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Two years ago, I began a blog about my journey from couch potato to marathon runner.

Though I wanted to keep the blog purely about health, I found funny things, like my kids, kept creeping in. Because at the core, whether I’m keeping the couch warm on a daily basis or getting my Merrells routinely muddy, I’m still a mom.

I’ve come to realize that not a single component of the mother/writer/runner amalgam can be extracted without making the other elements weaker.

Looking back through my blog, it’s apparent I haven’t met all of my health goals (I can barely hold myself in plank position for 30 seconds before falling in a quivering heap, let alone do an actual push-up), but I am much healthier than I was two marathons ago.

I’m not worried about the fact that I still have many items on my “goal” list because it gives me more to strive towards. And I’m the kind of person who always needs some goal or project to keep me from the fuzzy warm blanket of lethargy.

“Auf die Dauer,” is the German equivalent of “In the Long Run,” which is especially fitting for my life as a mother/writer/runner living in Germany.

Everything we do (or fail to do) has an impact in the long run.

It is finding the importance in each of the hundreds of little daily events, which will lead to something greater. Whether it is plugging away on a languishing manuscript, taking 5 minutes to let my teenager vent, or running a few miles, each step gets me closer to the goal.

It is a new year, and I have a lot of goals: some old, some new.

While I still hold fast to the Auf die Dauer philosophy, I’ve decided to start a new blog. It will be the same me…just a different name.

Auf Gehts, Mama! will contain more about my life as a world-schooling, noveling, solar-powered, running mama, who is encouraged and motivated (often literally) by her children, and who also happens to live in an incredible (often literally) place in the world.

So join me in the new year at AufGehtsMama.com

Let’s go!

Germany is foggy.

If you did not know that, then you have never lingered here long after Octoberfest.

I have become intimately aquainted with the many varieties of Franconian fog due to my early-morning jaunts into the countryside.

Running later in the day really isn’t feasible at the moment, as the daylight hours have become filled with activities, extra schoolwork, writing projects, and occasionally, cleaning the grime off things in the house. (If I could mine the deposits on my shower door, I’d be a rich woman).

The only other option, as far as running time is concerned, would be to NOT run at all, which would put my children and husband in the high risk category for emotional damage, as I would quickly burst like the button on my skinny jeans.

Which all brings me back to fog.

There is the thick, soupy fog that covers everything, making it impossible to see anything beyond the scope of the light from one’s head lamp. This blots out even the wide, dark sky, and makes you truly question your sanity, as you double-check the blinking lights on your reflective vest.

The misty fog, comprised of tiny ice crystals, makes you feel as if you’re a Gulliver, running through a snow storm of Lilliputian proportions.

There is also the fog that only becomes visible once you turn on your headlamp. At that point, you feel as if you’re in a sci-fi movie, moving at hyper speed, as bright stars (in this case, chunks of light, floating ice) rush past in white streaks.

The neatest type of fog is the kind that billows, like clouds at ground level. This kind of fog makes you feel as if you’re flying through the sky, rather than stumbling along a gravel path.

Occasionally, the clouds will part, or your head will bob out of the mist, and you can see the entire night sky stretching out all around you.

Except for the occasional gray day, the fog is mostly confined to ground level, and when it burns off later, I find myself longing for the familiar feel of the UV rays (however weak they may be) on my face.

But running in the fog has its advantages. For one thing, I always get to run as long as I like without guilt. I ran 8 miles this morning, and not even the dog, who was happily snoozing on the dirty laundry pile, noticed I was gone.

I also have the entire countryside to myself, which means I don’t have to worry about the manure trucks or gigantic harvesters, churning unbreathable things into the air.

While I do miss spying the deer, I get to experience the thrill and sudden increased heart rate when huge hawks swoop over my head.

I can also wear whatever I want, even if I look like I’m dressed for a space walk, because even if there were other humans around, it’s too dark, or foggy, to actually see any more than the lights strapped to my body.

