Future Family Fun starts in the present!
Hi, my name is Leanne and I am a mom to 3 amazing young adults! If you would have told me that my husband and I would have the relationship we have with our kids today, back when we were first starting out, I would not have possibly understood what that could look like.
I was never athletic, outgoing or adventurous growing up. My husband and I married young and started our family at the age of 23! We did “normal” things with our kids as they grew, played at the park, put them in football, music, gymnastics, etc. We’d occasionally go camping but could never really afford to travel when they were little. We made sacrifices along the way that allowed me to be home with my kids and homeschool them. We enjoyed hanging out with them, playing games and supporting their interests, although we limited them to one activity per year. Our rule was to commit to something, try it and if at the end of the program they did not have an interest anymore, they could try something new.
As my children got older and after the loss of my mom (my best friend, hero, confidant and biggest cheerleader) to cancer, a friend suggested we walk 60K to raise money for cancer. The following year I ran my first 5K and the rest as they say was history…
I decided to run my first marathon in 2013. There was such a feeling of immense satisfaction and fulfillment when I would challenge myself. My daughter rode her bike alongside me when I would go on some long training runs. After my long runs I’d come home, exhausted and starving. My family would make me food and massage my calves, basically “serve” me! They would even roll out my legs with “the stick” (I”m pretty sure because they would laugh at my discomfort) but hey, it needed to be done! If I struggled to get out for a run, they’d remind me of how proud they were, or simply tell me to get out because I was going to go anyways and was now wasting time.
I honestly never considered the impact or influence I was having on them as they saw me challenging myself and overcoming tremendous obstacles. You see our family had been going through a very difficult season leading up to that first marathon. A season that broke, as one of my kids described, that “safety bubble” that surrounded our family. The idea that evil or bad things won’t happen to your family. It was in this “environment” that I chose to continue to run for my own therapy and do something for me. AND so, the love for distance running began!
My first marathon was in another city and my family chose to come with me. They had witnessed first hand the challenges to get to this race, including my race gear being left behind accidentally! That required a shopping spree the night before the race to buy new gear! Let’s just say there were tears at the finish line because of how proud they were.
Our next family adventure was planned around a race in the Maritimes. My son ended up running his first 5K that weekend, completely last minute just to run with me. After this race we stayed to visit family and do some backcountry camping that my oldest son was just getting into. He planned it all! As a family we’ve always been open to try new things.
From there I continued to run, longer and longer, leading to my first stage race in 2016 in the Grand Canyon, the Grand to Grand Ultra. My family flew out to Utah to meet me at the finish line, again we planned a family vacation around this and stayed an additional week to camp and hike in the desert!
My daughter had a summer job planned for the summer before her 18th birthday out west. When her friend no longer could go with her, she decided to go regardless. To push past fear of going alone and choosing instead to experience something new. She then planned a trip alone to Bali prior to committing to 6 years of school (of course as a mom this made me very nervous but knew she had to do it). Rebekah took time to experience some life, work on herself and figure out her own life goals. She has always shown compassion for those more vulnerable: the homeless, the hurting, the ones without much of a voice. She sees them. She is a gifted writer that has used writing to express her heart, to talk about things that are important. As parents it came as no major surprise that she would decide to study Social Services with a desire to be a part of bringing change and necessary services to the most vulnerable people. We have no doubt that she will succeed and make an impact in the lives that matter!
We live in Ottawa, Canada and I have been involved in the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend for the past 6 years. Three years ago they introduced the Lumberjack Challenge (2K, 5K, 10K ran on Saturday night, followed by the full marathon on Sunday morning). I am not a road runner but love this race and participate every year as a way to train through the winter months. I’m also weak when friends suggest crazy ideas to me. I ran the first year with a friend. I had no plans to run it again until my son, out of the blue tells me he’d like to run it. Okay, not completely out of the blue, he of course came out and watched me complete this challenge and in the hype of that moment said, “I am going to do that”. I figured it was just in the moment.
My middle child, Austin is not a runner, like at all. He actually doesn’t like to run. He’s active, he likes to be outside doing stuff but has never wanted to run. In the late fall when he asked if I could coach him for the Spring race, I was sure he was kidding. I knew it was crazy, to get ready to do this kind of distance, for a non-runner! But he’s watched me over the years, push myself and not give up. Somehow this still seemed crazier though!
So I put together a plan and we trained together. We did most of our long runs together, through the winter. He never complained, not once. He still hated running, but he had set a goal for himself. He wanted to do something that was outside of his comfort zone, to know that if he worked hard he could accomplish just about anything. AND HE DID! He continues to pursue new things and excel at them!
My oldest son Ryan left to Calgary to follow his dreams just shy of his 18th birthday. He would experience highs and lows that helped make him who he is today. He met his life partner out west and together they continue to amaze me.
Last summer I wanted to plan my own adventure by running the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland. What started out as “maybe my family could come crew me”, turned into my oldest son and his partner joining me. They were preparing for their own insane adventure of crossing Iceland (over 400km) and documenting their experience to raise awareness about the Iceland Highlands. Check out my son’s documentary: https://youtu.be/Yz-Yb6vHUJo
So myself, Ryan, his partner and my good friend Anna flew out to St. John’s, NFLD to begin our adventure. Little did we know the winter storms wreak havoc on the trails and need to be cleared every spring. We were early in the season going out mid-June as my son’s Iceland crossing was scheduled for early July. The trails were only being cleared when we arrived and we were ahead of them! This made the trails extra challenging and slower to complete.
We had approximately 7 days to experience as much of the East Coast Trail as we could. What started out as a goal to complete the entire trail, quickly turned into let’s enjoy it all and take in the experience for what it was. We managed 170km’s.
Most recently my son and his partner joined me back in the desert on a 7-day stage race where they used their talents to document the race with photos and video. Catching me (and other participants) at our most vulnerable and yet also at the greatest of highs. They were there working but it allowed them to see first hand what these experiences were like. It happened to be my toughest race to date, but I still finished!
This blog is already so long but a quick bit about my husband! Our adventure started out when we were practically babies ourselves. We started dating at the age of 18, married at 20 and our first child when we were 23. I always say, “BUT by the Grace of God”, we grew up together and loved and respected each other whole heartedly giving one another permission to grow when and how we needed to. He has a love and passion for riding (motorcycle) and it worked for us because when I ran long he would ride. We both had a healthy outlet to process life and to get filled up again to pour back into our family.
I believe our love for family, adventure and pursuing our dreams came from years of supporting each other in life. I’m so proud of my children for continuing to figure out what they are passionate about, for making life choices that have a global impact and for putting family first always!
These memories and special moments are etched in my heart and I will cherish forever.
As a parent, we honestly have no idea how our kids will turn out, what their passions will be or where life will take them. I only know that looking back the only regrets I have might be not spending even more time with them. We honestly enjoyed every single stage, never wishing anything to be over to soon.
May each of you embrace the stage you are in, love your kids and spend time with them. The return can be watching your children passionately pursue their dreams and care about their world and the people in it! As a bonus, they may actually still want to hang out with you when they are older!
Written by RLAG Ambassador Leanne Richardson