As Bethany Meyer starts to contemplate training for Boston when the calendar turns to 2015, she's got a few things on her Christmas list. To remind you: Bethany will be running the Boston Marathon and documenting it on AMR, thanks to Stonyfield Organic Yogurt, who generously offered us a number for a mother runner in the Boston Marathon. Bethany will start writing twice a month in January.
Another year has gone by in a blink. Every day that passes feels strangely like the one that preceded it. Hectic and steeped in routine. Yet, when I look back on this year in its entirety--these 365 days that all felt similar as I lived them--I get a sense just how much things have changed. Yes, each of my four boys is older. And taller. Voices are deeper. Jawlines are sharper.
One no longer sucks his thumb, which pleases his dentist immensely and breaks my heart just a fraction. Another has shown a love for soccer, which bonds him so endearingly to his Daddy. One has scored his first role in a play, which is equal parts random and awesome. Another has stood in front of hundreds of people and harmonized a verse of Oh Holy Night with perfect pitch and perfect poise. As habitual as every day has felt for me, the nuances of my sons’ experiences are allowing their individual characters to take shape. They are growing into men right before my eyes. So subtly that I almost don’t see it. But it’s there, Santa. There’s no denying it’s there.
I am both exhausted by them and in awe of them, these four boys who occupy the prime real estate in my heart.
Your big night is almost here, Santa. And I’ve done my part to make things merry for my family. On the other side of the holiday sits a 16-week training plan. I suspect it’s difficult for a man who is famous for his oversized waistline to relate to, but I intend to put my body through the proverbial wringer. Voluntarily. I’m going to run 26.2 miles. Without the assistance of a sleigh or any flying reindeer.
I have my coach lined up. Not just any coach. A lover of the sport and a stud runner himself. Coach will share the Boston Marathon course with me on April 20th, 2015. We’re like twins. Except he qualified by running a 2:52, and I’ve never run a marathon. Coach is also my husband’s BRF.
Because—say this with me Santa—on board. I need my husband on board. Marathon training is long, yo. Come March--when I slip out for a three hour run--having my husband on board is critical. If he should happen to call his BRF to complain that I went out for a three hour run, he’ll find himself in hot water with my coach. See what I did there, Santa?
My life has not been my own for over 13 years. And most days that’s OK. I don’t really need much. Except for this upcoming year. This year, with Boston on my horizon, maybe you could find space in your magical bag for a few things to help this Mother Runner on her marathon journey?
So, here is my wish list. In no particular order...
ONE: I was fortunate enough to get pregnant four times and carry full term every time. Here’s a fun fact, Santa: I carried my oldest son full term + eight days. Talk about a boy who still takes his sweet time. When I was pregnant, the doctors and the books recommended that I sleep on my left side to increase blood flow to the baby. I don’t know if that’s still what the doctors and the books recommend. What I do know is that four babies multiplied by nine months of pregnancy equals 36 months (+ 8 days) that I slept on my left side.
Here’s another fun fact, Santa: I didn’t do that math. My left IT band did it. I’m serious! It talks to me. All the time. It says horrible, unsupportive things. Especially when I run hills. Or increase my mileage too quickly. Or forget to incorporate my hip strengthening exercises. This year for Christmas, will you kindly sprinkle something over my left IT band? Elf dust? Reindeer food? Maybe some Yakety-Yak-Don’t-Talk-Back? Any little holiday potion that makes an IT band stop talking will do.
TWO: Speaking of kids and pregnancy, my bladder is not what it used to be. I know you don’t perform surgery, Santa, nor do you place a pile of money on the nightstand in order for me to afford that surgery. But, maybe you could leave some of that special detergent that gets the stink out of the running tights and a year's supply of JustGoGirl pads? My BRF’s and the cloth seats in my car will thank you.
THREE: I am familiar with the story of the Heat Miser and the Cold Miser. So, I know you have some pull with their Mom. That’s right; I’m talking about your friend Mother Nature. We in the Northeast experienced the Polar Vortex last year. If Mother Nature owes you a solid, I know a whole lotta mother runners who would appreciate your ordering up a mild winter. Moms who are the glue that holds their families together. Moms whose running makes their difficult jobs a little less hard.
Now if Mother Nature has other plans, I would settle for a cozy pair of fleece lined tights under the tree. And some toe warmers. Heck, just an empty treadmill at Planet Fitness every time I walk through the doors would suffice.
FOUR: Running partners, big guy. I have them in spades. Special ones. The kind who change my life. If you could align our schedules so we can crank out those long runs together, Santa, I promise to kiss you under the mistletoe. If not, I could totally dig the new Taylor Swift album. It’s so catchy. Perfect running music. Or enough memory on my smartphone to listen to the Serial podcast. More memory on my smartphone would truly be a Christmas miracle.
