I'm a Single Mom of 2 Training for the New York City Marathon — and It's Starting to Freak Me Out

Training for a marathon is hard for anyone — here's how a mom with two little kids is attempting to fit it in

stephanie pfeffer
Photo: stephanie pfeffer

Working for PEOPLE, I get to do a lot of cool things. But one of the all-time coolest opportunities came last month when I was invited to join Michelob ULTRA’s TeamULTRA in running the TCS New York City Marathon on Nov. 3. At first I was elated — and then terrified. Yes, it’s a golden ticket to my dream race. Yes, I have run about 20 half-marathons and am in decent shape in terms of fitness. But there’s a reason I never opted for a full: because training takes over your life. And as a single mom with two little kids, I don’t have much time to spare!

Still, there was no way I could turn it down. I lived in NYC for almost 15 years before moving to Boston — and I still miss the city. And the New York City Marathon is one of the most amazing races in the country. Just like when I had a chance to participate in the Empire State Building Run-Up, this felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I had to say yes.

Running has been a part of my life since 2007 when I ran my first 5K. I was fast, and it was fun. I never played sports growing up, so when I found an athletic endeavor that I didn’t suck at, I was shocked/stoked/hooked! But my relationship with running has changed over time. Whereas I used to run for time and bragging rights — “It was 14 degrees at the start of the 2011 Manhattan Half!” — now I run for myself. Running gives me solitude, endorphins, time to think. I am able to get away, process and de-stress. It’s a huge help with managing anxiety. And I am always, always in a better mood when I return to my children.

That said, a marathon is no easy, breezy 5-miler around a reservoir! And now that the race is about 12 weeks away, it’s getting real. The morning after coming home from the ultimate summer vacation with my sister — all we did was eat, read and lounge in the Caribbean Sea — I had to wake up and run 11 miles before my kids got back from a week with their dad. Surprisingly, it felt great!

But 12 miles the following week was hard. I kept thinking, “Ummm, the marathon will be 14 more miles. 14. More. Miles.” I can’t even wrap my mind around the fact that I will have to accomplish an 18-mile training run in a few weeks.

I’m kind of scared, to be honest. What if I get injured? What if I am just too old (will be 42 on race day) to be doing something like this? What if something happens to me? Am I being irresponsible considering the kids? My trainer friend and fellow fit mom Laura Kovall reminded me that there are no guarantees in life, marathon or no.

Over the next few months I will be sharing my journey and overcoming training obstacles with the help of fitness experts and friends. Follow me as I make my way on the road to NYC.

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