Though it may be foggy, or cold, or dark, or all of the above, I never regret my early morning runs. In fact, they may be part of the reason I can embrace the day with a happy heart.

No regrets.

My plate is full of great things: Super-sized portions of field trips, a side of piano lessons, and heaps of delicious art classes, during which, Mama goes for coffee (and sometimes ice cream) with her friends.

Still, it’s a lot more than I’m used to. And to top it off, my skinny jeans are getting uncomfortable to wear (must be all that ice cream during art lessons) making it apparent I need to increase my weekly mileage. Oh yes, and I’m teaching writing seminars for the homeschool kids. And I’m going to write a novel this month. Plus there’s that little thing called homeschooling, where I’m SUPPOSED to be the teacher.

I love my life and the opportunities the kids and I have, but I wonder how I’ll get everything done.

The real problem is that for the past couple of months, most of our activities are an hour away. There’s no real solution or way around it, so I find myself spending 8 to 10 hours driving a week, and if you look closely at my kitchen floor and bathroom toilets, you’ll see the cost of the commute.

But here’s the thing: I can stay home and have a perfectly clean house, or I can provide valuable learning opportunities (and fun socialization) for my kids. There’s really no choice to be made–our lives are richer because of the activities and because of the people we get to be with while we’re doing cool things.

All of this means that in the next month, I have to be extremely dedicated to using my time wisely.

So, if you don’t see many funny quips on my Facebook page, don’t be alarmed. If I don’t answer emails right away, don’t call the Red Cross–I’m still here!

And though I will be driving way too much, I’ll also be running (before sunrise), writing (any chance I can get), living, laughing, drinking too much coffee, and loving my family.

All it takes is dedication.

But my house probably won’t pass a white glove test any time soon.

Having four kids isn’t really that hard.

Sure, the first six years are a blur of keeping little people clean, fed and safe, but by the time the oldest is eight and the youngest is out of diapers, things start becoming much easier. And that’s why I’m always caught off guard when well-meaning people give me sympathy about my motherhood status–as if by having four children, my life is somehow four times more difficult than the average woman. Yes, having four little ones IS difficult, but now that my oldest can legally babysit and everyone cleans the house, my job feels downright easy.

The challenges I face now, as a mother, are much different and more subtle. While I do have time to shower and get dressed every day (a luxury in those early years), I have to carve out time with each of my kids, to make sure we’re not growing apart. As they become more independent, it’s more important than ever that our hearts remain close.

A while ago, a friend of mine posted a question on her blog regarding the number of children a Christian family should have (biblically speaking, that is). There were many different answers to that question, and I remember feeling somewhat defensive–that a matter so personal was between the husband & wife & God only. And maybe it is, to a certain extent. I mean, certainly, we weren’t all meant to have 20 kids. Were we?

God did not design each family in exactly the same way, though as Christians, we use the same Operations Manual.

Some women are much better mothers because they work outside the home. And when I spend 30 hours or more a week marathon training, those hours out of the home help me to be more patient, kind and level-headed.

When I was a young mom, I thought my life was so full, I couldn’t add more to it without something breaking (like my sanity). But now that I will soon be the mom of two teenagers, life seems too easy. I look at my children and wish there were more of them, tearing through the house, making silly jokes, painting masterpieces.

Why did we stop with only four?

People used to tell me that the years when my children were little were the best years of my life. And I used to wonder at that, feeling acutely the exhaustion from never having a good night’s sleep, and the demoralization of rarely eating a hot meal.

A child’s first steps and first words are incredible, but I can’t honestly say those early years are the best. Each stage of life has rich rewards. Yes, the chubby little hands around your neck and sticky kisses are priceless moments, but what about the late-night laughter with your teen? Or discussing dreams and wishes as you make dinner together? And what about that magical moment when you realize you count your child as one of your best friends?

Each year is the best year of your life. Recognize it. Live it. And share it with your kids.

It’s not that hard to do.

