Run With Your Life

At the beginning of 2010 I set a goal to complete my first triathlon and to run two half-marathons. (I like to do my marathons one half at a time.) And while I was setting goals, I decided to go for breaking my personal record of running 13.1 miles in 2:05:02. This year I will break the 2-hour mark.

Do I really think life is going to simply unfold just the way I plan it? You would think by now that I would know better than that.

Here’s what happened…

My 11-year-old nephew Alex (yep, that’s the Alex you all know and love) joined a Run Club. He began running three days a week after school with trainer Kasey Payzant and her club, which includes about twenty-five kids, ages six to eighteen. Then… my 13-year-old daughter Leah joined. Most of the parents drop their kids off to run for an hour, and pick their kids up later. That’s fine for most parents, especially since the Run Club is geared toward kids, but my husband Aaron and I like to do things a little different so we asked if “big kids” like us, could join too.

By the time we joined, many of the kids in Run Club had already committed to running the Salt Lake City Half-Marathon in April. Aaron and I were already registered. Last year, Aaron and I ran two half-marathons and we crossed the finish line before our two daughters, sleeping soundly at home, had even woken up. Come to think of it, we go to the gym when our kids are at school. Aaron and I often hit the ski slopes right after the bus picks up Lucy for school in the morning. My kids haven’t seen and may not even know about most of the physical activity and training that goes on in their parents’ lives!

And then… Kasey, our trainer, did something I had never thought to do.  She asked Leah if she would like to run the Salt Lake City Half-Marathon too. Leah said, “Yes!” and she was excited about it. I was a little shocked! I don’t think I had run more than a mile until I was an adult. Leah eagerly jumped into the training schedule and so far, every week we have been running together in snow, wind or rain. The Run Club motto for this year is “I can be content in any situation.” That goes for running 8 laps to reach 4 miles (*boring*) or running through hilly neighborhoods with snow catching on your eyelashes which is kind of cool and distracting.

My first race was a full marathon and I had trained for it by following a book. But as for my half-marathons… well, I didn’t really train for them. I had been doing cardio and strength training three times a week, but I wasn’t following a program to build miles. (I don’t recommend you follow the Rachel Coleman Half-Marathon-Lack-of-Training Plan.) But once we joined Run Club, we had a real, live trainer! She has been working with kids for over ten years, helping them strengthen and condition for races.

So, now we run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Friday we have our long run. Leah’s cheeks are red, her hair is damp and every time she completes her mileage she stops to go through her stretching routine and says, “Wow! I just ran ___ (4, 5, 6, 7) miles. I am so proud of myself!”

What an experience at age thirteen to know that you can run for an hour straight. You can run 7 miles. You can run it with a smile. Your body is strong! I am so proud of Leah!

But when Leah decided to register and join us for the upcoming race, I had to take another look at my 2010 goals. Would I rather break my personal time record… or would I rather cross the finish line with my 13-year-old daughter?

Aaron typically completes the assigned miles first. I finish about 10 minutes behind him. Alex and Leah finish about 10 minutes behind me. It’s been going this way, week after week. If I run with Leah, I will not likely break my personal record, but I will share a moment, unlike any other with my daughter.

A few weeks ago while we were running Leah said, “Mom, I know there will be a lot of people in the race, so how will I find you and Dad when I finish?” I told her, “You won’t have to look far, Leah. I’ll be right there with you. We can even hold hands as we cross the finish line.”

If Leah wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of holding hands with her mom, she didn’t let on. For all I know, she was thinking, “Hold my hand? Why don’t you just run your own pace and break your personal record? Oh, well. If it will make my mom happy… I’ll hold her hand.”

