running with my daughter

Jaime and Abby celebrate 13.1–and a new chapter of their mother/daughter relationship.

By Jaime Taylor

I watch eagerly for her swaying ponytail to come around the corner.

“Come on, Abby. You can do it,” I whisper. I calculate her pace and run/walk intervals in my mind, nervously checking my watch.

My 20-year old daughter is on her longest run post-injury, and the last of her training for her first half marathon. We had done nearly all our long runs together, but my coaching responsibilities prevented me from running with her today. Instead, I called on my fellow coaches and BAMRbassador Maureen (Mo) and Daniela to run with her.

I knew Mo would give her the perfect mix of tough love and mama encouragement to get her through the morning. “I’d be honored,” she responded when I asked. Having struggled with her own training challenges, Mo had purpose while guiding Abby through the 11 miles on a hilly, windy day. Her presence gave me peace of mind; I knew Abby would be in good hands. I squint my eyes, and suddenly Abby’s there, right alongside her are Mo and Daniela, both beaming and cheering “Woo!” as they finish. Abby bounces along the sidewalk, looking as fresh as a daisy.

I jump up and down with excitement, and I know in my mind that she can do it.

running with my daughter

Abby (middle) celebrating 11 miles; a final successful training run!

Race day is only two weeks away; I can finally see myself running with my daughter in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon!

The past few years have been rough on Abby. Illness, traumas, and losses have taken their toll on her. Anxiety and insecurity now swirl in her once fiercely independent. As a mom, therapist, and coach, I often don’t know which hat is best to put on to help her. The mom part feels helpless in reassuring her things will get better in such a crazy world. The therapist part annoys her with endless stress management techniques. (How many times can I tell her to box breathe? How can she visualize a finish line she’s never seen?) So, I reach for the coach part to encourage her through running.

After all, it has helped me through countless stressful periods and given me an invaluable community of BAMRs. I also know how running builds confidence, which she has been slowly building through our training together. That is, until knee inflammation sidelined her for 3 weeks. We got her orthotics and replaced her running with stretching, and the pain eventually ebbed. I constantly modified and recalculated her training program, promising that she still had time to get in enough long runs.

Race day arrives and she’s full of first-timer nerves and self-doubt. “What are you going to do, forget how to walk?” I giggle with her, trying to suppress my own mama nerves. We take our place in the starting corral and observe 168 seconds of silence for the victims of the OKC bombing. A calmness washes over us both. We trudge through the first 3 miles, shaking off grogginess and waiting for our first of many needed runner highs.

We grab donuts and juice from neighborhood parties, and climb Gorilla Hill high-fiving people in monkey and banana costumes lining the street. I coax her to mile seven with the promise of her boyfriend and a few sips of soda. A few kisses and hugs from him and she sprinted up the next hill! Miles 8 and 10 are a slow march and a wall with which we both struggle to climb. We distract our fatigued bodies by laughing and chatting, as we have done so many times during our training. At mile 10, I start breaking down the last 5k into minutes and promises of food, medals, and new shoes. Handfuls of M&Ms (and a shot of Fireball for me!) from a friend’s rogue water stop give us renewed purpose. We make it downtown and can hear the roar of the finish line cheers.

“Knees up!” I joke with her as we pass the last course photographer.

We make it to the final stretch and I can see her tearing up as she realizes she’s done it. We quickly decide on a finishing pose and cross the finish line together, holding hands with arms raised in victory. With a mixture of pride and exhaustion, we hug and cry tears of joy. “This is a dream come true,” I tell her. “When is the next one?” she later responds.

Later that night as I lie in bed, I text her to ask how she is feeling. “I am crying,” she responds. Worried, I ask what happened: Is she hurt? Sad?

“I just can’t believe I did it,” she replies, “Five months ago I never thought I would run again, and could barely run 2 miles without pain. It just makes me think of how far I’ve come in the past year. I just ran a half marathon with my best friend, and I’ve become so much more confident, independent, courageous, and empowered. It’s just not something I would have ever envisioned for myself.”

When she was in the thick of her swirling mind, it’s not something I could envision for her either. But we got there step by step. BAMRs, don’t ever downplay the effect running has on your children. After 50+ half marathons, I assumed my family had become bored with details of PRs, long climbs, or difficult conditions.  I thought that for them, running seemed comparable to a girls night or reading club; just another “Mom” thing I do.

running with my daughter

An emotional finish.

I was so wrong. I did not realize that whether or not your family fully appreciates the details of each run, they appreciate the overall effect on who you become as a role model. They may never know what “fartlek” means, but they learn what strength, determination, commitment, pride, and resilience mean.  When those are the things they are seeking, they will turn to you to find it. In return, you get the chance to develop a closer bond with your child.

With my kids turning 16 and 20, I have lamented that my child raising years have diminished. I often feel like more of an advisor than a parent. However, where parenting ends, friendship begins.  I didn’t need to be mom, therapist or coach on race day.

What she needed most on race day was a best running friend to get her to the finish line—and that’s a role I’ll be happy to fill for years to come.

Do you run with your daughter or son? If so, any advice?