Eyes on the prize: How I balance Boston Marathon training, fundraising and parenting


I'm not a fan of the "having it all" narrative. When I announced to friends and family that I would be training for my fourth marathon this year (that famous one in Boston) as a charity runner for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the general response was, "How can you do all of that?" and "You can totally do all of that," and "Why on Earth would you want to do that?"

I'm also a stay-at-home mom. My husband and I became licensed foster parents last year, and a week before my training calendar was set to start, we -- along with our 7- and 5-year-olds -- welcomed a 6-week-old into our home who has been with us ever since. I'm also a writer, and now I'm in training for a marathon through the cold Massachusetts winter and raising thousands of dollars for a charity that is near and dear to my heart.

All of this is ... a lot. And I'm often stretched thinner than I feel comfortable with. I snap at my children when the playroom/my office is in disarray. I can't figure out a meal plan for the family that doesn't involve someone screaming at the dinner table that they refuse to eat. I go to bed early, reading a page or two of the latest book on my bedside table, before I fall asleep. The popular '80s commercials for Calgon water softeners are something I identify deeply with, as I sink into epsom salts to ease the ache in my legs from training, or carrying loads of groceries, or hefting a car seat with a growing baby.

But I'm still doing it. I'm doing the school drop-off in workout gear and then hauling the car seat into my basement while the baby takes a morning nap and I run on the treadmill and binge-watch "Transparent." A friend stops by on days of my long, midweek runs to snuggle the baby while I either enjoy a break in the weather to run outside or spend more time on the treadmill with "Good Girls Revolt." And my husband gets up with all three kids every Saturday morning while I fuel, stretch and either head out for my long run or back down into the basement again for this week's installment of "The Bachelor."

I'm organizing fundraisers at local establishments, emailing friends and family on a monthly basis and posting as many links to my fundraising page as I do to articles about the current state of our government (trust me, it's a lot). Training for the marathon is hard, but the fundraising, though so important, is almost a second (third, fourth, fifth) job. But we try and live our lives by the adage, "When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence." So I email and I call and I continue to request money. 

I'm well-aware that for every moment that I am giving to this marathon effort, my family is giving too. Having a mom who sets off routinely for multihour runs on a weekend morning means one fewer morning when we're all leisurely in our pajamas planning a family day. It's meant missing more than one birthday party or school event this training cycle because this race next week is a bucket list item for me, and one of the lessons that we're trying to teach our children is that in a family unit, we all need to make sacrifices for one another.

So will I be happy on midnight on April 17? I'll be elated -- and sore and ready for sleep. I'll be thrilled that I was able to raise so much money for an organization that is integral to helping the blind and visually impaired live their best lives. I'll be totally freaking out because I'll have just finished the Boston Marathon. And I'll be ready to get back to taking leisurely runs at sunrise, home in time to make French toast for the family, as we plan our weekend adventures, ones that don't involve having to ice my legs.

Megan Birch-McMichael is a freelance writer based in Massachusetts. Her work has been featured on Runner's World, The Washington Post and more, and you can follow her on Twitter @anatomyofmother.

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