The Making of Marathon Mama

The coach that said I could! Me and Rick Muhr

The coach that said I could! Me and Rick Muhr

 “Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.” A Proverb 

You might say I found marathoning, step by slow step. Or perhaps it found me. I was never an athlete growing up; In fact, I have a hard time applying that term to myself even today, after 10 marathons, half-dozen half-marathons, and quite a few road races along the way.

I was the youngest in a family of seven children, growing up with no sports (other than hopscotch) available to me. In high school, I was overweight, self-conscious, and way too introspective. Sound familiar?

In college, I took what was called at that time a “conditioning” class, where the end goal was to run a 10K. I passed the course.

But then life interrupted. I got married, had children, and lived a busy but sedentary life. Until I moved into our new neighborhood in Westborough.

“Would you like to walk with us in the morning?” asked my neighbor Lauren. I had a 5-day-old-infant at the time. Walking? I thought. You’ve got to be kidding. What about SLEEPING?

But she persisted, and I acquiesced. I began to meet with a group of three other women, every other day at 6 a.m. for a brisk, three-mile walk.

At first it was hard. I was sore. But soon, my body adjusted and I wanted more. I remembered that 10K I had run in college, and started adding a skip in my steps, half walking, and half running.

Before the year’s end, I was running the 3-mile loop. Then it turned into 5 miles. I felt great. I set a goal to run a half marathon, inspired by hormonal craziness, I’m sure. But I did. And I completed the Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Vermont in the fall, feeling great. I thought, “Now what?” I started to consider a marathon. Why? I really don’t know. I just knew that I felt like I had my body back, after years of pregnancy, birth, nursing, and pregnancy again. It felt great.

But I was a newbie. I didn’t know how to train for a marathon at all. I downloaded a training schedule and followed it religiously. Then I pulled my calf. This happened just a month before the marathon I had planned to run. I could barely walk, let alone run. I had all but given up the idea of running the marathon. The most I had run up until that point was 16 miles, and it had hurt.

But then something remarkable happened, something I will never forget.

I went into Boston one night to attend a recruitment seminar for Team in Training, a charitable running group in which my brother was involved. I listened to the speaker and coach, Rick Muhr, and was so inspired by his words and his dedication to Team in Training and to runners like me. I went up to him and casually mentioned that I was signed up for the Ocean State Marathon in Providence, RI, just a week away, and that I thought that I’d run part of it, though I really didn’t believe I’d finish.

Rick locked eyes with me and said, “Trish, you’ll finish. You’ve done enough training. And when you do, I want you to email me and tell me all about it.” Then he wrote down his email address and handed it to me. I was floored.

I never had someone believe in me like that, let alone a real, live coach. I took Rick at his word, and set out to run my first marathon, bolstered by his words.

I am so indebted to Rick. He gave me the confidence I needed. I completed the marathon in 4:25, and even helped other women across the finish line. I was ecstatic. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of nearly a decade of marathon and distance running, most recently as a qualified charity runner for the Alzheimer’s Association. This year, I set my personal best (3:50:40) at the Breakers Marathon, which ironically is the “new” Ocean State Marathon, now run in Newport, RI. (Read the Blog Entry)

I like to say that running a marathon isn’t for everybody. But it is for anybody. Anybody who wants to stretch, to reach the unreachable, to set a goal and achieve it. And to take that experience into the rest of their life. As my beloved coach Rick has said to hundreds of charity runners for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society:

 “When you cross the finish line of the marathon you may never have a clearer picture of what you are made of and capable of accomplishing.  It is a rare and unique realization that will be more than worth the effort of the next 5 months.  Your view of the world and, more importantly, of yourself will forever be changed!”

How right he is.

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2 Responses to “The Making of Marathon Mama”

  1. Trish,
    What a great story! I have known Rick for many years as we were both coaches for TNT here in New England. Rick in Mass and me in NH. He is one of the best coaches around. People are lucky to have been touched by him.


  2. Great article, Trish! Thanks for sharing it with us. I met Rick a number of years ago while on business in Washington, D.C. and had the opportunity to go for a run with him one morning there. In just that short period of time, he made a lasting impression on me. He was incredibly upbeat, positive and inspirational, someone I knew then I would never forget. So again, thanks for reminding me through your wonderfully well-written article about Coach Rick Muhr.

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