I didn’t know I was stressed until my husband tactfully encouraged me to go for a run.

The day was sunny, and the countryside was relatively quiet, but running wasn’t on the LIST for the day.

The dreaded LIST.

Dirty windows, dirty laundry, dirty floors…most things on the LIST needed soap and water, in one form or another. I HAD to get it done.

Why?

Because I thought it should all be done.

In reality, nobody else cared about the LIST. Sure windows are supposed to be clear, and not tinted with farm dust and kid-smudges.

But the children had clean clothes to wear, and as for the floor, well, nobody is crawling around on it anymore except for the dog, and he LIKES it dirty.

The stress of the LIST must’ve crept out over coffee somehow. Maybe it was the way I helpfully advised my husband as he made omelets for the six of us.

“Don’t use that pan.”

“You have the heat too high.”

“Can you use real eggs?”

“The heat is too high!”

“They’re not as fluffy as I make them.”

“You need more patience.”

“I told you the heat was too high.”

I don’t think I said “Thank you,” even once.

No wonder he suggested I go for a run.

Okay, so maybe he was just trying to get rid of me, but then he said something really nice.

He told the kids that when their mother goes for a run, all her stress bubbles just float away.

And I could just picture it: me running through the lovely Franconian countryside, a trail of muddy stress bubbles rising up from my head, or my heart, or wherever they hide, and dissipating far above in the atmosphere, where they couldn’t hurt anybody.

As for the LIST, it still has three items on it, but those things will be crossed off, one at a time, just after I go for a run.


Contrary to popular belief, there are enough hours in the day; you just have to know where to find them.

A while back, a friend of mine encouraged me to get up before the sunrise, chickens and children to run. The theory is that you can have glorious alone time before anyone needs anything from you.

This is also the same friend who got me into long-distance running, so I know her advice (while it usually sounds outrageous to most people) pretty much always helps me in my metamorphosis into SuperMom a decent sort of woman.

Thus, when my electronic birds gently began chirping last week at 5 am, I got up and immediately made the decision to crawl back under my cozy down comforter ASAP.

But when I actually stumbled into the bathroom, I looked through the window on our slanted ceiling/wall and noticed the moon illuminating my running trail and billions of stars all around.

The Franconian countryside had become a strange, new world.

I quietly laced up my shoes and snuck out the door.

The trail was the same (the same tractor ruts, chunky rocks, looming trees, and fields in various stages of growth and harvest), but the entire experience was exhilarating.

Everything looks different; and every scary story you’ve ever heard comes flitting through your mind as you run in the dark (especially past corn fields).

Sounds are amplified and sometimes terrifying (such as the lone car that came barreling over the hill or the hawks that swooped over my head as I ran down the lane of plum trees).

There are creatures slinking around in the fields at night, and they all sound BIG and FAST—at least, bigger and faster than you. Those could be deer, or dinosaurs, or bunny rabbits out there—you have no way of telling!

The good thing about running in the dark: scary sounds make you run faster.

One problem with running with the stars is that you tend to look skyward a lot, which isn’t actually that safe to do on a darkened path.

And instead of hill repeats, you find yourself stopping at the top of the hill, tipping your head back as far as it will go.

In fact, you may consider lying down in the grass to soak in the view, until you remember how wet and muddy it is.

Though running in the dark is seductive, it’s also a hard habit to establish.

The October issue of “Runner’s World” has a good article on becoming an early morning runner. So, armed with sure-fire strategies and inspiration to run before sunrise, I set my alarm for 6:00 am.

The problem with this noble act was that I knew it was not enough time for a good run. I ignored this tidbit of knowledge and justified my action by reminding myself that I need 7 hours of sleep a night.

However, at 5 am, I felt three distinct taps on my shoulder.

I started awake, sputtering, “What is it, Libby?” before my eyes even opened. I expected to see the dark little shadow hovering over me, explaining about hypothetical mosquitos or phantom spiders, but there was no one. My husband appeared to be sleeping, and even the dog was silent in his kennel.

