Menifee Mom: There's Always a Path to the Finish Line

By Karen Thomas

I was able to run in the Fontana Days half marathon earlier this month with a large group of Menifee friends.

In 1986, this race course was the fastest certified course in the world due to its 2,125-foot elevation drop. It is the perfect recipe for pain.

Saturday morning rolled around and at promptly 4:15 a.m., my alarm went off. The last bus to the starting line left at 6:20. Yup, not only did we get to run 13.1 miles down a steep hill, we got to wake up at a ridiculous hour to do it!

As we ran through the course, I was impressed with the spectators. Signs saying things like, "Great Job, Random Stranger!" and "Don't Poop Out Now" donned the course. But my favorite sign, placed so perfectly less than two miles before the finish, stated pure fact, the true motivation most feel at that point: "Run FOR REST, Run!"

But what really touched me that day wasn't the spectators or nabbing that PR, it was the determination of the runners. As I enjoyed my post-race refreshment (a 4-ounce cup full of Gatorade, seriously?) I heard the crowd break out in cheers.

A large group of runners was carrying a fellow runner across the finish line. You see, this man had pushed himself to the very limit and just yards from the finish line, his legs gave out. The other runners could have finished their sprint into the finish, hoping to snag that PR they've no doubt been working towards for months. But instead, forgoing all thoughts for themselves, they chose to help carry another's burden and helped him meet his goal of finishing the race.

As I waited for the rest of my group to come in, I was able to witness many other runners collapse in exhaustion at the finish and a few more needing help to make it those last few feet. One friend commented, "I am amazed to see so many people run 13 miles and then just feet from the finish line, completely break down! What is it about those last few feet?"

I've been thinking about that. Why do we push and push and push and then, when the finish is right within our grasp, do we collapse? What allows some of us to get so far and then NOT make it? Surely, if the finish line were moved another quarter of a mile down the street, it would have played out just the same. Most runners would have found that something inside them to get just that little bit further down the road before letting the sheer pain that has been surging through them for miles take over.

I've begun to realize that life is made up of lots of little races spread throughout our days, weeks, and years. How many times, as moms, have we stayed up all night with a crying baby only to get right up the next morning to get our other kids off to school? Or powered through a hard day, only to collapse on the couch the moment after we FINALLY get that last one to stay in bed? Whatever the race is, what gives us the ability to continue on just long enough to finish when any normal person would have given up long before?

Ultimately, the answer lies in our individual determination. Perhaps it's determination to make sure our kids succeed in school, or the determination that our children will not feel deprived of our love despite an overwhelmingly busy life. Sometimes it's the determination to do better than the generation before us. It's what allows us to push through the hard times, knowing that at some point, it will all be worth it.

Life, like running, is often a mental game. People collapse at the finish line because mentally they know they've made it and they finally let their body give in to the exhaustion. Some have the determination to do it alone, others have a friend at their side to give them encouragement to push to the end.

When we are struggling in the races of life, we likewise need to find that inner strength to push through or a friend to encourage us until we can see the end is near. And then when we do cross those finish line, we can celebrate our victory ... and finally take a nap!

Karen Thomas is a stay at home mom of four daughters, has been on the PTA board at her kids' school for four years, and is a volunteer at her church, in addition to her activities as a volunteer soccer referee, a piano teacher, and a runner. Her column will appear here every Thursday. Comments are welcome.


  1. Karen, you inspire me. Even though I am a great grandma and will never be a runner I feel through your words I have run a great race in this life and still have more to do! Thank you!