Before I met Amy, the author of this blog post, I met her mom, Jeraldine Ballon. But the circle has closed and now Amy and I are members of the same track club. Knowing something of what the Boston marathon means to her, I asked her to share her very special memories of her mom and their shared love of running. Here is her beautiful story.
It has been 12 years since I last ran the Boston Marathon, but this time of year still brings back many memories of Boston and my mom. Of the 10 marathons my mother ran between the ages of 51 and 56, four of them were Boston. This is her story of becoming an athlete, and her road to Boston.
Always the last kid picked to be on a team, I don’t think my mother thought she had an athletic bone in her body. Plus, as someone with a penchant for beer and potato chips who happened to be rail-thin, she may not have thought that she even needed to exercise. Everything changed when she won a membership to a posh, downtown Toronto gym. I remember the day she went in for her fitness assessment in a pair of sparkly sneakers she’d purchased on vacation at a K-Mart because they were the only ‘runners’ she owned.
The positive experience she had in the gym quickly snowballed and she fell in love. Not only did she enjoy watching her body grow stronger, but she discovered running. Her goal of running a marathon followed soon after and she planned to run the New York City Marathon. As I stood on the sidelines that day, both our lives were changed. My mom was hooked, and I was inspired. I promptly began training for my first marathon
Together we ran marathons in Toronto, Chicago and Washington. My mother also went on to run Paris. Our times decreased and our love of running increased while we logged hundreds and hundreds of training miles together. My mother started to get really fast, consistently winning her age category. I counted myself lucky to have this special relationship with both running and my mother.
And then there was Boston. My mom ran Boston in 1997, 1998 and 1999. And she ran with me after I qualified in 2000. Boston in 2000 was also special because it was just six months after her hysterectomy. She had had emergency surgery after cancer had been discovered in her uterus. Funny enough, it was her running that led her to self-diagnose. Her training had made her so aware of what was going on in her body, that went things started to feel ‘off’, she advocated for herself very quickly. She was treated, given a clean bill of health, and a 98% survival rate.
Things were good that fall: I was newly married, newly graduated from business school, and working in a great job. Training for was going well too, until one day when my mother told me that she didn’t think Boston 2001 would be in the cards. She wasn’t feeling well.
A few months later her worst suspicions were confirmed: Against the odds, the cancer had metastasized and her body was riddled with it. She was told that she had a few months to live. Nothing could be done to treat her.
In April 2001 I traveled to Boston with my husband, my dad and my mom who came to support me. My mother was not in great shape. It took a lot of effort to walk even a block or two. But she managed to score three passes to the finish line seats on the bleachers on Boylston Street. (Thank you, Adidas!) That was not an easy race. Heartbreak Hill took on a new meaning for me that day. Choking back my tears, I saw my family in the stands as I crossed the finish line. Boston was the last trip my mother took. She died a few months later.
Losing my mom was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. But how lucky am I that I had a mother who, by inspiring me, introduced me to running and changed my life? How lucky am I that I got to run the Boston Marathon with my mother? How many people get to say that?
I haven’t run Boston since that year, and in fact took a ten year hiatus from the sport. But I have started to run again. Who knows, maybe I’ll be back on Boylston Street one day; maybe with one of my own daughters. One thing I know for sure: When I run now, the inspiration my mother provided is right there with me.
~ Amy Ballon
April 3, 2013 at 9:17 pm
What a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing!
April 3, 2013 at 9:19 pm
Thanks so much Robyn. It is hard not to shed a tear when reading this. Thanks for your comment.
April 3, 2013 at 9:24 pm
Amy … this is a terrific story. Thank you very much for sharing it with all of us. That you could share what we do with your Mom will always be so special, I know. It gives you something to smile and be happy about through every hard mile, every grimace.
April 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm
Thanks for your appreciative comments. I hope that I can always keep the joy of running in perspective.
April 3, 2013 at 9:26 pm
A wonderful tribute from a loving daughter to her wonderful mother. I am very fortunate and very proud of both of them.
April 4, 2013 at 3:12 pm
She was an inspiration – and this is a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing it.
April 4, 2013 at 4:59 pm
In 1998, my daughter and I ran as a mother/daughter team in the Toronto Avon 10K. Amy and her mother beat us; we came in second. I started an MBA the following September. “Are you the mother from the mother/daughter Avon race?” someone said at orientation. “Are you the daughter of the team that beat us?” I answered. We became fast friends, despite our age difference, and have been ever since. Her mother was a true inspiration to many people and is sadly missed. I know Amy’s three daughters will someday be runners, carrying on the tradition. My daughter, by the way, is now 29 and has run four marathons and qualified for Boston. I have run ten very slow marathons, but I’m still out there running!
April 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm
Thanks for much adding more to this story. How surprised you two must have been to meet again where you did.
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April 17, 2013 at 7:28 am
Oh Amy, your story brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful thing your mother and you shared. So many great memories were created because you found something you loved together. I would love nothing more than to go for a run with you some day.
April 17, 2013 at 9:36 am
My mother and I had run two marathons together and it has brought us closer than ever. She is such an inspiration to me. If I can be as active, as strong and as confident as she is one day I will be very happy.
I don’t know what I would do without her.
Thanks for sharing your story. A mother-daughter relationship is a beautiful and precious thing.