Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Mom the Marathoner

It was the perfect day to be in Hartford, Connecticut on October 11, 2008. Cool, crisp weather, a bright blue sky looking down on a town surrounded by brightly colored trees in all shades of gold, red, and orange. It was a wonderful day to be alive. Yet, as I look back on this day, it wasn’t the beauty that made it such an amazing day. What made this day special was that Mom and I spent it running a marathon together. And not just any marathon. The completion of this marathon was not merely the completion of another 26.2 miles, but the completion of 26.2 miles run for the 55th time in Mom’s 50th state. On this lovely October day my mom, Erin McGuire, obtained her goal to run a marathon in all 50 States of the United States of America.

She began this journey a long time ago. After running a few 5Ks, a few 10Ks, a few half-marathons – the next logical step was to try a marathon. In January of 1994, she ran the Inaugural Disney World Marathon and upon her completion she decided she would never run another one. A man sitting nearby assured Mom that she would in fact run another marathon. Mom looked at him as if he were insane and stated once again that she would NEVER run another marathon. After arguing this point for a few minutes she finally asked this man when, exactly she would decide to run another one. His response was, “tomorrow.”

Sure enough, as we were walking around Disney World she looked to Dad and said, “You know, I’d like to try and see if I can run a marathon without getting so many blisters on my feet.” Dad reminded her of her conversation the previous day… and it began.

Anyone who knows my mom knows she doesn’t do anything half-way. She doesn’t quit what she starts. Ever. Growing up excuses were jokes and we were not allowed to make any for our behavior. Our word was our bond and if we said we’d do something, we had to follow through.

And so when Mom decided to run a marathon in every state, I had no doubt that it would come to fruition. And I am so very glad it did. All it took was a few finish lines, and after standing there waiting for Mom and watching the runners complete what was an unfathomable distance to me, I wondered if I could do it too.

And so my own journey began. At the age of 15 I was running 10 miles, and at the age of 16 I tried my first half-marathon. It was misery, but I did another one anyway. I traveled with Mom all over the place running the half when she ran the whole until one day I decided to try the whole myself. Mom helped me get there and in 2003 she and I ran our first marathon together in Los Angeles.

My first marathon was not as bad as Mom’s first marathon, but it certainly wasn’t what I’d call fun. I can’t remember much about it now, but I remember wishing Mom didn’t look so energetic, that she’d stop singing and laughing and talking with everyone we came across. But that was Mom and she encouraged countless runners that day – and so many other days.

A few years and a few marathons later, I began to pay attention to my marathon time. Slowly I began to chisel away at it, trying each time to get a few minutes off here and there. What started somewhere in the 5:20s made its way to under 5 hours and then under 4:45. Mom paced me for most of these, helping me hold my course for the goals I’d set.

We have so many wonderful memories. I remember laughing on airplanes, getting lost in downtown areas while looking for post-marathon ice cream. I remember all the interesting people we met along the way, and all the training runs where we talked and talked and talked so that our tongues were just as tired as our legs.

A special bond formed through all of this time spent running together. When running, I had Mom all to myself and I knew I could talk to her about anything. We talked about men and jobs and friends and money and God and life. I soaked up her wisdom and life experience, and was some how able to take it when she told me the unpleasant truth about this or that.

In the last two years I met a man named Jason Reneau who is also a runner. Picking up where Mom left off, he showed me new strategies and approaches to running and I have continued to improve in not only my marathon, but in smaller races as well. Last year I married this man and we have begun filling our life together with our own running adventures and excursions.

Mom and I don’t run together as often as we used to, but we still make time for it almost every week. She only lives an hour away and so it is easy to fit in a run or two when I am there or she is here. We still talk about everything from marriage to politics to work to friends to God and life. I still soak up all the wisdom we can fit in a 5-10 mile run and our bond as mother and daughter continues to change and grow stronger.

When we ran together in Connecticut, I couldn’t help but remember how far we’d both come in our journeys as runners. In preparation for the race, Mom made two lists. One was of 26 people and one was of 26 scriptures. As we ran each mile, she pulled out her lists and talked of the person for whom she was running that mile and she quoted the scripture that went along with that mile as well. It seemed to make the miles more interesting as they not only got us closer to the finish line, but filled our minds with new memories and encouraging words.

Mom would say the name that went with the mile we were running and then tell me a little about each person. Most of the stories I already knew. I knew Aunt Donna had gotten Mom to run her first 5k. I knew Renee Whitton had talked Mom into running her first marathon. I knew several of the running buddies Mom has had over the years and the impact they’ve had on her own running career. She ran for Granny whose memory will always remain dear. She ran for Uncle Al who encouraged her along the way. She ran for Caroline and Caleb and for her precious first born, my sister Julie.

It was funny at times when she’d say something like, “This mile is for so and so. She doesn’t run anymore and she was always a strange bird, but she really encouraged me at times.”

Toward the end of the marathon I carried the lists and would prompt Mom with the name and the scripture. Around mile 24, the scripture was one that Mom and Julie had found in Proverbs that reads, “Go to the ant, you sluggard. Consider its ways and be wise.” So as we passed mile 24, I was slightly ahead and I looked back at Mom and yelled, “GO TO THE ANT…” and she quoted the rest. I’m sure the other runners around us wondered about that, but by mile 24 neither one of us really cared.

When she got to mile 26, she ran for me. As she told me what I meant to her and how much she loved me, I looked up and saw that we were about to go for a climb. I told Mom to tap into that because she was going to need it.

She, of course, ran up the hill with gusto and before we knew it we could see the big arches that stood above the finish line. In our usual fashion, we grabbed hands and threw our arms in the air. I whooped as we crossed that 50th State finish line and we both reached down to stop our watches and walk on to find Dad, Gary, and the snacks.

Mom will, of course, continue to run races of all distances even though this goal has been completed. She will continue to inspire countless other runners and non-runners just by being who she is.

I will continue to run as well, and I will always be grateful that this amazing woman is my mom and that I got to be a part of the adventure as she ran across the United States of America.


  1. about tear-jerker. great blog post! what an awesome running legacy your mom has! that is so cool!

  2. Amazing, as always. Crying, as always! Your mom sounds like a truly amazing woman-as a runner, a mother, a wife and a Christian- and you are definitely following in her steps in more ways than one!Congratulations, Erin!

    P.S. I just went down to type my funny letters to post my comment and they were ANTNA...funny that it was ant backwards and forwards!! Made me think of your mom's verse!

  3. beautiful story Jane! As always, the stories are inspiring... thank you!

  4. This is incredible! I remember watching you run in Auburn all the time and only wishing I could do the same. I've completed 5 half marathons and would love to conquer the full one day. Congratulations to your mom on completing one amazing goal!!

  5. I just found your blog tonight so I'm just now reading this beautiful post. Your mom is amazing for accomplishing this goal. None of us ever doubted she would! What a special way for her to run this very special race ... very inspiring! Thanks for sharing ... I look forward to more beautiful posts from a "much more than average Jane!"

  6. Great post!!!! I wish I had that kind of bond with my mom. I can only imagine how special you felt as she ran that last mile for you and with you. Thanks for directing me to this post! So this is the one that was published in HTC?

  7. Yes, although I think I edited it some before sending it in.