It must’ve been some kind of muscle spasm, but I could not get back to sleep. I tried to ignore the clock, but by 5:15, I knew I had to get up and at least look out the window.

There were stars.

Billions of them.

I added a headlamp and a blinky tail light to my ensemble.

It was another glorious pre-dawn morning. The countryside belonged to me (and to one other person, again barreling over the hill, who must drive to work AWFULLY early every day).

I made my way off the main road and turned off my lamp to let my eyes take in the ambient light that transforms the familiar landscape into a mysterious new place.

As I turned down the final trail to home, the sliver of a moon was hanging on the horizon in a pale strip of coral sky.

I finished my run and had a cup of coffee as dawn broke the spell over lovely, magical Franconia.

I ran eight-minute miles today. And not just one, but two–in a row!

That may not be impressive to my sportier readers, but for a woman who is content with one mile every ten minutes (including stops for tractor dodging or wildlife viewing), this is an achievement. And the funny thing was that I wasn’t even trying.

Before you think my favorite Superman t-shirt has imprinted itself upon my subliminal mind, let me clarify: today’s run was purposely going to be s_l_o_w__…

For many weeks, I’ve been wearing Newton running shoes, which train you in the minimalist style. This means that instead of using my heel to break the full force of my significantly jiggling self, my body glides along, with feet pitter-pattering on their forefronts. I envision the graceful lope of a deer, only with a ponytail.

Instead of fighting gravity, this particular stance uses gravity to propel you foreward, which historically is what running is supposed to do.

Anyone with a simple knowledge of the human body knows that an unused muscle atrophies. And I’m no doctor, but I’m fairly sure bones need some type of weight bearing exercise in order to grow stronger, at least, that’s what I read once in “Better Homes and Gardens.”

So what happens to bones and muscles when feet (like mine) have been luxuriously ensconced in Nike or Mizuno for twenty years?

Can it actually create or exasperate problems such as patellofemoral pain syndrome, shin splints or plantar fasciitis?

You may think I’ve gone granola, but I am betting that many of my usual problems (achy arches & old lady knees) will benefit from proper training in the barefoot style.

Enter the Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves: these are like the Vibram 5 Fingers, only without the creepy toes. And yes, my feet are SO long (and Merrels are SO short) I had to order from the men’s department (please, Merrell, for the love of long, gorgeous feet everywhere, make a woman’s size 12!!!).

Running with the trail gloves was a new, interesting challenge, and I kept wishing I could watch myself run, as I had this fear of not doing it right and breaking all the bones in my feet.

But I think part of barefoot running is that you learn to ‘feel’ when you’re running–that your body (eventually) just knows it’s in the groove.

After the initial feeling I was doing something terribly wrong and unnatural (I mean, ditching my watch AND my high-tech, arch-enabling running shoes) my body fell into a of rhythm of its own.

As I finished my run, I heard the church bells ring 3/4 past the hour. Since I am currently watchless, I dug my phone out of my back pocket to double check the time. I had stepped out of the house at half past.

I mean, there’s no way that could be right.

But the church bells and the iPhone do not lie. I had run my two miles in 16 minutes.

An unintentional personal best.

I wonder what other things I can accomplish when I stop trying so hard?

A few miles into the marathon, my Garmin winked at me before closing its sleepy digital eye for the duration of the race.

If my hands hadn’t been so uncoordinated from the finger-numbing drizzle, I would’ve tossed the watch into the lake.

It reminded me of when I’d forgotten to charge it the night before a long run. It was that day, without the constraints of time or minutes-per-mile, that I discovered a new system of trails—a runner’s paradise with green rolling hills, fields of flowers, forests, and even medieval ruins. I was like a kid in an amusement park—running cheerfully from one attraction to the next.

After that day, I did many of my runs without being henpecked by my digital training partner. I could concentrate on how my body felt—how it felt to go slow; how it felt to go fast.