This entry was posted in Crazy Little Thing Called Life, Strong Enough and tagged , , , , by Rachel Coleman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rachel Coleman

The opinions and late night musings published on this blog are Rachel de Azevedo Coleman's alone, and are not ever intended to represent the opinions and sentiments of any organization or product that Rachel is, was, or will be associated with. Rachel Coleman is the creator and Emmy-nominated host of Signing Time!, the children's American Sign Language vocabulary building series. She is also the creator and host of Baby Signing Time, Rachel & the TreeSchoolers, and Rachel & Me. Rachel now serves as the Executive Director of the American Society for Deaf Children, a 501c3 nonprofit established in 1967 by parents of deaf children. ASDC is the American Sign Language organization for families who are raising deaf children. Motivated by her child, Leah's deafness, Rachel has spent the last 18 years creating ASL products to help bridge the communication barrier between hearing and signing communities. In 2006 Rachel founded the Signing Time Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to putting communication in the hands of all children of all abilities. In 2014, the Signing Time Foundation launched a 50-Lesson online ASL curriculum called "Sign It: ASL Made Easy" that is available free-of-charge to families with deaf or hard of hearing children ages 36 months and under. Apply at For those who do not qualify to receive Sign It ASL for free, they can find it for purchase at very reasonable rates on Rachel and her husband, Aaron, live in Salt Lake City Utah. They are parents to Leah who was born profoundly deaf, and is now a senior in college at NTID/RIT in Rochester, NY. They are also parents to Lucy who has spina bifida and cerebral palsy, and recently graduated high school. In 2010 the Colemans were joyfully reunited with Rachel's daughter Laura. Rachel is proud to be Laura's birth mom. Laura was placed for adoption as an infant in 1992 when Rachel was 17 years-old.

43 thoughts on “Run With Your Life

  1. I think that is awesome that Leah is going to join in on the fun. Look out mom and dad there is some competition. Have a great time.

  2. oh!wow! That was a most perfect story to end what was a yucky day here on my end! How heartwarming that in todays’ day and age, a tween actually ‘allows’ mom to be right there alongside her! Kudos to you for raising her right and with such ambitious, healthy-mindset goals!


    PS- Does this mean Athleta is sponsoring her too? 😉

  3. Oh, she’s grown into such a lovely young woman, Rachel! And how exciting for her to do that half marathon with her mother by her side. Holding hands may be a bit much for her (she is a teenager, after all), but I know she’ll be happy to be running with you!

    Go, Leah!

  4. desira miller: On Wednesday we ran 7 miles and she really took off! I was so impressed. She’s a lean, mean running machine.

    Nava: Oh good! Glad you liked it. Yes we are thrilled that at least so far she’s not embarrassed to be seen with us.
    She IS wearing Athleta, but only because she is stealing my clothes. She keeps saying, “Can I have all of this when you grow out of it?” And I keep assuring her that I am not “growing out” of anything:)

    Carissa: She really is a lovely young woman. I agree the hand holding may be a little much;)

  5. Thanks for starting my day out with a smile…..and a few heartwarming tears. The accomplishment of this mom-daughter moment is way more important than any pr race.
    Love you!
    Can’t wait to see what Big A’s finish will be after finally training for a half!!!!

  6. Wonderful. It reminds me to take note from those that are younger than I am; they aspire to do more because they don’t even consider that it’s not a possibility. I tend to overthink some things when I should just go for it! I really loved the picture of you too also; there is an emotion of confident comfort in your smiles.

  7. That’s so great that Leah wants to get out there and run. I hope my kids (ages 3 and 4) feel the same way when they get older. And hey, there’s no reason you can’t do both this year: run with Leah and break your PR – since you want to run two half marathons, right? This one, you do with Leah, and the next you break the stop watch!

  8. I’ve started training for my first marathon. It’s in September so I have a long ways to go. I just started running and this is a 26-week program (thankfully). I’m excited and nervous. Hardly anyone knows about it outside my husband and two or three really close friends and my little sister. I am scared to the depths about it. I’m not a runner by nature, I never ran track in high school (or in junior high really). But I want to accomplish something for myself because I am a SAHM so my world revolves around my kids and this is something small that not a lot of people do but that I CAN do for ME.

    I would love to push my kids across the finish line; I just don’t know if that’s allowed LOL

  9. This got me 🙂 ellie has started training for a 5K and I plan on being right there with her :)Thank you both for the inspiration… I just hope I’m able to keep up at the 1/2

  10. Congrats Leah!!! I am a middle of the pack runner who runs half marathons with my dad (who is faster than I am). Whenever we race together he always finishes with me. It’s an awesome feeling and I am always thankful that he is there with me. Good luck to you all.

