Main image for Family Marathon Time to Read: ~10 min

We were supposed to be in California

Training for Mountains to Beach marathon on the California coast started the first week in January. My mom was still alive, Coronavirus was yet to be a threat and we were so excited to help Xander as he trained for his first marathon. Just a couple months later we traveled to southern California for our February trip. By then my mom had passed away and there were a few people at the Los Angeles airport wearing masks. Just a few weeks later and the world as we knew it was forever altered. Still, somehow I thought a race at the end of May would happen. We continued our training but started to think about what we'd do if they cancelled.

When the fateful cancellation came of this race and so many others we made a plan to still run our own marathon. We'd run from Trumansburg to the Ithaca Commons and enjoy takeout Viva from our favorite Mexican restaurant. I even posted something on Facebook about it and started trying to talk a friend into running it with us. Shortly later I had a text from a friend sadly telling me that Viva wasn't open even for take out during the pandemic. On that day this made me oh so sad. I had spent so much time visualizing us hanging out on the Commons enjoying our post race meal. Time to start thinking of new post race food ideas and back to training ...


I logged up to week 16 in my training and then I got tired of writing about it. First I merged weeks and then I decided to stop posting about it for the last 4 weeks. Truthfully the training was just plugging along. It felt more like business as usual than marathon training. I hurt my foot and was afraid it was a stress fracture so I dialed back a bit for a couple of weeks all while continuing my daily hike streak with my daughter. As I write this we're on day 71. I continued my weekly running with friends. Running with friends used to be a fun thing I did every now and then when it worked out that I could join them. Now it has become my lifeline to companionship outside my family. I run even if I'm not really feeling like running or my plan calls for more or less mileage. On many a morning I'll head out for 5 and Scott will point out that the plan calls for 7. "I'll get the other 2 later I say. I want to run with my friends." It would be easy to add the mileage before or after the run and sometimes I do, but mostly I just enjoy running with friends while looking forward to my favorite part - the cool down walk where we can chat and just mosey along for as long as any of us are free. The time before work kicks off and I'm stuck making videos and grading work and sitting on virtual meetings the rest of the day.

Marathon weekend

On Saturday we awoke to an incredibly humid and soon to be hot day. Elizabeth and I got our hike in early before the crowds arrived at Taughannock Falls State Park. The air felt heavy and I felt worried for the next day. "Mom, you have to promise me that if your foot hurts or you just don't think you can finish you will call me." I told Elizabeth I would. With no gym access and no way to swim I know I can't be injured right now. I need to be able to run, bike, do yoga, etc. After our hike I baked for my business and delivered cakes to Cornell for unofficial small commencement gatherings for students. We enjoyed a glass of wine on our front patio and carbo loaded on Scott's stuffed shells. We hit bed at 8:15 with a plan to wake up at 4:30. I'd leave around 6:30 and the boys would follow about an hour after me. This should ensure we finish within a reasonable timeframe of each other.

What's your route?

My dad wanted to know the route all week long. He offered to help support us with water or cheering or anything we needed. Originally I had a plan to reach out to friends and family to create cheering sections to help make this feel more race like. As the time got closer somehow it just didn't seem that important. We'd run some combo of roads and trail and land at the base of the Black Diamond Trail. Elizabeth would pick us up and take us home. I wasn't even feeling excited about it. I planned to wear a hydration pack and just run and see how it went. I wasn't even sure I'd come up with a route. I kept suggesting little routes that put me around 10 miles in Tburg before heading down. Scott kept saying, "You need 15 miles. How many more ways can I say that?" Yes, this is a marathon. Suddenly I was fearful of the distance. I didn't want to run 15 in town.

Then, Scott mentioned, "I'm going to do 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 mile loops and then head down from home for the last 11." Hmmm, that sounded excellent. That meant no pack needed (maybe) or if I did need it, it would be just for the last 11. Normally I don't loop. I don't like the monotony of the same loop, but this was just subtly different enough to be palatable. I mentioned it to Xander. He had a complex route plan that required his sister supporting him early on - not just for the last 11. This would be a good plan for him too. Of course I'm not disciplined enough to do 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in order. I knew I'd have to mix that up.