Since I couldn’t precisely track my mileage (which, honestly, was annoying at first), I would just run for a certain amount of time, paying attention to form and function, while also allowing my thoughts to roam.

So, I wasn’t at a complete loss without my gadget during the marathon, though I did spend significant brain power trying to convert kilometers into miles.

The watch is a seductive tyrant. Success or failure is easily calculated in its cold gray numbers, and when you wear it, you can completely ignore your own self.

Why not just walk a mile until you can run it? And when you can run it, go a little farther? Success should be based on how your body feels, or how your jeans fit, rather than what the heartless gadget tells you.

It is so like life. We push ourselves to fit into a perfect, pre-packaged category.

That’s not to say we can be lazy—it means we need to be honest. If you learn to listen to your body, then you will know when you are working hard and when you are just wimping out. Achieving honesty in training is one of the hardest things to do. It means overcoming your worst enemy—yourself.

Because marathon training is a program that requires a certain number of miles and minutes if you want to finish alive, the gadgets come in handy. And for professional athletes, a split second determines whether you win or lose.

But for most of us, there is a tendency to become too focused on the watch.

We find ourselves measuring a good workout not by how good we feel afterwards, but by a few random numbers.

But the numbers can’t calculate how late you were up the night before, tending to a crying baby. They can’t calculate the stress from work or school or home that has built up, or that feeling of utter freedom when you release it. Garmin or Timex or Salomon can’t calculate if your finger is broken; nor can it fit into its equation the sunrise or the deer on the hill that makes you pause for a moment to absorb the sheer tranquility of an early morning run.

For now, my Garmin is history: a deposed dictator banished to the bottom of my electronics basket, where it will keep company with a variety of rechargers, stray batteries and camera attachments.

But who knows? It may stage a daring coup d’état for the next marathon.

Time will tell.

 

Eight days ago, I was climbing the final hill into Füssen.

It was so quiet, I could hear nothing but my footsteps and my own raspy breathing. I wondered how long I had been running in need of my inhaler. On the steep cobblestone, I slowed to a walk and swung my pack around so I could grab the inhaler. Two quick puffs, and I was packed up and running the final 200 meters.

Flashback…

It was at that same spot a year prior, an angel in guise of an old man on a bicycle called to me, “Nur Zwei Hundert Meters!”

Only 200 meters?

By that point on my first marathon, the pain in my knee was so excruciating, I trudged along, barely getting my feet off the ground until the end of the marathon, where upon finishing, I leaned on the shoulder of my oldest child because I couldn’t really walk. I finished my first marathon, but it wasn’t exactly glorious.

This year was entirely different.

To begin with the end…

I felt a surge of adrenaline as I crested the hill. Before I knew it, I was running through the tunnel, which isn’t a tunnel, but high rocky cliffs that swallow up the road and lead to the final decent into Füssen—and to the finish line. I felt so good, so strong in contrast with the year prior, I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.

A smile spread over my face. And when I smiled, the bystanders smiled too—it was contagious. Then I started “woo-hooing” and pumping my fist and crying out “Yes!”

I was bursting. I could feel the goodwill of the people watching, and when I saw my kids at the bottom of the hill, waiting to bring me to the finish, I ran with an energy and emotion I can hardly describe.

Joy is uncontainable when it is layered over recent sorrow.

Running through my head…

I thought about a lot of things as I ran this year. And one of those things was the loss of my aunt to cancer. Last year, I wrote her a long, rambling email telling her about my first marathon. This year, all I could do was take comfort that she was with God, and that maybe He would give her a glimpse of one of the little victories in my life.

I miss her at the strangest times. And I will never watch the end of Mary Poppins again without sobbing. When Jane and Michael beg her to stay, but she gently tells them “spit-spot,” because her job was accomplished; or when she raises her umbrella and floats up into the clouds, away from the mortals, I have to find a place where I can cry without the kids hearing.