  11. I have a cold. Like the cold from hell. And now, there is snot running down my face because you made me cry–AGAIN!

    Leah is getting to be so grown up…my goodness! She’s beautiful! Love the hair. LOOOOVE it.

    And, if you still have a kid that will willingly hold your hand across the finish line, do it.

    Always proud…xoxoxo

  12. Way to go, Leah! I am so proud of her (and I guess her parents get SOME credit for raising her). I can’t wait to see you guys accomplish this milestone together. What an awe-inspiring experience.

    I did choke up a bit on the comment about Leah wanting your Athleta clothes when you are finished with thiem for obvious reasons, though. 🙂

  13. Growing up, I learned a lot of my life discipline and drive through athletics. If it were not for the 4 years of gymnastics, I would not be the person I am today. Leah will always be able to fall back on the mental cushion of “I ran a half marathon that I prepared for for months. I can do this.” While the immediate effects are good physical health, the mental health will last her a lifetime. (oh and lets not forget Alex too, since he was the one who started this all. So, give Alex some props for me.) Good luck to all.

    Oh and Rach, be careful, pretty soon you will be hoping Leah waits for you at the finish line!

    Take care.

  14. I just LOVE how you always let life “run amok” with your “plans”. Finding perspective with what does happen and embracing it.

    Sooo proud of Leah. I was a runner as a child in a run club but we never did anything beyond 5Ks until we were in High School, then we trained up at Big Bear lake (high altitude training :)…you get that just walking out your door, but we have to travel for it!) and Circled the lake (15 miles). It is an accomplishment I have held dear to me always. It was not until about a month and a half ago when training for my marathon that I broke that mileage record of mine. Leah will have this accomplishment her whole life and she has you and Aaron to thank for setting that example in her life.

    Looking forward to SLC and being able to share in celebration!

  15. Wow. You are opening doors that I never even thought to knock on. My kids would love this. My 7 year old has often told me how he ‘practices running faster every day’ and that’s why he’s “Super Fast!” and even “the fastest kid!” in his class(!), but it NEVER occured to me to help him pursue that interest at all! Thank you for sharing this story!!! I’m now looking for a Run Club in our area, and have not found one yet, but I did find an interesting site: that shows where we can find running routes even in our extremely anti-pedestrian Metro Detoit area! And maybe even do this as a family? Wow. Thanks again!

  16. Very, very cool, Rachel. (And very very cool to Alex, Leah and BigAC, too!) Maybe your goal of breaking your own pace you have previously set can fall to your second half-marathon of the year and crossing with your daughter could be the goal for the first one. Just an idea…

  17. Stretch Mark Mama: I’m so glad! I realized I share about Lucy a lot, but it’s been awhile since I’ve shared what Leah is up to.

    Kei: I don’t think he is going to wait around for anyone LOL. I am pretty sure he will break 1:45:00 – He’s got those LONG legs! Leah has them too.

    Anita: Yep, I carry around the fears for her. She is pure possibility.

    Sonja: All kids want to run, especially the little ones. My main worry about waiting until the last half-marathon to break my PR is… what if I don’t do it! I won’t have a second chance. I know… I know… I need to relax don’t I.

    Randi: Well now WE ALL KNOW! You spilled the beans my dear and THAT is actually one of the keys to keeping your word. TELL people what you are up to. Tell everyone that you are training for a marathon. That way they can support you in it and hold you to it so you don’t weasel out. It’s not just you. We all do that. It’s very normal… but who wants to be normal?
    Check the race rules. You are registered right? If not… REGISTER! I always look to see if they allow wheelchairs or jog strollers. Most do not.

    Ronai: We should be running with our kids, shouldn’t we? Why didn’t this occur to us sooner? Baffling.

    Michelle: We are looking forward to this fun experience and this forever memory.

    Heather: I have a cold too. I hate it. Feel better. We’ll have to see about the hand holding, the finish photo will tell all.