FIVE: Nutrition, Santa. It is such a big piece. And for me, it’s a challenge. Luckily, it is a challenge made easier by Stonyfield Organic. As the official yogurt sponsor of the Boston Marathon, the team at Stonyfield has generously provided me with coupons for their delicious products that will keep me fueled during training. Beyond that, I could use some help making the smart choices, Santa.
I have made some recipes from Matt Fitzgerald’s Racing Weight Cookbook. And, they are delicious. I bet I would be leaner if I weren’t chasing Matt’s recipes with cookies and eggnog. So send your pesky Elf on the Shelf to sit on my shoulder and remind me to reach for an apple instead of the Twizzlers.
Put my recipe for shrimp and pasta with blush sauce in your pocket and take it back to the North Pole with you. That creamy goodness will translate to pounds on my hips and lead in my shoes. But be a sweetheart, Santa: don’t forget to mail it back to me on April 21st.
SIX: Mental fortitude. Oh, Santa, this is monumental. I ran a half-marathon in November, and I am embarrassed to admit that it was such a tough mental race for me that I nearly called my husband at mile 10 to insist he list me the reasons I should run the last 3.1 miles. That has never happened to me before. I was in a bad way. So many external forces at work that happened to converge on me simultaneously. And I just wasn’t able to compartmentalize.
My goal is to get to the start line of this marathon healthy, trained, rested, happy, and inspired. But I don’t exist in a vacuum, Santa. I have a husband. We have debt. We have children. We have a mix of attention disorders and a recently diagnosed autoimmune disorder in this house. There are some enormous personalities under this little roof, and managing them is no small feat. When I lace up my sneakers, my mental game isn’t always up to par.
Quieting that voice in my head that begs me to slow, to walk, to quit—do you have something for that, Santa? A mantra maybe? My friend Tracey opted to “Embrace the suck” while she ran the Twin Cities Marathon in October. I like that. Acknowledging that the journey won’t be pretty, but it will indeed be worth it.
SEVEN: This is a tricky one. The M word. MARATHON. I don’t know how much you socialize during your off season, Santa, but have you ever had an elf train for her first marathon? And that marathon is the only stinkin' thing she talks about? All of the other elves humor her, but behind her back, they’re all, “We GET it! She’s running a marathon! But does EVERY conversation have to be ALL marathon ALL THE TIME?” And those elves have a secret calendar where they tally the days until their friend’s marathon is finally over and she can just go back to being their regular friend and converse normally about things that interest elves. Like the Serial podcast. And her outstanding recipe for shrimp and pasta with blush sauce.
Help me not to be that elf, Santa. Make me prolific. Well read. Funny. Engaging. A good listener. Push that M word to the bottom of the list when it comes to conversation starters.
EIGHT: Finally, most importantly, please let this be a good thing for my family. Don’t allow me to be any less the Mom my boys deserve. Or any less the partner my husband needs. My kids know I run. They also know I write. I don’t run in front of them, and I don’t write when they’re home.
When they look at me, they see Mom. The one who does all the things. Kristin Armstrong has a line that rings so true for me, “Running fills the cup that has to pour out for others.” I am so frequently filling everyone else’s cup while mine is left empty. Running is often the best thing for me, so why does it feel like the most difficult thing to get done?
Life simply gets in the way. Training for this race is too important for life to get in the way. The next several months will be a physical and mental test for me. The balance has to shift, which means each of my family members must rise to the occasion. Please don’t make them resentful, Santa. Especially my oldest son. We have a weird dynamic, he and I. His brother was born when he was only 19 months old, and I still find myself overcompensating for that. Packing his lunch. Making his breakfast. Folding and putting away his clothes. I baby him more than the others because my heart believes he was robbed of his time to be my baby when he was little.
It’s ridiculous, Santa, I know. I know! But it’s my truth. At the end of this journey, when my children look at me, who will they see? Will they see more? A girl who perseveres? The woman behind the Mom? That would be something, wouldn’t it, Santa? Or when they look at me, maybe they’ll see the same Mom they’ve always seen. I can live with the same. Please just don’t allow them to see less.
I want you to know that I still believe in the magic of Christmas and spirit of giving. Now more than ever. And if I haven’t said so before, thank you. Believing in you was one of the great joys of my childhood. It has been a privilege to believe in you all over again and experience that same wonder alongside each of my children...boys who are growing and changing each day of every passing year.
Your marathon night rolls around next week, and mine will be here come spring.
With a little luck, Santa, maybe we both can fly.