race together at our vacation destination. This would have represented my husband getting into shape and my son sharing the love with me. By the spring, we were in crisis mode in this house. On the fourth, my son was on the vacation with family friends, my husband was in the hospital, and I was at a Chi Running clinic at Kripalu, trying to recover and gather enough strength for the next few months. Fast forward, and we are all (mentally) healthy, balanced, happy, and planning on the same race for 2012.

  70. Wow. I was excited that my 3rd grader got into Girls on the Run at her school. Now, after reading about this fleet-footed pair, I CAN’T WAIT! And we’ll toe the line for her first 5K in May together.

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