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Bethany Takes on Boston: It’s Complicated

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Bethany Meyer is gaining ground on the starting line of the Boston Marathon, even if life is more complicated than the training. Bethany is running as part of the team sponsored by Stonyfield Organic Yogurt: to check out the other badass runners on their team and see what's going on with them, check in here.  

It was my favorite part of the Super Bowl. The story unfolded, the music swelled, and my eyes brimmed with tears by the end. It made me want to “Roar” even more than Katy Perry.

The Always #LikeAGirl commercial.

Because being a girl can be complicated.

Dimity posted something on Facebook last week that got me thinking about how being a girl can be complicated.

“Ok, awkward moment this morning for me (Dimity) at an Orange Theory Fitness class. I'm riding the bike fairly close to a man, who I greeted with "Hi" as I walked in. He reaches out, touches my leg, and says, "Nice quads!" Then he proceeds to tell me he's a sports massage therapist, and tells me he has good rates and can come to my house.

I wasn't quite sure what to do, so just said something like, "Cool." and put my head down and concentrated on pedaling. But I kind of never want to see him again.

What would you have done? Said?”

Now, I have seen Dimity’s legs both in picture and in person and, from hip to toe, they are rocking. Lean and defined, her legs don’t end until a week from Friday. All 5’5” of me--mostly torso--covets them. So I can understand wanting to reach out and squeeze her quads.

To be fair, a sports massage therapist puts one’s hands on people for a living. Connecting with people through touch comes as naturally to a massage therapist as putting on a red nose and wig comes to a clown. It makes sense that a sports massage therapist would reach out and touch the leg of an obvious athlete.

Except.

When that sports massage therapist is a man and that athlete is a woman? Complicated.

I know how complicated being a girl can be. I am one.

Three years ago, I was restless. Antsy. I hadn’t “worked outside the home” for a solid decade. So all-encompassing is the responsibility of raising children that we sometimes forget our very essence. That happened to me. I forgot that I am a mighty little creature with a fierce spirit and a story to tell. My identity was almost solely defined as the mom with the four boys. I was so immersed in my children’s well-being that one morning I looked in the mirror and wondered how many hours--days?--that crusty old peanut butter had been stuck to my neck.

After I had scrubbed off the peanut butter and gotten all four of my kids into school full-time, I wondered, “What now?” Driven. Remember, I am the girl who does handstands between intervals. Foolish. There would be no standing rest. A few girlfriends encouraged me to write. “Write? Write about what?” I asked. I am not an expert on anything. Sure, I’m married, but he and I bicker all the time. Moody. Him, not me. I have a bunch of kids, but that doesn’t make me a good parent. Overwhelmed. Add four kids to our marital bickering, and you’ve got a chaotic daily existence.

Yes, my foyer always looks like that. I am not OK with it.
Yes, my foyer always looks like that. I am not OK with it.

That chaos is what I know, and it’s typically funny--mostly in hindsight--and sometimes poignant. It makes for a good story. “Write stories about your kids,” my friends said. “Tell stories about your husband!” they laughed.  So, with the encouragement and support of the women in my life, I began writing about my chaos. Supported.

The writing quieted the restlessness. I felt like Pinocchio, “I’m real!” Like my voice was worth hearing. Validated.

But I still needed to get out of my house. Stir crazy. So I began working on Sunday afternoons at a local women’s active wear boutique. The owner’s name is Schuy, and she and I became fast friends. Schuy is the one of the warmest people I know. She’s easygoing with a smile that always reaches her eyes. Magnetic. “I’m so excited,” she told me one afternoon, “we’re bringing in a new line of clothing! Do you know Another Mother Runner?” she asked.

Do I know Another Mother Runner?!

“Shut UP!” I yelled. Obnoxious.Run Like a Mother is on my nightstand! I have given it as a gift to my BRF’s! Did you actually talk to SBS or Dimity? In person?! Tell me everything!”

You see, I had laughed and cried and nodded my head yes and shook my head no as I had read their book. For a spell, Sarah’s and Dimity’s words were the last thing I read before closing my eyes at night. I drifted off to sleep those evenings a mighty little creature with a fierce spirit and a voice worth hearing who felt like she was part of something bigger simply from being a runner and having read their essays. Invigorated. Interrupting my nightly diatribe of  “put two yogurts in this one’s lunchbox, sign that one’s homework, pull the bread out of the freezer, add the chicken to the crockpot,” with reminders that--as wholly as I love them--my identity doesn’t rest only in being Mother to my children was invaluable.

When Schuy suggested we enter a contest to run Ragnar with SBS and Dimity, I was game. Their writing had stirred something inside me, and the opportunity to meet them and embark on an adventure together felt like a once in a lifetime chance. A weekend to be more than Mom.  Star struck.

