marathon mama


Greetings from St Andrews. I’m back. The computer mayhem is over, at least for now.

The unwanted writing break translated into time for other endeavours, specifically drinking Hendricks with a friend and some long overdue dates with my running shoes. After discussing how similar writing is to running naked, I decided that if I couldn’t blog, at least I could drink gin and run. (Fully clothed and sober, by the way. Do you know how cold the wind off the North Sea is in February?)

So a few things happened during my brief hiatus.

I said yes to a scary goal and registered for The Edinburgh Marathon Festival’s 10K race. Somehow I also managed to wrangle seven other St Andrews women to do it with me. We’ve got a Facebook accountability group – the best kind of accountability – and we mean business. There is a lot of pavement to pound and sand to sprint on before we reach that starting line.

I’ve also dug aroung online and managed to unearth a great deal of writing from my lululemon days. A lot of it makes me cringe but some of it is still enjoyable, at least with a good gin and tonic. (Okay, okay. It’s only Monday. No more gin talk.)

In the spirit of running and goals, here is an essay from a woman I had the privilege of interviewing in my old life. She was and is an inspiration and I hope you enjoy her memoir as much as I did today.

Over to you, Kathy.

by Kathleen Pugh, lululemon Georgetown’s alumni ambassador, runner extraordinaire and Ava’s mom

I never liked to run. My husband, Drew, was the runner. Faithfully, I watched and cheered as he crossed finish line after finish line while secretly waiting for him to see the light. That kind of activity was a little nuts in my opinion. Who would want to sweat like that?

After the birth of our daughter, everything changed. I had gained almost sixty pounds. The weight hung around like a bad houseguest who doesn’t know when to go. “Who is this stranger?” I wondered. My frustration was further compounded by our recent move from Washington, DC to Las Vegas. Life as I knew it was over and I was having an identity crisis. I was a fat, lonely, nervous new mom, lost in Las Vegas. Something needed to be done to free me from my funk. What would a woman in my situation do? Sign up for the Marine Corps Marathon, of course!

“Are you sure about this?” Drew asked.

“Yes,” I snapped, and added rather indignantly, “What, you think I can’t do it?”

“You could, but when you run you sweat; you don’t like to sweat.”

I shrugged it off. After all what was a little sweat? That would be the least of my problems.

I trained during the summer, which in Vegas doesn’t end until Halloween. Have you ever spent a summer in Vegas? I don’t mean inside a luxurious, climate-controlled casino playing slots and dreaming of instant retirement while a cocktail waitress serves you chilled rum and cokes. I mean outside, pounding the pavement where it’s like an oven by 7am. You might think, so what, it’s a dry heat. But, like a food dehydrator on a late night infomercial, the dry Vegas heat sucked every molecule of moisture from my body, turning me into human beef jerky.

To outsmart the punishing sun, I had to start before sunrise. I needed to run a route that was well lit where I could refill my water bottle and take bathroom breaks, so I ran under the neon sun of the Las Vegas Strip.

The strip is never boring. Stragglers from the night before stumble around in a drunken stupor trying to find their way back to their rooms. One time I saw a guy leaned up against one of the pedestrian overpasses sandwiched between two beautiful young blonde women with their hands in his pockets.  I ran past the threesome, and then looked back. The blondes were gone and so, I suspect, was his wallet.

With hotels that replicate Egypt, New York, Paris, Rome, and Venice, I traveled the world sans jetlag and cramped seating. I became so distracted and delighted by the grandeur of volcanoes, fountains, and pirate ships on the boulevard that I almost forgot I was running inside a hairdryer.

Rather than being enticed inside the casinos by promises of easy money, I was drawn in by the icy air that blew from their doors. Once I played a few hands of video poker on a bathroom break – I lost.  I’m sure the sight of a sweaty woman running past blackjack and craps tables at dawn left some glassy-eyed gamblers wondering if they’d seen a mirage.

As race day approached I started to panic. What made me think that I, a woman whose prior running experience consisted of running after buses and subways, could run 26.2 miles? Who did I think I was flying across the country to run a marathon? But, it was too late to back out. I’d already bought a cute new running outfit and told everyone I knew that I was running.

Drew flew with me to DC. This time he would be the spectator. Race day was perfect. The leaves had begun to change color and it was sunny and in the 60’s. While the runners around me complained about the heat I thought, “Piece of cake! Try doing this in 100 degrees!”

As the race started I was filled with a sense of joy. I lost all the weight and my body and confidence were strong. The spectators, whom I privately appropriated as personal cheerleaders, shouted “Go Katy!” Wait a minute, I’m Kathy not Katy. What’s going on here? I looked down at my shirt. The “H” from the “GO KATHY” I had placed on my shirt with black tape had peeled off! I knew I should have written my name in marker, but I didn’t want to ruin a new shirt.

I felt energetic and euphoric as I ran through the streets of DC past our great American monuments. I imagined the city erecting a monument of me to honour this great feat. Sure Lincoln, Jefferson, and FDR were great men, but they never ran a marathon.

Somewhere around mile 20 my euphoria and energy simultaneously screeched to a halt. I hit the much talked about “wall.” Hell, I slammed into it like a bad NASCAR wreck. Defeated runners were carried into ambulances while others limped around me. I would not be one of them.  I would run across the finish.

During the last mile, nearly on my knees in pain, I started to chant, “You are strong.” My spirits soared as I saw the finish. I ran through the pain remembering that someone said there would be free beer at the end.

As I crossed the finish, a young marine placed a medal over my head and with tears in my eyes I thanked him. It was one of the best moments of my life.  I sweat. I sweat a lot and I loved it. In this moment I had found myself. I was no longer a fat, lonely, nervous, new mom. I was a new woman. I was Kathy; still a mother, but also a strong, confident proud marathon finisher.

One thought on “marathon mama

  1. Suzy Taylor Oakley says:

    Elissa, this is awesome – both your personal quest of the 10k and Kathy’s marathon story.

    I had never pictured Lincoln, Jefferson or FDR running a marathon, but now for some reason I can’t get that out of my head! 🙂

    I can’t wait to see the rest of your story as you and the other crazy running chicks (that’s what I call gals like me) train for the 10k. Rock on!


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