CBN.com - In the summer of 2002, I received a phone call that would change my life and family dynamics forever. My girlfriend called and begged me to start training again and meet her the next year in Eugene, Oregon, for the Masters National Track & Field Championships. As a 1988 U.S. Olympic high jumper, I thought my competing days were over. I was 40, had an infant sucking milk and energy, and what was that silver in my hair? I'd been coaching at a high school for several years. Each day I taught and encouraged boys to "sky" over the bar. But I longed to high jump myself—a dream I never thought possible. How could I ever find the time and strength? Would my family survive my training?
I felt like I did everything when it came to our kids, Shannon, then 1, and Connor, then 5. My husband, Pat, wasn't very confident with children and our kids always seemed to want me. I'd be breast-feeding Shannon and would ask Pat to read to Connor before bedtime. Connor would scream, "I want Mommy!" and pitch a fit. Eventually I'd read to Connor while breast-feeding Shannon. I wondered, Could Pat really take care of two preschoolers without me?
After a summer of prayer, conversations with others, and receiving Pat's blessing and commitment to help with the kids, I dusted off my rusty spikes and started a one-year rekindling of my dream. My goal: to break my age group's world record.
I trained six days a week for one to four hours a day, starting between 5:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. I was amazed at how I popped up out of bed, excited about each new workout session: running distance, sprinting on the track, weight lifting, high jumping, swimming, or doing various jumping drills. However, since I was gone each morning, Pat was responsible for the kids: dressing, feeding, and getting them ready for school, with no help from mom.
Training was hard; I felt like a slug. When I ran, I breathed heavily from the altitude. Could I really be that out of shape, or was it the "baby weight"? Occasionally the kids didn't want me to leave in the morning, but a quick snuggle cured that. Shannon sometimes came with me and played in the sand pit at the track. One of the hardest parts of training was running out of energy in the evenings. I was ready to relax and go to bed, but I still needed to be "on" for my family. Nevertheless, I stayed focused on my goal and started seeing the positive effects on my husband and kids.
Pat experienced a newfound confidence with the children. He helped Connor memorize Bible verses and worked with him on spelling, math, and other homework projects. Shannon raced Daddy to her room when he put her to bed. Pat and Connor have even gone on overnight trips together. And I spent eight days in Spain competing at The Masters World Championships without worries. My husband is a wonderful dad, and I am the World Champion and World Record Holder for age 40-44, jumping 5 feet 9 1/4 inches!
Sometimes I wonder where we would be as a family if I hadn't taken this bold step. If you're thinking, I could never be athletic, maybe there's something else that you have dreamed of: painting, singing, writing, or just getting in shape. You can be a mom, pursue your dream, and have a rewarding experience that not only enhances your life, but also that of your family.
First Published in the March/April 2006 issue of MomSense Magazine as “Rekindling My Dream.”