Bethany and her sons after her 2017 Freihofers:
much more successful than her first attempt.
NOTE: This is the first of four posts in January revolving around 2018 goals for a range of #motherrunners. Thanks, Bethany, for going first in the petri dish!
One of the best things about this community is our shared language and instant rapport. Talk to a mother runner—even if you’ve never met her; even if you can’t see her facial expressions over the phone—and the possibilities are endless. Suddenly you're talking about races you’ve run or want to, injuries you’ve battled, pleasures and perils of hot yoga, benefits of chiropractic and ART, being a Type A person trying to fit it all into your crazy mama-runner-work schedule, not to mention eating all the food—even when you quit marathon training! (That's why we're all here, right?)
Bethany Mazura and I—Tish (thank you for the warm welcome last week, btw!) bonded over all this.
So when she asked what I thought of the dual June goals she listed on her 2018 GOAL SHEET—that is, running a half-marathon AND a 25K trail race—the empathic instant runner friend in me wanted to say, “Oh, yes, cool! Go for it!” But the more conservative perhaps mom-like coach-type in me went, “Eeek!” (With the important caveat that I’m not actually a coach. But more on that later.***)
A taste of Bethany's packed goal sheet—and June isn't even listed yet!
Bethany, 40, a divorced mother of two boys, ages 7 and 5, is an attorney in special education (deep bow). She signed up for her first 5K with a friend— the famous women-only Freihofers 5K in her hometown of Albany—in 2009 to help deal with the depression of miscarriage (our hearts to hers). “I hated it,” she says. “I thought, ‘I’m never doing this again!’”
HA. We all know how THAT goes.
Flash forward: pregnancy, kids, “my body doing all the crazy things it does when you have babies,” getting divorced, and once more into depression. Her therapist said, “You really need to exercise more.”
And so when Bethany saw on FB that a group of friends were running the Freihofers 5K, she signed up again. This time was different because sharing custody of her sons with her ex meant she had time alone on her hands.
“What was I going to do? Sit around the basement feeling sorry for myself?” (Oh wait. Maybe that was me.)
She met her local running club, the Albany Running Exchange, and soaked up the positive support of a community that wasn’t “constantly asking about my divorce.” From there, she met an Albany Mothers group that turned her onto the AMR podcast. This time it clicked.
And talk about clicking: In October, Bethany ran the Marine Corps Marathon, her first. Bravo! (In an ironic twist, when they were married, her ex had been a marathoner. She rode the subways around New York cheering him on. He doesn’t run any more. Neither does my ex!)
HOW A DIVORCED ATTORNEY DOING GOOD WORK WHILE SHARING CUSTODY OF TWO YOUNG BOYS RUNS + SURVIVES THE INSANITY + WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM HER
What Bethany Does: PLAN
“I’m a Type A person,” Bethany says. “I love to plan.” She spent two hours on her 2018 goal sheet. “I like to write things down. It helps me get things done.” Bethany plotted out her Marine Corps Marathon training plan SIX MONTHS in advance. She found a 3-day-a-week training plan because she knew that was realistic.
She added 2-3 weeks to the schedule because, she says, “Someone’s going to get sick—me, the boys, or the babysitter—and I don’t want to freak out if I have to skip a run that weekend.” (Smart!) She scheduled her long runs on weekends the boys were with their dad, and lined up babysitters for other weekends. She doesn’t have family nearby so when the babysitter bailed, she relied on friends or just … skipped the run.
What Bethany Does: MAKES DO
On the weeks when she has the boys, Bethany runs at lunch, even if it’s just 2 to 3 miles. She runs hill repeats outside or gets on the treadmill and throws in sprints or jacks up the incline. She shifts workouts around, as necessary.
What Bethany Does: LETS GO
“Part of it was overcoming guilt about leaving the boys to go for a run,” she says. “I had a lot of that.”
