Running Under the Influence: Keeping up with Mom

Keeping up with Mom

It’s Mother’s Day as I sit and write this. And it seems fitting to me, as there is no one I have known to be more aggressively athletic than my mother. Though she’s toned it down in recent years, she is known by such phrases as, “we’re talking a stroll, not marching on Poland.”

My mother took up cycling after her 40th birthday. Riding her bike 20 miles a day was her answer to a mid-life crisis. She would load her bike, drive from our house in Broomfield to downtown Denver (unheard of if you lived in the suburbs in the early ’90s), and ride her bike from there to the Cherry Creek Reservoir. Some days she would do this two or three times.

She would try to convince me and my sister to go along. At ages 8 and 10 we should have had plenty of energy, yet we whined and complained every time. We would ride for a few miles, then cry that we were too tired to go on. We would turn around and ride back to the car and wait for her. Her only hope to keep us in tandem was to ride so far ahead that she could pretend to not hear our cries.

Of course, she didn’t ride ahead just for our benefit. My mother took any rider in front of her as a direct challenge and would become obsessed with passing them. She would stop talking, put her head down, throw her bike into a lower gear and pump her legs powerfully until she pulled ahead. Forcing us to keep up was just the cherry on top.

Cycling was not my mom’s only passion. She also hiked, swam and walked. And she did all of those things with a similar competitive spirit. In her early 50s she earned the nickname “The Beast” after injuring herself during an aggressive game of volleyball at a high school graduation party. People would even refuse to travel to new cities with her, citing an inability to keep up with her pace.

We didn’t inherit her sense of competition, as my sister and I are both happy to let someone hike past us. But we owe her for our active natures. She taught us that getting exercise was not optional, but it could be fun and the opportunities are everywhere.

Liz Marsh’s ‘Running Under the Influence’ runs twice a month in the Colorado Daily.

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