Amy Donaldson: It 'runs' in the family: How my daughter inspired me

Published: Thursday, Feb. 3 2011 1:17 a.m. MST

It was a particularly discouraging day.

One of those that starts too early, doesn't go as planned on any front and seems to deflate rather than wind down.

So when Rachel asked if I wanted to go to the gym, all I could do was sigh.

Here it was, a moment I'd hoped for, and I wanted to climb under the covers and pretend I didn't hear her.

I started taking Rachel running when she was 9 or 10. She cried about having a side ache — every single time. She whined that I was mean; that we were going too fast, which still makes me laugh; and that her lungs were going to explode.

I remember explaining to her that it was much more difficult to breathe while running if one cried. This did not deter her most days.

Some days I felt like a bad mom. Other days I went without her because, well, it was easier. And frankly, as I actually don't enjoy whining, it was more enjoyable.

But year after year I signed her up for track and I reveled in small victories. She would complain about training, but she lit up when she finished a race.

Then she started to grin after practice.

"It was fun," she'd say as she climbed in the car, smelling of little kid sweat and sun block. "I love track."

This love definitely waned on rainy days, early mornings or in the face of a better offer.

I didn't know if she would ever develop a real lasting love for the sport. But my reasons for encouraging her were three-fold.

First, it was something for us to do together.

I know teenage girls. I was one, and now that my children have seen my high school yearbooks, they finally believe this. The other night my girls were reading my high school journal and my youngest daughter said, "You had a lot of dates."

To which Rachel responded, "Daphne, Mom used to be pretty."

I know that my time with my own mother, who also used to be pretty, dwindled as dating, friends and school consumed the time that used to be hers.

So in addition to cherishing the years that they preferred me to everything except candy, I planned some ways to stay connected to them. One of my plots included luring Rachel into a relationship with running.

We've run a lot of races together, and every experience has taught me something about this beautiful girl. From our first 5K, in which I had to wager a month of cleaning the cat's litter box to light a fire under her, to our last race — the Las Vegas Ragnar — in which I saw her form relationships with other runners, I have relished the fact that we share this sport. In part because sometimes there are experiences or situations that only another runner would understand, like asking your sister to move her wedding date to accommodate your planned racing schedule. Luckily my sister is a runner, as well!

Second, participating in sports enriches the high school experience of anyone. I was not an elite athlete. In fact, I'm not sure some would even consider my accomplishments athletic.

But being a member of a team brings you an instant group of friends. Sports requires a minimum academic standard and emphasizes a healthy lifestyle. It also teaches women something it took me years to learn: that exercise isn't just a way to lose weight. The games are fun. There is a reason your brother is obsessed with basketball.

I've learned more about patience, dedication, hard work, mental toughness and pushing my own limits through sports than anywhere else.

If your kids don't make the first team they try out for, pick another sport. The rules are different, but the lessons are the same.

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