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Life Doesn’t Come With A Manual

This past week was the annual remembrance of Roger Bannister breaking the once impossible 4-minute mile barrier with a time of 3.59.4, all the way back in 1954. This absolute unbelievable event took place 66 years ago. I remember this story well and used it as a motivator for the team that I coached to believe in yourself beyond expectations.

When my 3 daughters were in high school in back to back to back grades, we watched all three of them break the 5 minute mile barrier. I was so thrilled and am probably one of the few mom’s in the world that can claim the same statistic from one family.

We were the lucky ones… the formula for these girls — Margo, Shannon, and Mary — fell into place for them. They had a mom who was their grade school coach and a dad who was beyond supportive with their running dreams.

It wasn’t always an easy task for parents. There is a lot of emotional support that goes into any sport but distance running easily ranks up there.

On the night before a high school cross country meet or big track meet, there was a mental check list that we usually went through:

Do you have your spikes and the right length spike to go along with it? A weather check to see the conditions of the race. A food check to see if they were properly fueled the night before — the menu plan always had “pasta so you could run fasta!” In addition to food to pack up for the next day because often these races lasted all day until your event came up.

And last but not least, you had to pack a little faith in your mind that they had put in the work and will do the best they can.

Race day was always filled with high anxiety — especially for me. The girls were so close in talent that often their biggest competitor were their sister. I remember one of the best cross county courses around called Cooper’s Lake in Slippery Rock, PA.

The course was engrained in my mind. It had the perfect element of challenging hills, straight aways and a classic finish which involved the runners running through the center of a wooden castle before the final ascent to the finish line.

On one of the hills midway through a big Invitational race the girls rounded the corner and they were running up the hill in front in birth order. First Margo, then Shannon followed by Mary.

I could hear other people saying “I think these girls are related somehow, I think they are cousins,” or “I think these are the Malone sisters.” There was great discussion on who they were, but deep in my heart I just wanted to burst out “they’re mine!”

It was a great finish with the girls coming in 1st, 2nd and 3rd in a competitive field of Tri-State runners.

It hasn’t alway been that joyful. With the ups come the downs. One of the quotes we would always tell our kids, “Don’t let your highs be too high or your lows be too low.”

We were filled with gratitude when all three of them got recruited heavily out of High School. They ended up all going to Syracuse with the great Coach Chris Fox and Brien Bell. Now they were on their own. Figuring out the night before rituals that worked for them without our help. They seemed to catch on quickly and success followed them while at Cuse.

From a parents’ perspective these were some of the greatest times. We got to travel often for meets. The ACC Conference was competitive and spread out. But the same hopes and worries never left my side while they competed. It may never go away.

I think it’s just an inherent part of being a parent and coach.

We still have time to test that theory out. Our youngest child, Patrick, is 6 years younger than our youngest daughter. He’s been with us every step of the journey. He’s had the unusual experience of being on recruiting visit, college meets, national meets. He’s seen it all… and he is a runner too. The same amount of energy, love, worry goes into him as did the girls.

We’ll see how it all turns out.

“Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother.” – Unknown

Happy Mother’s Day.


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