If God did pull back the veil on the 24th, so Aunt Kathy could watch the race, I’m sure she was smiling—knowing that while her job was done, her influence was still felt here on earth.

The beginning in the middle…

It was in the upper 40s and raining at 6:00 am when Mike dropped me off at the event tent. A few runners were jogging around the parking lot, the side streets, and through the downtown. Even the bright colors of the jerseys couldn’t overpower the immense grayness outside. My thoughts were completely focused on the first portion of the marathon, which I KNEW was going to be a pain.

I was filled with dread, which was not remedied by the weather.

The first seven miles or so of the marathon consists of running around a very flat, dull lake and through some pasture. You make a loop around the lake, so at the very beginning of the loop, you can see where you end up an hour later, which makes it seem like you’re making all this effort for nothing—literally going nowhere.

Now, if I’d had a better attitude, I could have breezed through the initial part. But in my mind, I didn’t LIKE starting off in the cold rain with runners at each elbow. I didn’t LIKE seeing the end of the trail right at the beginning. And BLAST IT! My Garmin went completely BLANK at mile three–how could I keep track of the miles when everything is posted in KILOMETERS? Was I supposed to do MATH now?  I didn’t even have my watch to stare at, and the lake was SO BORING!

Halt!

I always tell the kids “Boring is in your mind. It means you aren’t using your imagination.”

No matter how much I scolded myself for being unimaginative, I STILL thought the lake was boring.

The path consisted of small wet rocks punctuated with puddles you had to jump over. Fortunately this year, there weren’t any places where you were up to your ankles in lake water. Still, all I could think about was getting through it so the ‘fun’ could begin.

If I could have broken through the dullness in my mind, I am convinced I would have made better time. In my first marathon, the excitement of it carried me through the first half in two hours. When I reached the mid-way point this year, I was bummed to discover I was at 2:06. My mind had cost me six entire minutes.

I had some catching up to do.

The middle at the end…

Once I was through the Slough of Despond, my running really took off. I was relaxed, not in any pain at all, and my muscles didn’t tighten up (as they had during some of my training runs). I felt so good, I could hardly believe it.

Soon, I was picking off runners one by one. Sure, they were mostly old guys. And one guy I felt badly for. I would pass him, and he would pass me at the water stations (where I walked through). We went like this until the last 5 miles, when I zipped by him, and left him breathing hard along the River Lech. I wanted to call to him “Auf Gehts!” or “You can do it!” but I didn’t—I regret it, and hope I get another chance.

What is the point of running if I don’t encourage other people along the way?

My biggest ‘victory’ happened along one of the lakes (not the ‘boring’ lake…but the one we didn’t have to circumnavigate). I had just downed my first Mountain Dew (which I had sent ahead) and was running along when I caught up to a guy with dark curly hair.

I followed for a while, reading the back of his shirt—Münchener Fussballer, something or other. After following him for a little while, he began to slow down. Shoulder to shoulder with him, he looked over, smiled and said something. I’m not exactly sure what it was because it’s hard for me to translate while running (and after 15 miles or so, my thinking isn’t quite sharp), but I think he was complaining about the drizzle, which I no longer noticed because I was drenched with sweat anyway.

I smiled and then ran ahead of him. He tried keeping up for a while, which made me go faster, until soon, I was around the next bend. I didn’t see him again during the race.

Marathons…

I’ve said this before, but marathoning is a strange business. A 38 year-old housewife who only began running 3 years ago can outrun a 20 something Fussballer out of München, and a 60 something lady with jello triceps can leave us both in the dust.

It is an incredible sport. You don’t have to be agile, or particularly fast, but you MUST have physical and mental endurance, which is what levels the playing field for amateurs.

Yes, I love it. And I want to be the 60 or 80 or 99 year-old lady (with slightly firmer triceps) breezing by the young kids someday.