    Cathy: Did you choke up because YOU already had dibs on my clothes that I “grow out of?” We do need to work on that… kids grow out of clothes… at this stage in our lives are we growing into smaller sizes? Maybe we are shrinking into clothes? (I don’t know)

    Dadgineer aka Steve: I do believe in the correlation between discipline and athletics.
    I have a feeling that Leah is like her dad… they are naturally good at everything they try. She has always been SO self-confident it is almost freaky. We were jumping off a cliff into a lake when she was 4. (I know, who does that?) She couldn’t swim but had water-wings on her arms. We were going to jump together, holding hands. She told me to go on the count of three. She counted to three but I kept my feet planted in fear. She was so frustrated and bewildered. “Mom! I said three! Go! Go!” In Leah’s world, you “go on three” …”just jump mom!”

    Jaclyn: And wouldn’t life be B-O-R-I-N-G if it actually did go the way we planned? My plan for my life really lacked imagination and spontaneity.
    When I was growing up we had a cabin at Lake Arrowhead. My uncle still has a cabin at Big Bear. Next time I am there I might just follow your tracks.

    Autumn: Here we are watching the Olympics and wondering when these kids actually figure out that they love this sport or that sport. Meanwhile our kids are telling us how much they love this or that and we say, “Oh, that’s nice. You like running.” LOL
    Today Leah told me that in P.E. they are diving. She said there was no splash when she dove and everyone else had serious splashes. She was shocked when I told her she could compete in diving. I guess since I didn’t compete (in ANYTHING) I don’t even know what types of training or clubs or support is available for the things she loves to do.

    RobMonroe: “Maybe” nothing. I will be breaking that personal record later this year. “Watch me go!”

    Mindy: Run Mindy run! Take a look at the Couch to 5K program.

    Tori: I don’t think anyone loves running until they start running. I am shocked that I actually look forward to running now. Pick up the book “Born To Run” it will make you want to run. When I read it I was pretty sure I could run 100 miles AND catch an antelope. 😉 It did turn me on to the “barefoot” running phenomenon and I will be running this half-marathon “barefoot”

  18. Just to clear something up, I meant that I hope my little ones would want to develop their capacities for endurance and the discipline and motivation it takes to create the endurance to run a half-marathon when they are older. Of course they love to run right now, but they also love to be carried when they get tired, too. No interest in “pushing through the wall” at this point. 🙂

  19. WOW! I love the pic of you two…both very beautiful young ladies!

    It is amazing the people you influence! I’m so proud of both Alex and Leah! I can’t wait to see the pic (since I am quite sure I will be crossing that finish line way after all of you :))of y’all crossing together! And you WILL beat your PR in that second half you run…because you are YOU! Again, my goal is just to get across that finish line. Apparently I have adopted a similar method of training that you typically do…but worse. LOL

    I can’t wait to see everyone again!

  20. So now you have to get the jogger and push Lucy in this half marathon (that should even things up and keep you on par with Leah)!
    Is that even a possibility?

  21. Sonja: When do we grow out of that? I meant, kids love running… what happens? Why do we grow up to hate it?

    allie bestwick: Games of “Tag” will sure be interesting from now on;)

    Leanna: I’m excited to see how I feel after the race THIS time, with so many miles under our feet. I was a mess in Vegas and the ride home… OOF! I cringe when thinking about it.

    JenML: Believe me I have already called the marathon office. Most races say no strollers, no wheelchairs. Just hand-cycles.

  22. Wow, Leah is FAST! WTG! What a beautiful daughter you have. I can only imagine the pride you must be feeling.

    This is a lovely story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I have every intention of getting my Littlest out on the track when her time comes. I know the old-fashioned books like to assume that she’ll be overweight, but we’re all about busting through stereotypes over here!

  23. Oh Rachel- Jed would be so proud of Leah. What a gorgeous young woman she is growing up to be! Rest assured that I will be cheering you all on, and I’m sure Jed will too. Love to you all!

  24. So proud of you, Leah and Alex (and Aaron too, just feel like I don’t ‘know’ him since I don’t see/hear him in my living room on a daily basis!):).

    You are an incredible mother. I am so excited to hear about the race and how you finish the run together – write a song for us about it!

