When Hilary Rasmussen wrote in to nominate Jen-Fisker Anderson, her BRF (best running friend), for Mother Runner of the Month, we had to pause because it felt like these Seattle-based BRFs, long-time runners who are both moms to neurodiverse kids, both deserved the award. We're sure you'll agree!
Jen and I met at church about 8 years ago. We were at an event where women from the church were sleeping outside for the night to raise money for a local homeless services agency. I didn't really know anyone else there. Thankfully somehow Jen and I somehow connected, discovered we both liked running and talked about it ad nauseam.
In 2015, I asked Jen if she could fill a spot on a team I was running with that summer—and the rest is history.
We have since begun running together weekly (along with our BRF Emily), logging many miles, many tears, much heartache, and many shared joys and celebrations (both mother- and runner-wise). My friendship with Jen is one of the best gifts that has blossomed amidst the challenging season I've run through the past few years.
BRFs indeed (Jen): We are 12 years apart, but I don’t feel like there’s an age difference, we’re in a really similar place in life and have lots in common, including a love of faith, coffee, chocolate, and doughnuts. Plus, we're both California girls transplanted in the Pacific NW.
Hilary is one of the most considerate people I know, and is a deep compassionate thinker who is always trying to find ways to help others and make the world a better place. We talk about these things on our runs and she inspires me to be a better person.
Widening the Circle (Hilary): As a mom of neurodiverse kids, to be sure to state that my boys being autistic is not the “problem”; they are who they are meant to be, and they’re amazing with a lot of unique gifts to offer the world. Same with Jen’s girls.
But living in a world that is not designed for how their brains are wired can be really overwhelming at times—and for me as a parent, it’s often isolating as I’m learning how best to support them and life looks different for us than for a lot of other families.
Running with my BRFs is an opportunity to be with other moms who just “get it.” I know I can count on their unwavering support, and I don’t have to explain or justify myself or my kids. I know they are always rooting for me and my family, whether to cross a finish line in a race, or to see my kids thrive.
Widening the Circle, Part II: Running with Hilary is my weekly therapy. There are a lot of parenting issues that come up as you raise kids with anxiety and autism that only a parent who has gone through these things can truly understand. I can talk through things and not feel like I’m being judged.
Since I have teens and her kids are younger elementary, I can pass along a lot of what I’ve learned, and it makes me feel like the things my family has gone through are not in vain. Since we share the faith background as well, we can and often do pray for each other and our families on runs.
Race Strategy (Hilary): We all do our own races here and there, but in the past few years we’ve definitely gotten into a rhythm of doing 1-2 races together each year.
Generally, we line up at the start together, and then see how it goes from there. Last fall at the Bellingham Bay Marathon, I had a very specific goal in mind (running a sub-four race, which I did by the skin of my teeth!), and I really appreciated how supportive my BRFs were of me being “in my head” and just chasing that goal myself.
Jen: I’m glad Hilary mentioned the Bellingham Bay Marathon: such a perfect example of giving each other the freedom to run our own races. Hilary never stated out loud her sub-four goal, but we figured she was going for that and we were so excited to watch her fly ahead of us at the start.
Emily and I left the start line separately but found each other before the end of mile one. We never separated the rest of the race, despite me assuring her she could go ahead at any time. I wanted her to be able to run her own race, but it was so sweet to cross the finish line with her for her first marathon.
Fire Drill Smarts (Jen): Due to a fire alarm, we had to evacuate our hotel during the night before the marathon. I was the only smart one who evacuated with her running shoes on. Just in case we couldn’t get back in our rooms!
On Monster Hills and Intensity (Hilary): Our Thursday morning runs are pretty much the same route every week—mainly based on finishing at our favorite coffee shop. I do sometimes suggest running it in reverse (hint hint, Jen and Emily! 😊), but it doesn't meet with a lot of enthusiasm because that would start off with an absolutely monster hill.
Jen: I would add that our weekly run is one of my harder weekly workouts, while for her, it is probably one of her easier runs, but it meets needs for us both because the point is more the time spent together.
Coffee before a run? Yay or nay?
Hilary: Absolutely yay!! My digestive system needs it. Nothing’s TMI with AMR, right? 🙂
Jen: Yay on my regular runs since it’s later in the morning. For races, a big Nay, my body would be too unpredictable, but I do run races with Nuun Sport with Caffeine which helps stave off a caffeine headache.
Favorite post-run meal:
Hilary: Maybe not the wisest post-run meal, but some combination of Walnut St Coffee, Top Pot doughnuts, and Theo chocolate.
Jen: After a long run on the weekend, scrambled eggs, greens, and bacon. It’s hot and satisfying and I know my body will feel better later in the day.
Favorite piece of gear:
Hilary: My Flip Belt! I hate carrying stuff when I run. Unfortunately, it only works if I carry the right stuff. (I recently took the wrong car key with me, and I was running on a trail far from home and my husband was out of town. Thankfully, Jen was willing to break into our house for me and retrieve a spare set of car keys. Another BRF point to her!)
Jen: My Garmin Forerunner 235. I’m a data girl and if I don’t record it, it didn’t happen! (For the record, I almost said My Flip Belt.)
The best part of running with Hilary/Jen is:
Hilary: Whether I unload all the stress of the past week, or whether I don’t really say anything at all, I always end a run with Jen feeling loved, heard, understood, and supported.
Jen: 100% acceptance, support and no judgment.
Advice for somebody looking for a BRF:
Hilary: Oh man! Jen and I are both major introverts, so I’m not sure we’re the best to give advice—I think we found each other through sheer grace! Maybe, join a relay team? Riding in a van with 5 other people for 24-48 hours straight on very little sleep, seems to really break down barriers and bring people together quickly!
Jen: Don’t stress if you don’t have one yet. I ran for years mostly by myself and really enjoyed the time to listen to podcasts (that’s how I found AMR). I now almost exclusively run with others, so just be patient and keep your ears open for opportunities!