kathy runs like a mother

Kathleen and Ava

This essay about Kathy's achievement as a first-time mom and newbie runner was a timely reminder for us that Mother's Day is Sunday, May 8th. Trying not to love her story was nearly impossible - like training for your first marathon under the scorching Las Vegas sun.

marathon mama

by Kathleen Pugh, Georgetown 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!

gutsy determination

“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.

Las Vegas, baby!

Image: flickr/Nicoli Chepe

running on the strip

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.

like mother like daughter

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!”

race day

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.

Kathleen and Ava

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.

want more?

We learn a lot from our moms, like the importance of saying "please" and in some cases, how to fold napkins to create table-top origami. (A vital life skill, really.) In what way have you learned the value of leading an active life because of your mother?

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What an amazing story Kathy! I’m nursing a bum knee back to life but this has always been a goal of mine. You’ve inspired me to keep trying. :)

Comment by Aleksandra S — April 26, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

I love this post! It’s so inspiring and it gets me pumped up for my upcoming races!

Comment by Siobhan @ sio 'n the run — April 26, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

I am tearing up as I write this comment. Thank you for sharing your story, it is beautful. You have re-inspired me to throw on my runners and get back into running. TODAY.

I am a runner because I RUN!

Happy Mothers Day!

Comment by Elim — April 26, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

This was really inspiring.

Comment by Francesca — April 26, 2011 @ 7:35 pm

Loved reading your story. It brought back memories of my 2 marathons, what a great feeling to cross the finish line!!! Congratulations!!! Might even inspire me to do another one.

Comment by Peg — April 26, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

What a great story!! I teared up. You’re a very inspiring woman!!

Comment by sylvialh — April 27, 2011 @ 7:26 am

Thanks, Kathy! Your story is inspiring me to get out of my running slump and train for an event!

Comment by Nic — April 27, 2011 @ 9:04 am

Great post and very encouraging. You make me want to get out and run right now. Finishing races are such a nice feeling. Keep up the good work!

Comment by Suzanne Williams — April 27, 2011 @ 11:29 am

My mom has fibromyalgia so some days she struggles to get out of bed or even move. I run because I can, while I can. Because I am afraid one day I will not be able to.

Comment by M — April 27, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

Thank you Kathy!! I am a new mother, who was NEVER in her life a runner, but on my quest to lead a healthful lifestyle (and drop dreaded baby pounds) I have turned to the sport. I have a goal to one day run a marathon, but, to me, they seem so intimidating as I think they are only for “real” runners, with a long history and many years experience..so THANK YOU THANK YOU for inspiring me to take the plunge and sign up!! Your story lifted my spirits and made me feel that I can do it! I love your mantra during your last race mile: “I am strong”..yes you are!! Happy Mother’s Day!

Comment by Amanda — April 28, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

This is great! Reminds me of that book “Run Like a Mother”. It’s filled with hilarious stories from Mothers who run.

Comment by Carly — April 29, 2011 @ 7:42 am

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