We trained for Ragnar through the summer of 2013. That August, my family and I headed from our home in Pennsylvania to visit my Aunt and Uncle in West Virginia. Spontaneous. It’s a 5+ hour drive, and we pulled over at a beautiful space overlooking a lake in Western Maryland to let the boys run around and stretch their legs. I didn’t know it at the time, but we had pulled over at what would be the start line of the Ragnar Relay I would be running in less than two months. I walked down to the water, stood next to a blackberry bush, checked my email and, kismet, found a note from Dimity.  Talented [with legs you want to reach out and touch]. ”Hey, Bethany, would you like to submit a chapter for our next book?” It was a huge, huge moment for me. Another once in a lifetime chance. A more than Mom moment. Grateful.

Last summer, my husband and I agreed that this would be the year that I would WRITE. He would drive the kids to school, I would glue my rear end to the chair, and pen personal narrative after personal narrative until I had a finished manuscript. One that made me proud. Well, it’s February, and there haven’t been any personal narratives. Life got in the way of his driving the kids to school. And SBS and Dimity offered me yet another once in a lifetime chance. This time to run the Boston Marathon. So those mornings that my rear end would have been glued to the chair writing have been spent training. Freezing. I mean excited!

And training for this race is saving me.

I have STUFF going on in my life right now. Unforeseeable STUFF. The kids are fine, the marriage is strong, we are all healthy, but I carry the STUFF with me everywhere I go. It’s heavy and steals the twinkle from my eyes. Unhinged. I can’t write about it. Living it is difficult enough. Not writing about the STUFF wears on me because writing is how I work through things. Disingenuous. So, the running is my time to process. My distraction. My focus. My outlet. My therapy. My peace. It’s saving me.

My heart beats for my husband and four sons. Almost everything I do in my everyday life is for them. But, in the throes of all of this STUFF, I find myself turning to the girls in my life. I’m stealing every bit of strength I can from my girlfriends. Fragile.

There is the friend who, when she heard I would be running Boston, said, “I’ll do every long run with you!” She, like me, has never run more than 13.1 miles. What an amazing gift. Supportive. She recently met Kathrine Switzer in California. She brought home a copy of Kathrine’s book, Marathon Woman, for me

kswitzer

There is the friend who announced in December, “My motto for 2015 is everything I want is on the other side of fear!” She just sold her house, and she and her family will move this summer. She is chasing her dreams, and they’re leading her to the other side of the country. Her star burns too brightly to tether her to Philadelphia. She’s giving fear the one two punch. Brave.

There’s the friend who’s known heartbreaking loss, yet her first question is always “How can I help?” Resilient.

There are friends--runners and non-runners--who simply listen. Sympathetic. The girlfriend in Boston who reminds me how running can heal. Empathetic.

My sister. She was my first friend. She is my always friend. Loyal.

And my Mom. Whom I love. No matter what. Unconditional.

Everywhere I look I am in awe of the women in my life. Inspired.

It’s not what they wear. It’s not where they live. It’s not what they do for a living. It is the way they share my burden when I can’t shoulder it alone. The way they celebrate my success as though it were their own. The way they recognize something in me before I am able to see it myself. The way they accept all of the parts of me that make me a girl.

And I know that being a girl can be complicated. We are a mighty, fierce, antsy, driven, foolish, overwhelmed, supported, validated, stir crazy, magnetic, obnoxious, invigorated, star struck, spontaneous, talented, grateful, raw, freezing, excited, unhinged, disingenuous, fragile, supportive, brave, resilient, sympathetic, empathetic, loyal, unconditional, and inspired group.

And sometimes our spouses are moody.

Three years ago, a few girls encouraged me to put myself out there. It was their belief in me that gave me the courage to be vulnerable enough to write. Then another girl asked if I wanted to try to win a spot on a relay team with her. Because I wrote and because I ran, I met the girls who wrote the book that I keep on my nightstand because it reminds me that I am mighty and fierce and worth hearing. And because we have running and writing and laughing and being vulnerable and stripping away pretenses in common, we have remained in one another’s lives.

In a few short weeks, their third book will be out and, by some stroke of luck, I contributed a chapter. Six weeks after the release of the book, while many of you are just arriving home from your Mother Runner Retreat, I’ll be participating in the 2015 Boston Marathon.

This marathon training is a true journey, and today I need to acknowledge the emotion of it more than the miles accumulated.

I wouldn’t be here without my girls. My complicated, amazing, beautiful girls.

Now--because Kathrine Switzer told me to--I’m going to work on my fearlessness.

Because, on April 20th, ladies, “You’re gonna hear me ROAR!”

Cheesy.

Apologetic.

25 responses to “Bethany Takes on Boston: It’s Complicated

  1. Written with candor and honesty, straight to the heart of every mother runner. Bravo, Bethany. And believe me girl, all have our STUFF. Can’t wait to read your chapter in the new book!