  25. I always tear up or laugh my head off when I read your blog.

    You are an inspiration.

    I just started running and plan to run a half marathon this fall with my sisters.

  26. Hi Rachel! i like reading your blogs:). i like to see mother and daughter running together so nice:) Leah has growing into a lovely lady. I hope you both do well you when do the marathon:).
    justed wanted to say i’ve been addicted to signing time ever since i saw it on pbs one afternoon. you have inspired me. when i grow up or should i say when i graduate from high school i want to become a ASL Translator.

  27. Chrystal: Time does fly. Last week while running, Kasey pulled me aside and said, “Look at Leah’s stride! She looks so good!” The first few weeks you sort of work out your biomechanics.

    Michele Erickson: Can’t wait to share the photos from the race. It’s just 1 month away!

    Emily Arveseth-Hoerner: Last year Aaron and I both got emotional when we came down from the University and ran passed TGI Fridays where Aaron and Jed met. This year I am sure it will be the same. He would be out there with a cowbell cheering “Janers” on.

    Hema: You’re making me think I need to do an Aaron blog. He is always the man behind the camera.

    LadySnow: Running is such a great sport because it doesn’t require a lot of gear to get going. You can do it year round.

    Jessica: I am putting it on my setlist sister!

    Kristi: Oooh, did you tear up or laugh this time??? Do tell!

    Shala: I’m glad we helped introduce you to ASL. There are a lot of good jobs out there for interpreters.

    Jackile: Thanks. You should come run with us;)

  28. I hope and pray I can have a relationship with my daughter like you have with yours. So far my baby is a very active little girl so maybe we’ll be running together some day, too.

    I wrote just a little about your dvds in my blog today… I assumed it was appropriate to make a link to the Baby Signing Time site… Just thought I’d drop you a note here to tell you.

    Thanks, Rachel. I love singing and signing along with you.

  29. Hi Rachel,
    Your story is so inspiring. I am amazed at how you have taken potentially devastating events in your life and turned them into triumphs, not only for your family but for those that need your support.
    My niece was recently diagnosed with a very rare neurological disease called Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood. I was devastated at the news and for a while couldn’t quite figure out how to be support of my sister and her family. Eventually I decided to run, I set up the website and am running 1000 miles from January 1 until October 21st to raise money for the cause.
    Hearing stories like yours convince me that instead of wallowing in self-pity, the best way for a family to heal and grow is to take positive action.
    Thank you,

  30. Read your story in the SL Trib. Just wanted to let you know I’m cheering for Lucy! I’m not at all asoociated with the Ogden Marathon, but I’ve run it a few times and I’ve seen people in wheelchairs in that race. Just thought I’d let you know if Lucy’s looking for another race. Happy running!

  31. A family that plays together, stays together. What an inspiring story! First of all Leah can’t be that grown up! She’s a beautiful young lady. It does not surprise me that she would follow in your footsteps. She has wonderful parents and wonderful role models! I too would hold my kid’s hand across the finish line. I wouldn’t trade that sweet moment for anything else! It would be like asking someone to decide between taking a million dollars or attending their daughter’s wedding. Any parent who is as dedicating to their family as you are would pick attending their daughter’s wedding without thinking twice. 🙂
    I look forward to your article about the day Lucy runs her first marathon. Something tells me that she will. 🙂

  32. Pingback: Learn Sign Language » The Cast of Signing Time Runs a Half Marathon!

  33. Dear Rachel,

    I used to attend ST! chat, but life has gone so crazy the last year that I haven’t. I moved from Florida to Arizona so now I’m in Mountain Time, which could be part of the reason … can’t get the kids down by then.

    I just wanted to say that you and Leah and Lucy look wonderful. I am trying to get inspired to start exercising and get fit. As a single mom, I find it hard to make time and get motivated. I am on the cusp of making commitment to an exercise program. The beautiful clothes at Athleta, which I’ve been buying for about four years, are quite the motivator! I used a lot of the tops when I was still riding horses. I bet Leah can’t wait until she can fit in their XS. She such a pretty girl and has a great smile.

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