My Greatest Motivator
In my developing years as a young runner, the next-best motivator to my high school coach at the time was my mother. There were many summer evenings in those early years that she would often ask me, “Shouldn’t you be out running?”
I am saddened to report that my dear mother died at the age of 83 on Oct. 21 after enduring a year of illness. She was stubborn in seeking the medical care she needed, but was positive and upbeat to the end. “I’m fine,” was her reply as several of us family members pleaded with her to follow-up on doctor visits over a year ago. Perhaps she knew her time was nearing and did not want to be isolated from family.
But this writing isn’t about her last months, but about the unconditional love and support she provided my brothers, sister, and me. I am the oldest of five siblings. Each one of us had a unique relationship with our mother Marianne. I can only share my personal prospective of a woman who did her very best with the background and resources she had available to her.
I am honored to have been raised by her. She was orphaned at birth, then adopted and raised as an only child, growing up on the south side of Chicago. She moved from the big city to rural Michigan in the early 50’s where she met my father, a simple farmer. She adapted to the farmer’s wife lifestyle and became a proto-type super mom before super moms were commonplace. She held a full-time job and simultaneously was a full-time mom raising five children and keeping my dad in-check. She was also active in civic and church activities. There were times she also served as a single-parent when dad had jobs that kept him out of town for days and weeks at a time. Despite this often-times chaotic life-style, she always took the time to have a well-prepared meal on the table at dinner time. ALWAYS!
As I became more involved with high school activities, particularly with my running, she may have been Coach Glen Brown’s best assistant coach he never had at Lakeshore High School. As stated earlier, she gently prodded me in getting in my summer training runs. By the time I was a rising senior, she did not need to do much prodding since she – along with my father – instilled a solid work ethic.
There were many nights during my four years of cross country and track that she faithfully picked me up after practice then hurried home to get dinner on the table. Fridays were a treat when she would pick me up from practice and we’d go get groceries for the week ahead.
If her work schedule allowed, she would make as many of my cross country and track meets during the week days and the nearby weekend competitions. I was also in marching band and she would make some of the games we performed.
She and my dad made the three hour trip to East Lansing, Michigan during my junior year to witness my best high school track performance in the two-mile run at the 1975 Class B state meet. I placed fifth that day in about 9:34, but was in about 12th place with 500 yards remaining. My coach said that I ran my last 440 in 60 seconds.
Even when I went off to college, she and dad were able to see me run a few times both at Southwestern Michigan College and West Georgia College. She even ventured to Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1996 to watch my Clayton State women’s cross country team and a couple of my men compete at the NAIA Cross Country Championships.
My mother was proud of my athletic accomplishments and was supportive in the career choices I made that ultimately kept me in Georgia, though I believe she wanted me to someday return home to be closer to her. She and my father made sacrifices for their children’s interests. I know I am better off for them!
Regretfully, time got away from us to fully thank them both. My father passed away about a month before I began coaching my first college team in 1995. Now my mother is gone.
Running has been a large part of my life. My mother was a greater part. Both shaped me into the person I am today and I am tremendously grateful! Rest in peace dear mother!