Eat…

Last year I was sucking down goo packs every 30 minutes, which I discovered actually made my knee condition worse. The sodium makes me swell up like a balloon, and so this year, I wanted to do things a little more ‘naturally.’ (Go ahead and laugh about the Mt. Dew…I said ‘a little’ more naturally, and admittedly, Mt. Dew is NOT a natural substance).

I had made some gluten free energy brownies, but during the marathon, I felt like I couldn’t eat anything other than apple slices or bananas—and that was okay.

The biggest breakthrough is thanks to my brother and the Tarahumara runners depicted in the book Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall.

My brother is a big proponent of the benefits of chia, and the Tarahumara…well…you have to read the book.

Make fun if you will and sing that horrible As-Seen-On-TV jingle, but ch-ch-ch-chia is absolutely the best if you can’t have the goo.

I added a heaping tablespoon of ground chia with a quarter cup (or less) of multi-fit juice, put it in a snack-pack ziplock baggie, and voila! I had my own goo pack.

While chia may not give you the instant high of the goo packs (hence the Dew), it does give you energy and helps your endurance. I brought 5 chia packs with me for the marathon and only used 4 (mainly because I couldn’t find the other one, as it had hidden itself in the bottom of the backpack).

Drink…

Once again, I brought along my Nathan Hydration pack. I can’t say enough good things about it. This year, I was wise and only filled it about halfway because the Konigschlosser Romantik Marathon does a great job of keeping you fed and hydrated. Last year I finished with nearly a full water pack.

I mainly carried the hydration pack so I could keep my inhaler and chia goo in it. I hate having a marathon ‘belt’ or fanny pack, because they tend to flop around. For me, the backpack is much better. The Nathan is great because it is made of a soft mesh fabric and is very lightweight compared to the camelbak. This year it came in handy because I could stuff my rain jacket in it when I got too hot, as I was sopping wet from the inside out, so the jacket became slightly ridiculous.

I know I said I wanted to do things more naturally this year, and yet I imbibed cans of Mountain Dew along the trail. At first, I felt like I was putting poison into my body (as I detest high fructose corn syrup). But during the marathon, the jolt of caffeine and even the sickeningly sweet taste was good for instant refreshment. Sports drinks just aren’t good for my system, so some old-fashioned, American motivation in a can was helpful.

I’ll experiment and see what alternatives are out there, but it worked this time. And for the record—Mountain Dew and chia is disgusting (I tried).

Be Merry…

The biggest lesson…attitude is everything.

When my mind thinks I am trudging along, then my time suffers. When I pretend I’m flying, my feet lift off the ground.

The people who ran the best (aside from the elite athletes) were the people in pairs or groups. While running, at its core, is a solitary sport, it seems like having a team makes it more enjoyable. Hopefully I will have the chance to run with friends more in the future!

Run with style…

‘Minimalist’ or ‘barefoot’ or ‘chi’ running has been on my mind a lot. During the race, I actually did run with a forefoot style, and it is a much more economical—you can go faster while conserving energy. I’m determined to really give this new style a go and see if it makes a difference in my running and how I feel afterwards. My new trainers are already in the mail.

During this marathon, I wore straps under my knees to keep my kneecaps aligned. Last year, I couldn’t go three miles without my knees hurting. This year, I can go longer without them, but I wasn’t quite ready to go without the bands for the race. 26.2 miles is a long way.

Someday, my goal is to be able to run without the bands. It will require a lot of hard work, but that’s okay. Worthy goals often take a long time to reach.

Finally…

“Number Funf, Ein und Neunzig…Keri Wellman…die Mama!”

That’s how I was announced, crossing the finish line, hand in hand with my kids.

That’s me. I’m the mama—the Marathon Mama—and I am SO happy both things can joyfully coexist.

I truly believe that running makes me a better Mama.

Post-Marathon…

With a medal dangling from my neck, I changed my clothes while Mike ordered a steak and a carafe of red wine for me. I kept my medal on over my civilian duds, because I couldn’t quite part with it just yet. Not only were Mike & the kids there to celebrate with me, but some friends had come down to join us. The best compliment was when my friend Carolin said, “You don’t look like you just ran a marathon!”