  2. Thank you, Bethany! This could have been written about my life and journey with friends (and running). Boston! You got this, girl! Can’t wait to read your chapter.

  3. There is definitely STUFF going around in my life too – stuff I don’t like, loss, pain, stress, affecting my training cycle for my first Boston Marathon. Frustrating. BQ’ing took so many years, so much work, through cancer, family stuff, job changes, multiple moves, etc. But I will do the best I can to honor the race and all it took to get there, toe the start line I’ve earned my place at, and do my best on the day. (as will you) What was the Lauren Fleshman quote I’ve seen? “There are no perfect training cycles, but there is excellent adaptation.” Assess, adapt, overcome.

    And be inspired by the efforts of others, each of us in our own struggles and battles and making our own way in life.

    I am so glad you have friends close by to support you in all things, running included. (I need to find a few locally, all mine are far away)

    I’m glad you started to write too 🙂 (I’ve discovered it’s one way I process as well.) I appreciate your honesty and your way with words, enjoy reading. Hang in there!

  4. I will be running my 7th Boston marathon in April and my 14th marathon overall. It never gets easy, but it never gets old. It’s like opening a gift wrapped box every time. I never know what gift will be in the box, but it is always something new and different. The gift comes with many challenges through the training, but the gift is always there at the finish line. The gift is there on every long run in 5 degrees (Chicago). The gift I receive with each marathon plays a role in my life as I enter each training cycle with new and different STUFF to manage. Like you, this training cycle for Boston, has brought me STUFF like I have never dealt with. I think the gift this time is the opportunity to prove to myself that I am a strong Mother Runner. I am stronger than the STUFF.

    Thank you for your perspective. Your writing is amazing! Your girlfriends were 100% spot on to encourage you to write as you have a gift and a unique style. Enjoy the journey to Boston. The path is long and cold, but the destination is amazing and like no other marathon weekend in the world.

  5. Nicely put. I had the honor of meeting Kathrine at the NYC Marathon expo this past November. She took time to meet and greet each and every person waiting to talk to her. She asked everyone their story. When I told her I was a first time marathoner she paused and said to everyone in the area “This is Jill. She is a first time marathoner and I am so proud of her. She is fearless.” A burst of applause from the immediate crowd made me beam ear to ear and get misty eyed. She was proud of me like me mom and my sister and my friends. And the way she said it and gave me a hug felt like it was sincere and from the bottom of her heart. She signed my bib upside down so that when the race got hard I could read it and be reminded that I wasn’t in this alone and that I was indeed fearless. I hope you feel that same way on race day. I can honestly say I will be stalking you on Marathon day and wishing you the best of luck. 🙂

  6. Thank you for your honesty. Life is complicated, we all have STUFF. You have an awesome support system in place and I’m happy we share in it.

  7. I will be listening for your “roar” in Connecticut and once heard I will Roar back to cheer you to the finish line xx

  8. Damn! It’s too early to be crying into my coffee!!!!!
    I gasped when I saw the picture of your foyer b/c I wondered if you had snuck into my house and taken a picture of MY foyer.
    I, too, have a solid marriage and a lot (3) of boys. Last August, I went from the “never have I run past 13.1 miles” to starting to train for my first full marathon. I battled two injuries throughout training and a LOT of tears and self-doubt, but on Jan 11 (only last month!), I ran my first 26.2. It was THE most amazing experience of my life. I hate to belittle the births of my children, but I had relatively easy C-sections. The marathon was hard. But it was SO fulfilling.
    Since then, I have kind of meandered through 2-3 runs a week and pushed the thought that I really need to lose 20 pounds to the back of my mind. My marriage is good. My kids are good. But, I, too, have stuff. And I need to deal with it.
    Your piece this morning really spoke to me. It was SO wonderfully written and very inspiring. Thank you!

  9. I’m not sure what to say other than this was an awesome post! And I love cheesy!

    You go girl! Be fearless and run like a girl the whole 26.2 miles:) I’ll be cheering for you from Canada.

  10. Sniff, sniff….you did it to me again Bethany. Love!!!! You got this awesome life changing event momma! Thank you for sharing it with us all.

  11. Not cheesy, awesome.

    ‘Girls compete with each other,women empower one another.’ Nothing could be more true about this tribe.

  12. Bethany, that is awesome. You are truly taking that motto to heart, and yes, you are going to shine because of it. That quote is so true, and stepping out of your comfort zone will give so many great benefits, that you would have never considered before. We will share this post later, as our readers will be inspired by your words. If we can do anything to help, please let us know. You have seen our best advice (well hopefully http://runnersconnect.net/running-training-articles/boston-training-begins/) about how to race well at Boston, and we would love to help more. Keep on rocking. You can do it!

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