Kate's progression run

Early run before our momentous road trip.

by Kate Walton

Last week I took my daughter Ava to college. I knew this milestone would be hard. Not just the logistics of a 2,100 mile round trip drive from our home in Iowa to her college in Washington, DC hard. But in the next chapter for both of us hard. I am just nuts about this kid, and even though I am so excited for her I am going to miss her so much.

I am training for the Dead Horse 50K in November with Coach Christy in the Train Like a Mother Ultra program. Things have been going consistently well. Staying on track during this hard week was important to me mentally and physically, but I also knew some flexibility would be required.

Workout One – Departure Day

Unsurprisingly, I slept like crap the night before we left. After tossing and turning for several hours, I was out the door early to do my scheduled 4-mile progression run. I had that jangly feeling like I had too much coffee; I was anxious about the miles in front of us and what was waiting at the end of the drive. I executed the progression run as prescribed, but will be the first to admit it wasn’t my best showing.

Later that day, after we covered 750 miles across five states, I couldn’t have been more grateful to have tired legs and that pleasant, exhausted feeling. It helped calm my mind during 12 hours of staring at the windshield and soaking up the one-on-one time with Ava.

Workout Two – The Switcheroo

We stayed overnight outside of Pittsburgh in a hotel just off the interstate: nothing but commercial roads in sight. Wary of the hotel treadmill, I decided to switch my workouts around and do strength and yoga in the hotel gym. My hips and back appreciated the strength and mobility, and I appreciated the time I took to let yoga calm my nervous system a bit.

After my workout and a so-so hotel breakfast we made it to D.C. and began the college move in process. We picked up Ava’s college ID and metro pass and made a visit to the campus bookstore for American University merch for the family. Then we unloaded the car, stacking her things into her way-too-warm dorm room, leaving the unpacking and settling in for the next day.

Workout Three – The National Cathedral Easy Run

The next morning, I headed out for a run after another restless night in another hotel. Mindful of the 75-degree heat, 90% humidity, and the day to come—the physical and emotional load of settling Ava into her new college home—I decided to do an easy run from our hotel down to the National Cathedral and back.

Kate National Cathedral

Don’t let the smile fool you. This run was rough.

The effort was a struggle. I was overheated and preoccupied; my legs were heavy and my heart just wasn’t in it. I came *this close* to hopping on a scooter and taking a ride back to the hotel. Pure stubbornness kept me putting one foot in front of the other; I wanted to stay somewhat connected to my training schedule. Some fellow running tourists snapped a picture for me at the Cathedral, and I made it back to the hotel under my own power.

Ava and I headed back to campus to put away her things and finish building her nest. Then, after a final Target run, there was nothing more to do but say goodbye to my daughter and let her begin the process of settling in without me hovering around.

I drove out of town, toward home, through tears of sadness, pride, and excitement.

Workout Four – The One That Didn’t Happen

Overnight in a Cleveland suburb, I woke up at 5:30 am feeling sad and lonely. I wasn’t sure where I was. Plus, it was pouring rain.

Tired, sore, and out of sorts, I ditched my intended run—10 x 1-minute intervals with a warm up/cool down, a nod to the track workout that was on my schedule for the week. Instead, I headed for the shower and coffee, and pointed my wheels toward home.

This is maybe the most important, unscheduled rest day I have taken in my training cycle. My body was tired and my heart was heavy.

Experiencing these competing feelings of sadness, excitement, pride, happiness, and sentimentality is uncomfortable. I know I’ve spent the last 18 years preparing for Ava to take this step. I am so proud of her and excited for all the opportunities she is seizing.

Apart from being her mother, I really like her as a person. I am going to miss her presence at home, her energy, her observations, and her kindness. I want her to step fully into this next phase of her life and I wish she were still here. A wise friend told me these feelings are all based in love and connection to my daughter, and they all deserve their time.

For this, and many other reasons, I am so grateful to be a runner. To know how to move forward when things feel hard and to know how to meet myself in tough places. To have a snack, drink plenty of water, and take a break if you need to… but then, go forward.