Our one day.
Our one day to sleep in, have brekkie in bed, soak up the cuddles and love, open pressies, snuggle with the kidlets, stay in bed and read the Sunday papers.
And for a few years, this is exactly what my Mother’s Day morning looked like and, oh, how I loved it.
But this is not how my Mother’s Day mornings pan out now.
Three years ago, this didn’t feel like the right thing to do any more.
Because everything had changed.
I had lost my Mum to cancer the previous year. She was diagnosed really really late, and her bowel cancer had already spread to her lungs and her liver. Her oncologist had given her a life expectancy of just 12 months with chemo (if it worked) and 3 months without.
We immediately flew back to the UK to be with her, began planning a break in chemo so perhaps she could come to visit Australia one last time, or have us all with her for Christmas at home (my elder brother also lives overseas). But she was gone just 7 weeks later. A strong, beautiful, healthy woman, loved by so many, taken 20 years too early by this horrific disease.
The magnitude of the pain that this loss brings is indescribable, and so as Mother’s Day approached in 2013 (shortly preceded by her birthday), I was feeling incredibly sad, a little alone, and was just missing her tremendously. And whilst I still, obviously, took a huge amount of comfort and joy out of being a mother myself (to the most amazing little boy the world has ever seen, just quietly), I was feeling a bit ‘meh’ about the Big Day.
My husband kept asking me what I wanted to do, but I just couldn’t think of anything celebratory that sat well with me and my emotions at that time.
Then I remembered the Mother’s Day Classic Fun Run held at the Domain in Sydney every year, and suddenly I knew that’s what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day – run for Mum.
Back then, at the age of 41, I had never run a race before. I had never run before, full stop. I was not ‘a runner’. I had no idea if I could even make 4km, but what the hell, I registered with a week to go, and one day measured out 4km in the car, was dropped off and ran home. I managed it without any serious injury or heart palpitations which filled me with confidence (and relief!).
I recruited a friend and the hubby (we dusted off the old buggy and he pushed our son in it) and that was that.
And we did it (in around 21 minutes, I might add, which is pretty good for a couple of rookies) and we loved it and it felt really special to me. And I decided then and there that this is what I would do every single Mother’s Day so long as I am able.
So now, three years in, my Mother’s Day mornings are somewhat different. The alarm goes off at 5am (or before). Quick shower and dressed in semi darkness. Wake up the Little Man (he thinks it’s so exciting because we’re waking up ‘in the middle of the night’ despite the fact that that’s the time we wake up every damn day haha). We have a light breakfast and then shoot off over the bridge to the City. It’s cold, so we shiver and jump around a bit before heading off to the start line for the big horn to blow.
Last year I achieved my secret goal of doing it in under 20 minutes (19.36 from memory). Was really chuffed with that.
This year, I’d been quite sick, had done no running or training in around a month, and only made the decision to actually ‘run’ – rather than walk/run/jog/piggy back with hubs and son – at the start line itself.
21 minutes 52. Not great, but not bad considering. Beat myself up about having to stop and walk for a bit (it’s only 4km!!) but when I checked my heart rate monitor later and saw that it had reached a peak of 176 a couple of times, I let myself off the hook a bit (in case you need some help with the maths, at my age, my ‘maximum working heart rate’ is 177…. Bahahahaha no wonder I had to stop!).
Came 27th in my age group – aah, the one benefit of being over 40, you’re allowed to go a bit slower and still feel like a bit of a champion 😉
Obviously, there is a lot of emotion attached to this day – a lot of sadness (yes, I shed a few tears at the warm up, the start line, the finish line and at the Tribute Wall) but there is an enormous amount of joy and camaraderie too.
And this year, I got to thinking, what is so special about this particular Fun Run?
Here’s what I reckon:
- It’s so inclusive, there are literally options for everyone – 4km, 8km, run or walk. So, really, anyone can do it. No excuses next year, people.
- So many mums are foregoing the usual Mother’s Day treat of a sleep-in. And I cannot overstate how big a deal that is. Sleep: the holy grail.
- Whole families, groups of friends, work colleagues… they all come out and participate together, it’s quite special to witness.
- The Tribute Cards and The Tribute Wall. Whilst grief and loss (and courage and strength) are deeply personal, there is something comforting about a public message of support and love. And so it is with both sorrow and pride that we write and pin our messages on our backs to take with us as we run, and to pin up for others to read once we’ve completed the course. Dedicating the run to a loved one, whether they lost, won or are still fighting the battle against cancer, feels like a strong positive action.
- It’s for a really good cause; a shocking one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
- Money raised to help breast cancer research is money well spent – since the Mother’s Day Classic started, survival rates have increased 6% to 89% – there is hope.
- It’s an Australia-wide event, so wherever you are, you can take part and bond with loved ones or strangers across this great land. Last year, 8,426 Aussie families participated in this event. Go, Aussies, go you good things.
- It can be a lot of fun – we saw a heap of pink tutus and some pretty spectacular costumes. There are after race activities for the kids (boing boing) and plenty of stuff going on at the event locations, even a few celebrities to spot. So Mother’s Day can be memorable as well as meaningful by taking part.
- The Sydney course (and I’m sure the others around Australia) is a really good course to run – not too hilly, quite picturesque. So if you’re just after a good run (be it 4kms or 8), whether the charitable cause itself holds any significance for you or not, then this event is a great one to pick.
If you haven’t run it yet, consider it for next year. It may become your new family tradition too.
And for me? Well, back in 2013, it was my first ever Fun Run and it got me hooked on running. Since my first Mother’s Day Classic, I’ve run two 10km races and taken part in the Cancer Council’s March Charge, where I ran almost 90km in the month of March. More importantly, it got me running for fun, fitness and time-out, on a regular basis and I love it.
It also gives Mother’s Day a real significant purpose for me, over and above indulgence and cuddles. (Don’t get me wrong, I get plenty of that on the day too – our new tradition of running the race also involves a delicious plate of ricotta hotcakes at Bill’s right afterwards and, of course, I’m spoilt with lovely pressies and cards every year PLUS I never cook dinner on Mother’s Day, hoooha!)
And finally, it allows me to give some valuable gifts to my son on Mother’s Day…
– A powerful shared experience.
– A fun way to remember and pay his respect to his beautiful, adoring Granny.
– And great lessons in both health & fitness and love & loss. It’s heartwarming to see so many people giving it a go and pushing themselves physically for a good cause. And when you are surrounded by so many people who have lost their mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, friend… it’s impossible not to be overwhelmed with gratitude for all we do have in life, most importantly, each other.
So every Mother’s Day, the Domain is where you’ll find me at the crack of dawn, not snuggling under my doona.
I will be running.
And when I cannot run it, I will walk it.
And when I cannot walk it, well, someone will just have to push me. Sorry darlings, did you have other plans?!