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...because my legs will let me.

This website was launched when I released my first children's book, My Mommy Burnt the Cookies. It was meant to be a place where people could come to find out about my book, and maybe a little more about my journey. I realize now that I have so much I want to share, beyond just that book. (I don't mean to take anything away from that story; having my book published that was written for and dedicated to my mama, Jill Cherryholmes, is easily one of my proudest moments in life.) I know that I am more than just the author, and that's why I have decided to share this story here.

Over the last few years I somehow managed to take on the sport of running. I am someone who has never been all that active, and doing the "Couch to 5K" training was pretty brutal. (I think the hip term is C25K.) Never mind the fact that I had the app on my phone for a couple years before I was finally talked into giving it a try. I had a best friend, who had already completed the training and ran her first 5K, offer to do it all over again with me. She was by my side when I thought I was going to pass out the first time I ran 60 seconds. (I promise you these are not dramatic exaggerations.) I found inspiration in Kimmy Gibbler herself, and if you know who that is, I imagine we are either already friends or we probably should be. Somewhere during training for my first 5K, and the race itself, something changed. I started running to better myself; to prove to myself that I could do something I didn't think was possible. I started running with a purpose, instead of simply just running.

Running is a funny thing. We are given so much time with our own thoughts, no matter what music is blasting in our ears. (...or podcast, as I would later learn to love.) What started as something I did for myself, shifted to something I did for another reason altogether. As I would run, I would get lost in my thoughts and just think about my life and the people in it.

My thoughts shifted to my mom and the struggles she's endured. My parents divorced before I even have memories, and my mama raised my brother and me as a single mom until I was 13 years old. We didn't have money growing up, but I never really knew that, because my mom made us feel like we were rich. I don't know how she did it. (My giant stuffed mouse, "Mousey", and my Wonder Woman doll I got for Christmas when I was 4 years old rival any gift I've received since then.) My mom was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 1987 and then Multiple Sclerosis in 1989, and was forced to resign from the job that she loved, nursing, in 1995 to go on disability... because her MS had "progressed too much". My mom loved her job as a nurse like I love my job as a teacher... it wasn't so much of a profession she chose, rather one that chose her. My mama was only 45 years old when she was told she could no longer work, due to Multiple Sclerosis. I was 20 years old when I witnessed my mom give up something, against her will, that made her so very happy. At the same time, she also had a marriage fall apart, thanks to a husband that isn't worth more than this sentence. (Just kidding... he's worth this sentence, too: He was a jerk.) I am sharing so much of her story, because it is all such a big part of my story. (Speaking of stories, is this a good time to plug "The Story", the new single by LeAnn Rimes?) In 2007, at the age of 57, my mom moved into a nursing facility to get the proper care she needed. (She lives there still, and is blessed to be surrounded by family, and a staff and residents that have become family. She's less than an hour drive away, so I am able to visit quite often... where we watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel episodes on DVD, our favorite pastime.) My mom's positive attitude and upbeat spirit make it clear: she may have MS, but MS does not have her.

My mom can still walk, but she can no longer do so without assistance. When she does have help, it's pretty much for very short distances, or for physical therapy. As I began running more often, I realized that my legs moved just fine, and I developed an appreciation for something so simple that my mom was no longer able to enjoy. My runs became less about me, and more about her. Running isn't something that is easy for me, and I don't think it ever will be. Most days I feel like I'm just starting out all over again, but I do it. I run because my mom can barely walk. I know probably each and every runner has something that motivates them to set their alarm for an ungodly hour each morning, and mine just happens to be my mom. I know my legs won't always work like this, so I run now as a 'thank you'. When I want to quit, which is often, I think of my mom. I think of how lucky I am that I have the privilege of putting one foot in front of the other, and it makes each step a little easier. I recently had my first wipe-out on pavement, and I wear my giant scabs as a proud reminder that I still possess the simple gift of having legs that move.

After running a handful of 5K races, my running partner and I flirted with the idea of running a half-marathon. Our flirtation turned into a full-on relationship, as we signed up for a half-marathon training with a running group in our hometown. We took running to another level for us, as we became involved with other like-minded "crazy" people who make themselves run, on purpose. We befriended a close group of runners, led by a young woman who was able to motivate, encourage and inspire. (I will be forever thankful to Brandi Parks Lane at OZ Events.) As our distances became longer throughout the training, my heart became even more grateful. It's a difficult feeling to describe, but somehow here I am, trying to do just that.

As race day approached, the Prairie Fire Half-Marathon in Wichita, I had no idea that our coach, Brandi, had organized having my mom there on race day to cheer me on. (This is no easy task, but one of my best friends made it happen.) As I rounded the corner just before the finish line of my first ever half-marathon, I had a group of friends and family screaming at me to look in a certain direction. I thought I was running the wrong way and they were all trying to tell me, when I realized they were pointing at my mother, sitting right there in her wheelchair, cheering me on. It was a moment in my life that I will never forget, and my heart has never been so full. That morning, I wrote 13 names on my arm (and also sent a letter to all13 people prior) dedicating a mile of my race to them. Mile number 13 was for my mama, and there she was, to see me finish that race. I couldn't feel my legs at that point, but that didn't matter... because I could certainly feel my heart. I sidetracked to give her a hug, and made it to the finish line in tears.

I have been running now for just over three years, and have completed 20 different races. I'm not breaking records, and I'm not winning gold medals. It's still a mind game to me, but it's a game I continue to play, and I continue to win. My mom is still my motivation.

So many times runners are asked "Why do you run?" and I want people to know my answer- "...because my legs will let me."

#running #runners #halfmarathontraining #mymommyburntthecookies #childrensbook

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