But you know what? Three months later, Bethany’s boys are asking when she’s going to train for a marathon again, because they want to hang out with the baby sitter. “I guess they had fun,” she says and laughs.
What Bethany Does: TAKES CARE OF HERSELF
She got shin splints when she started running (it’s the most common beginner injury of all). She hurt her back. What she learned—what we all eventually learn—is she couldn’t JUST run and be okay.
She added hot yoga (“I never thought I’d like it, but when my muscles are warm, I’m able to stretch”). On the advice of running-club buddies, she started seeing a chiropractor and receiving ART (active release therapy). “It hurts like hell but it’s so good.” This month she is doing a 30-day yoga challenge AND a 21-day fix to get back on a healthy eating track after the holidays.
“When you’re 40 you’re not 30,” she says. (True story.)
Having fun on the trails with a slight amphibian theme.
What Bethany Does: HAS FUN
This July, Bethany is returning to a trail running camp in the woods for the fourth time. She found out about it through friends in the Albany Running Exchange. (Amen, once agian, to the power of community.) The first time she went, she had never set foot on a trail. Nows she loves it so much she runs the Exchange’s spring and summer trail running series and hits the dirt as much as possible, as soon as Albany is clear of the snow, thaw, mud seasons.
YEAH, BUT WHAT ABOUT BETHANY’S 2018 GOAL SHEET??
*** Important Caveat: I am not a coach, I just worked at a running magazine for 14 years. I read every single word of Runner’s World before it went on press, often many times. I worked with the training, nutrition, gear, and injury-prevention editors to conceive and shape content. You’d have to be a robot not to absorb all that wisdom. (Hello, robot. I see you coming for me.) I ran my first marathon in 1989 (faint) and since then have completed 53, plus five ultras. Sometimes I qualified for Boston, many times I did not.
And also: I’m a smarty pants.
Finally, before we start this section, here is Bethany's full goal sheet as a PDF.
BETHANY'S GOOD STUFF
- Bethany’s long-range planning and acceptance of change are impressive.
- I’m so glad she has a community of positive, supportive runners to lift her spirits.
- Hill repeats on her time-crunched days are a time-effective way to sneak in strength work (hello, glutes!) and recent studies have shown the benefits of short bursts of intense training.
- Hot yoga is great for sneaking in stretching and strength work and a nice balance to running.
- Trail running works your muscles differently than does road running. It’s micro, but there’s more lateral movement that builds more strength in your hips, ankles, and calf muscles. This may not translate into faster road-race times but it will make your body stronger and your head happier.
MY GENTLE, LOVING ADVICE FOR BETHANY
Dear Bethany, Being Type A is a blessing and a curse. Ambitious plans look really good on paper, and we write them down because that makes them more real. We know you are good at expecting the unexpected, so we hope you won’t be too hard on yourself.
In March, I see you are looking for a 5K while you are at Disney. If this is easy to find and doesn’t impede your vacation with your boys, go for it. If not, take a pass.
In June, the twin goals of a fast half-marathon and a trail 25K are fighting each other. Four weeks in between a road race and a long trail race is not enough time for your body to recover, and you risk blowing both or worse, injury.
What to do? The Covered Bridges Half-Marathon in Vermont (in early June) is a beautiful course and a friendly community-supported event. Do that race VERY SLOWLY, using it as the last long run before the 25K. Take many walk breaks, take in the sights, bring your phone if you’re inclined, and step off the course to take photos. The point is to enjoy a catered long run and be as kind to your body as possible – because it’s still a long time on your feet on a paved road, none of which is trail specific. Recover per usual during the following week, then spend as much time on trails a possible before the 25K, though I would be conservative with a long run, going for time (an hour to two, max) rather than distance.
September may be too soon after the trail race, trail camp, and possible Ragnar Relay to nail a half-marathon PR. Your body needs time to recover from all these various and demanding efforts. Please remember to take care of yourself—I like Epsom salt baths to ease aching muscles—and back off if your body complains in the slightest.