Spoiler alert, I am not a mother. You might be wondering why someone who has not had children is writing a post on a blog called 3 Mile Mom. Well, my journey from unathletic artsy kid to endurance athlete was kicked into high gear because of, you guessed it, my mother.
I was never an athletic kid but after moving to Washington DC following college with few friends or contacts I decided to get to know the city by jogging through it. And I really mean jogging. This was summer of 2006 and I could barely squeak out 2-3 miles with walk breaks. Running is a great way to get to know a place though, and slowly I saw my runs growing in distance and my social group expanding because of it.
I continued running casually until after my wedding in the Fall of 2010 when I decided I would train for a marathon the following year. I was excited and extremely intimidated by the distance. I had just gotten into the real training when I got a call from my parents while I was shopping in Target. I don’t know how to explain this but when the phone rang, I had a feeling. I told my husband to drop everything so we could leave and call back from home. My gut was right. It was Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
From that call, we only had twenty-four more days with my mother. During this time and the months that immediately followed, running became so much more than a hobby. It was cathartic and calming, soothing and spiritual, it was my salvation. While mom was in the hospital she was so positive. We had often joked that I would never be one of my crazy triathlete friends. Let’s face it I couldn’t swim with my face in the water or ride a bike. Yes, 28 years old and I had never ridden a bike. During those hospital visits we began to consider maybe doing a triathlon once this was all over, maybe we could raise money through Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Mom said she wouldn’t be able to get over her fear of my doing a race like that.
So it was those conversations that led me to reach out to LLS and Team in Training. Could they really handle someone so ill-equipped? Yes, by now I had completed that first marathon but, come on, I really couldn’t swim OR bike! Without hesitation, they welcomed me in. They welcomed me to training and to grieving an d taught me that good could come from this hole that was forever placed in my heart.
I may have barely survived that first triathlon, but something in me had changed and I had an angel pushing me through every step of every race. I was empowered with the realization that darkness can bring light and that we are capable of anything we put our minds to if we simply put in the effort slowly, one step at a time. Mom passed away on August 28, 2011. Since then I have run 7 half marathons, 3 marathons, 9 olympic distance triathlons, 10 half Ironman races, and 2 full Ironman races.
Becoming a mother is a great gift and I have been blessed to witness this journey for so many of my friends and loved ones. I would do anything in the world to have my mother back, but losing her was a gift as well. A painful, heart-breaking gift that taught me about the power I had within me.
More about Rachael
In addition to participating in endurance sports, Rachael is an advocate for innovative and organizational professional development. With her company, Fringe Professional Development, she works with professionals across disciplines and experience levels, particularly with those starting their career on the topics of executive presence, time management, communication skills, and presentation best practices.