Race morning

I awoke at 4:30 and enjoyed one of Elizabeth's homemade bagels with almond butter and coffee. Then I worked for an hour or so before starting to get ready. I put together a podcast playlist I was excited about! I planned to listen to podcasts until I started to lose motivation and then switch to music. Here are the three podcasts I actually listened to from my playlist. I made it through about 16 miles before shifting to music.

  • Tim Ferriss #434 Jim Dethmer - How to Shift from Victim Consciousness, Reduce Drama, Practice Candor, Be Fully Alive, and more
  • Freakonomics Radio: What Will College Look Like in the Fall (and Beyond)?
  • Ted Talks Daily, August 2019: Be humble - and other lessons from the philosophy of water by Raymond Tang

I put water and a Honeystinger gel by the road and headed out a little after 6:30 a.m. I decided I'd do the one mile loop first, followed by 4.

The loops

The early miles were rather fun. For the 1 mile I listened to the Ted Talk Daily podcast and was so inspired by this short talk. As you can tell from the water mention, its focus is on going around obstacles and recognizing what you are able to control. This short little piece will provide great help to me in my job if I remember to keep it in focus. I was upbeat and happy as I hit my house after mile one.

Next came the 4 mile loop. I did this next because by the time I came by the house again I wanted to actually want a sip of water. The college podcast came on during this loop and it was really useful for me. As a middle school teacher I'm thinking ahead to how to integrate asynchronous learning with in person learning. I enjoyed listening to college presidents sharing their many faceted re-opening plans enough to plan to share this with my principal and other administrators. It helped me continue to formulate a plan for my own classes that I'd already been mulling over in my head. As I ran back to the house I decided to stop in to go to the bathroom. I wasn't running fast enough to turn off the biological need to go, and figured that even though I'd never stop at a porta potty during a race for this, I'd be more comfortable if I popped in. I was SO glad I did. The boys were getting ready to leave. I hadn't taken a picture before I left so we were all able to pose together before they started their race.

After the 4 miles, I decided to go 5. Instead of a loop the 5 that I chose was one of Scott's favorite out and backs. He recently introduced it to me. It is relatively flat and just kind of relaxing. I get to run out of town just a bit, passing by a friend's horse barn and big windmill before heading back home. As I arrived back to the house I realized I would overshoot the mileage if I did the 2 and the 3. Each little loop had given me enough extra tenths that I was at 11.40 miles.

Creative meandering

I wanted to be disciplined and dedicated and complete the last 2 and 3 mile loops respectively but I didn't want to walk the last mile of the Black Diamond trail after finishing 26.2. I headed out on the 3 mile loop path and spent way too much timing thinking about how the mileage worked out. By this time I was on to the Tim Ferriss podcast - had been for awhile actually. I was starting to get into it and enjoy it at the same time that my brain was calculating mileage. I had worn heavier socks and a blister bandaid because my right 4th toe had an annoying callous/blister on it and around mile 14 it dawned on me why I stopped wearing heavy socks. My left big toe was rubbing and I knew I was starting to get a blister under the callous. As I turned into my neighborhood I was at about 15.4 miles. I saw my dad out for his morning walk. I waved like crazy as he asked how much I had left. He said I was looking good. I skipped inside, quickly changed into lighter socks, putting a blister bandaid on my left big toe. Elizabeth said she'd support me twice on the Black Diamond and wished me luck for the last 11.

Heading out for last 11 miles

Heading out for last 11 miles

The last 11

Enjoying my new lightweight socks, I happily skipped out of the driveway. The last 11. This is one of my very favorite running routes. It breaks up really well. The first 3 are a gradual downhill to the top of the Black Diamond trail and then the next 5 are peaceful trail miles with frequent road crossings with a slight downhill slope. The last 3 miles of the trail have no road crossings while the last 2 miles are on a power line cut, pretty open and definitely are not my favorite. I know the route cold and can just zone out and run.

While running down Rabbit run I got a text from a cake customer asking a question. Since it was time sensitive, I chose to stop to answer. While already stopped, I chose to switch to music. I had planned to switch at the top of the trail anyway and that was just 2 miles away. I selected my Flower City Half 2015 playlist. It always brings back happy memories, and I was happy to jump back in time to that race day. I have the playlist mostly memorized so I decided to put it in shuffle. My favorite song in the entire list is the first one - Alive by Krewella. It is my favorite Black Diamond Trail starting song. I reasoned with myself that if it didn't pop up during the time I had left I'd forward until I got to it as my last song.

