I have been training for the Chicago Marathon since Christmas of 2016 - far longer than any training plan would recommend, but it hasn’t been without its fair share of bumps in the road.
After surviving a mid-run assault in March, I suffered a lumbar spine injury and severe mental trauma, but I was still determined to continue training for my first marathon. Despite my efforts, running wasn’t the same anymore. Once full of freedom, my legs were now fueled by fear. The only time I enjoyed running was when I ran with my mom, Nancy. Nancy and I began signing up for races that would help carry me through my training schedule.
During our second race last spring, I learned to never jump for a race photo, falling hard at mile four, gushing blood from both knees. I yelled at the photographer to immediately destroy any photos, and fled the embarrassing scene as quickly as possible, beating my half-marathon PR by 11 minutes. The crash resulted in bone bruises that still plague me to this day.
Once again, I tried to continue training through the pain, but this time it was too much. I had to reevaluate my reasons for pursuing the marathon. Ultimately, I decided I needed to take time for self-care, and focus on physical and mental recovery to get back to the joy of running.
When I set my sights on Chicago, Nancy, in an act of love and support, decided to enter to run the marathon with me. As the training mileage increased, we started to go for our long runs together. A half-marathon through the streets of Seattle, another in the mountains of Oregon, an 18-miler through cattle fields in Montana, and a 20-miler that ended with cake!
Nancy never complained, and always encouraged me, even when she knew that I might uncontrollably snap back at her with “Mom, this is so stupid!” There were moments I appreciated the once-in-a-lifetime bonding we were sharing - like watching the sun rise over the rodeo fairgrounds in Montana - it turned out this would be the only thing we saw that day besides a post office.
Without her support, I’m not sure I would have ever laced up my running shoes again. She has given me space to heal and recover, but she has also been there to say, “OK, Kel, it’s time.” There is no one else I would rather have by my side on race day when it truly will be time. It will be the day I say, “Today, Motherf**ker,” and become a marathoner.