Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Sun, 17 Jul 2005 08:22:14 -0400

Family Matters


I can't think of a more anticlimactic or empty ending to marathon training than to go to the race alone. Teaming up with a group, which I now coach, means that no one in it has to finish unappreciated.

These runners trained as a team for the recent Newport Marathon. They came to the Oregon coast on race weekend with the people who helped them get there -- not just their teammates but also their spouses, parents, children, grandkids, partners and friends for all to meet.

The largest number came in support of Paula Montague. She uses the name "flyingmama" in her e-mail address.

Paula is the mother of three daughters, "and my 16-year-old sister is like a fourth." Those four, and her own mother, were in Newport.

A few weeks after the marathon, Paula would undergo a medical procedure (she wouldn't call it "surgery") to correct a non-life-threatening heart irregularity. Her concerns were more immediate: knee pains that had all but stopped her since our longest training run.

Rather than lose each other at the official pasta dinner, we had one of our own. One of our runners, Michelle Martin, planned this dinner.

Michelle also arranged a group rate at the hotel where most of us stayed. She played the role of mother-in-training.

On our first day together back in January, the runners had filled out an information sheet. I'd asked if any physical condition might affect their training. Michelle had written, "Can discuss later," then added a smiley face.

In April, Michelle announced that she was pregnant. I might have urged her to postpone the marathon for a year if she hadn't already rejected that idea.

"My doctor gave me permission to keep running," she said, "if I keep my heart rate below 140." I was never clear if she mentioned "marathon" to the doctor, but do know that her monitored pulse seldom dropped as low as the recommended high.

Michelle also wore a watch that beeped when she was scheduled to walk for a minute. Only sometimes did she heed it.

As I mother-henned the Team on the Newport course, the last to pass my spot at three miles was Paula. I asked about her knees. She grimaced, shook her head and asked for the tube of Biofreeze that she'd left with me.

We next met up at 11 miles. This time she smiled, shouted "I'm better now!"

Our next runner ahead of Paula at that point, four-months-pregnant Michelle, appeared fearless. She passed my spot at 11 miles all smiles, running a minute per mile ahead of her pace goal.

But the marathon wasn't yet halfway finished. It was Michelle's first, just as this would be her first child. A lot could happen in the second half of a marathon, as with a pregnancy, some of it unpleasant to anticipate or to experience.

Michelle lost her time goal to the long lines at the potties. This disappointed her momentarily, but she soon chose a new target: "to walk the Portland Marathon in October, hoping I don't go into labor on the course."

Our final finisher, Paula, sobbed with the greatest joy and relief that her knees had allowed this. Her heart procedure two weeks later brought even more success and relief to herself and her support team, family and beyond.


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