Last year, I was hobbling to the massage table. This year, I was dining on steak. I walked stiffly around town afterwards, but overall, I felt incredible.

As we strolled through town, I would occasionally glimpse another person with a medal, and whenever we made eye contact, we exchanged a nod and a smile. There are feelings & emotions & words that are so intertwined, they can’t be pulled apart and articulated.

I think only the other people with medals dangling from their necks could really rekindle and recall that feeling inside. Words scarcely do it justice: It is pride and humility and joy and pain and love and dread all rolled up into one package.

My two goals had been met in this second marathon: #1 to run faster and #2 to have no injuries. Going into this marathon, I was ten pounds lighter, had MUCH better muscle tone, and had done 95 percent of my training on the actual road (as opposed to the treadmill, which is no real substitute).

After the marathon and the eating binge, we drove back to our hotel in Austria, where I spent over an hour in the hotel whirlpool. Later, after putting the kids to bed, Mike & I went out for yet another steak dinner, and we clinked our glasses of the local Blaue Zwiegelt and talked about marathons and kids and life at a candlelit table as the sun set behind the Tirolean Alps (one of my favorite places in the world).

When we got home to Franconia the next day, I didn’t have to walk down the stairs backwards (because of trashed quads) like I did last year; and I actually went running a few days after the race. I’ve been running this week, and I want to keep up with it, so I don’t lose any progress I’ve made.

I have many aspirations, and while not all of them have to do with running, running has everything to do with them.

It is only because of marathon running and the strength and imagination God gives me that I have the desire to dream big and the determination to see things through.

God willing, I’ll overtake these dreams along the trail, and pluck them off one by one, until I reach that final finish line, where I will finally hear my aunt’s voice again and feel her arms around me.

But for now, I’m only 38.

There are many races ahead of me.

It is a strange thing to be sitting on a balcony, surrounded by the steep green peaks of the Tirolean Alps, listening to the clang of belled cows, using faster internet than I have in my little writing room in Franconia, and writing (once again) about running.

It is almost the Eve of Battle, and my emotional roller coaster has not come to a complete stop since we loaded up the car this morning.

There are moments when I question what I’m doing–what on earth makes me think that a simple housewife, homeschool mom with four kids and a fluffy white dog can join the same race with all these ATHLETES? People from Kenya, for goodness sakes! Have you seen how they FLY? I don’t think their feet touch the GROUND!

At those moments, I want to pack up and head for home and console myself with vigorous mopping and closet-cleaning.

Then there are times when I listen to the kids. I hear the joy and excitement in their voices and I begin to realize that maybe running marathons isn’t just about me…maybe it impacts them too. If nothing else, it gives us a fun family time, away from the routine we get so blinded by.

Then my imagination fast-forwards: How will it be for Katie when she’s 38 to tell her Kaffee Schwestern that her mom is a marathon runner? Or will Noah still be my (only) running buddy? Will he be waiting for me across the finish line someday with his own muddy running shoes, wrapped in a solar blanket, a medal dangling from his neck, and downing a good German beer? Will he come back and run the last mile with me (or five) so we can finish together? Will I even be here to cross the finish line 30 years from now?

Then there are those glorious Present-Tense moments when I am a runner–and not just a frightened, nervous runner, but a veteran marathoner.

As I walked alone to the event arena this afternoon, I became so excited about the race, I could hardly keep myself from breaking into a trot.

I proudly entered the tent, and this year, I knew exactly what to do.

I bypassed the “half-marathon” table and marched to the chart posted at the far end of the room, which listed not Kenyans or Retirees or Sports Stars or Hausefraus–but marathon runners.

Number 591.

That’s me.

And the only reason they put my name up there is because I’m an athlete too.

I can’t wait to hear that starting gun!

There is the possibility that my feet won’t touch the ground this year.

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