Growing up I idolized star athletes like Kobe Bryant, Paul Lo Duca, and Jerry Rice. Today, my favorite athlete has never played professionally, she has never been to the Olympics, and I’m not even sure she ever played any sports in high school. My favorite athlete is a hometown hero. She’s my mom.
My mom is a runner. She picked up the sport when I was in high school because I was pretty fat, or in her words “You’re just a little husky.” Side note: If you don’t know my mom… she’s really nice.
Back to the story – She wanted to help me lose some weight because I was breathing like Darth Vader from simply walking up a flight of stairs, so one day she asked me if I would like to start running with her. We started out by running around our neighborhood park but to no surprise, I only lasted on the program for 2 weeks. My mom kept with it though, and she started to increase her distance as time went on. She kept running farther and farther, slowly adventuring off to different routes around our neighborhood, then to the golf course, and eventually to the beach and back, a hefty 12-mile route.
After a while, my mom wanted to participate in a race, but not just any race. She had her sights on the LA Marathon. But later that year, we realized the race my mom would be participating in would be one no one ever voluntary signs up for. In 2012, my mom started to feel achy when she would run and began to lose strength to the point where she couldn’t even twist off the cap to the toothpaste. It felt like it happened overnight and then one day we found ourselves rushing to the ER where doctors found multiple blood clots in her lungs. They put her on special medication and gave her the diagnosis: She had lupus.
For those of you who don’t know, Lupus is a complicated and unpredictable disease. There’s no cure, you just have to live with it the rest of your life. According to lupus.org, it’s an autoimmune disease where your immune system can’t tell the difference between foreign invaders such as the flu and your body’s healthy tissue. Thus, when your body produces antibodies to fight off these invaders, it can also attack and destroy your healthy tissue. It’s a true you vs. you battle.
Looking back on that day in the ER, she heard a lot of tough news such as the seriousness of her disease, the loss of hair she would see from the medication, and the fact she couldn’t run anymore. I cried that entire night, I cried even more the following months. My mother had always been one of the strongest people in my life, and having to watch her lose so much in such little time hurt the most. There was nothing I can do to help. I was just another spectator in her race towards recovery.
Knowing there’s was nothing I could do to make my mother’s disease go away, I decided to do something else. I decided to do something that she would be proud of, something that was dear to her heart. I decided to run.
Now you have to understand, this was no easy task. During that time I weighed 340 pounds, I smoked a lot, and if you hadn’t guessed already – I hadn’t run in a really long time. So I started where I left off, on the same program my mother was doing with me when we first started together. I laced up my shoes and walked out the front door. The sad thing was, I didn’t even make it to the end of my street. As I stood at the corner I thought about giving up, and I tried finding every excuse I could.
“You look ridiculous out here. Everyone driving by is probably laughing at you.”
“You’re going to quit like the last time.”
“You’ll never be a runner.”
But then I thought of my mom, a woman who wants to run so bad but a disease is preventing her from doing so. So I kept going. I wasn’t fast, but for the first time in my life I kept up with a workout routine.
So I made running my thing because, at the core, I felt closer to my mom while I was doing it. We would always talk after I got home from a run and her face would light up. During this time she was my coach, she was my biggest fan, and she just so happened to be my favorite athlete. Everything I did over the next year and a half was replicating everything my mother had done in her running program before she was diagnosed. Thankfully, as I progressed in my running, so did my mother’s health.
Over that year and half, I lost 130 pounds and my mothers lupus was now under control with the use of medication. With my weight loss came this fear of saggy skin so instead of going running, I began to lift weights, only incorporating long distance running in my routine once or twice a month. My mother on the other hand never gave up on her dreams. Not too long ago, my Dad sent us this picture of my mom in a race. She had been participating in her work’s “Fitness Games” and she completed her first 5k since she was diagnosed.
Opening this picture opened a wave of emotions and I couldn’t wait to ask my mom about it. When I made it home she told me, “We’ll I didn’t run the whole thing, I actually run/walked.” I started to laugh, because like a true competitor, my mother still wasn’t satisfied with this enormous accomplishment. I left my parents house inspired, and recently I’ve been thinking about my mother’s passion for running and how I can implement that passion in my own life.
What am I passionate about? What area in my life would I ignore a doctor’s advice if they told me I couldn’t do _________ anymore?
The more I’ve thought about this question, the more I’ve been thinking about my fitness journey. How did I, a 325 pound community college student, end up where I am today? I couldn’t help but think back to the day we found out my mom had lupus. I remember crying a lot, feeling hopeless, and having the crazy idea to start running for her. This one moment forced me to make some big changes and every time I wanted to quit, my mother was by my side encouraging me in my own race.
I haven’t run much since then, and to be honest I kind of miss it. I’ve been slowly getting back into my old routine and it’s got me thinking of some “crazy” ideas again. The more I go for little jogs around my neighborhood, the more I think about my mom. I think about how strong she’s been since her diagnosis, and I think about how much she continues to do for our family. I don’t know if I can ever thank my mom enough, but I do know I can run. With that being said, on March 24, 2019 – I’ll be participating in the race my mother always wanted to do and still plans on doing, the LA marathon.
Mom, if you’re reading this, this is for you!