These miles were good. Elizabeth met me when I was 2 miles in and I grabbed a swig of water. A family was walking by and they said, "nice timing!" I shared that we were doing a family marathon and continued along. Music and water support suddenly made it feel like a race. I was momentarily sad that I was focusing on just running and finishing, but it was way too late to change my plan and race. I knew in my heart that it was a good plan. I'd enjoyed the run up until now and I knew I would continue to do so. Injecting speed would just turn it into something to get through instead of something to savor.

With about 3 miles to go my left airpod died. Oh dear. I hadn't heard Alive yet. Should I forward now or trust that the right one would make it til the end? I opted to trust. I listened for the alerts that it was going to die. With just under 2 miles remaining it came on. Yay! I get to end my run with this song. As I listened I thought of all the times I had started up this trail with this song on. There's something about it that just makes me feel lucky to be able to run. I feel grateful to be on this wonderful trail and grateful that I enjoy the repeated motion of putting one foot in front of the other. As the song ended my right airpod quit. I'd enjoy the last mile in silence. Scott ran by and said, "I'm hurting." Mind you he started almost an hour after me. Of course he was. If my calculations were correct he'd be looking at about a 3:20 marathon time. That's near a PR for him. I didn't even know he was racing it. Hmmm ... now I was actually annoyed with myself for not racing. I probably should have. Too late now.

The finish

I finished, caught him and we started to walk together. He looked at me very seriously and said, "can I have water?" "I don't have water." I replied. He pushed his watch and soon he was on the phone with Elizabeth asking her to walk up with water. Moments later she arrived and he sat down. "Oh dear" I thought. I hadn't really thought about the after. Was he going to be wrecked all day? Elizabeth looked her brother up and he was more than 2 miles from us. She was alarmed. "I hope he is ok," she said. I reminded her that this was his first marathon and he was probably exhausted and it had only been 3:25:00 since he started. We chatted a bit and went to the end of the trail. Scott promptly laid down in the grass and Elizabeth and I stood around.

Scott is done!

Scott is done!

Moments later Xander called. He was done. He had a bit to walk to get to the end of the trail but was willing to run. We told him there was no rush and to enjoy his walk. Then Elizabeth and I walked up to meet him. He enjoyed water and we congratulated him. Finishing 26.2 on your own is not easy! We were so proud of him. He was proud of himself. It wasn't what the day was supposed to be, but it was a fun experience anyway.

After Xander's finish!

After Xander's finish!

Celebratory lunch

We have been enjoying a different restaurant every week for take out and this week we had decided to order Pinesburgers from The Glenwood Pines. Xander's pre-Calculus teacher and her family own this restaurant so that's pretty cool! On our way home I said, "how about if I shower really quickly and Elizabeth and I go back to get lunch?"

The Pinesburger

The Pinesburger

Elizabeth thought that would be a great idea. She suggested switching cars and airing this one out too! 3 smelly runners was not the most appetizing thing. After a fast shower, we headed out and got our lunch. When we got home we enjoyed our burgers and homemade frozen lemonade made by the boys. Scott felt much better after showering!! We celebrated Xander and his great achievement on his first 26.2. We also learned that my dad walked 8.3 miles - when we headed out for lunch we saw him and I said, "2nd walk?" He replied, "Still walking!! Almost to 8 miles." I am really proud of him. Just months ago it was a big deal for him to walk 2 times around our .4 mile loop. He's made great progress and plans to walk to Ithaca on the Black Diamond Trail soon. Incidentally my father-in-law walked 11 miles that morning. I guess it was just a long mileage day for us all!


Results of a non-race don't really matter much and aren't terribly accurate when one stops a watch to change socks and takes a bio break, BUT here are our results. It is my slowest ever marathon and I'd be sad about it if I set out to race, but I'm proud of it as a solo effort. I'm psyched for Xander that he finished strong and surprised by Scott's ability to race solo. He didn't even plan on racing - he said he just felt pretty good and kept running fast. Read his race report.

Xander's Results

Scott's Results