Family Fitness: Meet the Mother-Daughter Duo Who Became Closer Through Running

by Kristen Troy

Having a support system when you are working towards a new goal is tremendously beneficial. Individuals who have friends, family, and even trainers helping them to reach their goals are more likely to stay accountable, push themselves harder, feel less stressed, and reach their goals faster. Two HAC members have supported each other’s fitness endeavors for years, and this past November, they decided to take the plunge and sign up for a half-marathon and full marathon in April 2021. Not only are they supportive of each other’s running, but they are also best friends and mother and daughter!

Sarah Riddle and Amy Chikwem are a mother-daughter pair who have been members at HAC for the past four years. Amy joined the HAC when she enrolled her oldest daughter in preschool, and her mom, Sarah, joined shortly after. Being members allowed them to stay active by taking the same group fitness and yoga classes.

When the pandemic began, the mother-daughter duo started running. They started easy, working up to running five miles at a time. Sarah remembers thinking finishing five miles was amazing! This inspired the two to take their running further. In October, Amy and Sarah signed up for the HAC Goes Pink: October Virtual Step Challenge, a challenge which encouraged participants to walk a total of 310,000 steps by submitting daily step totals online. Over the month, they were getting their steps in with ease with their runs. They would even get competitive with each other, with who would get a higher step count. During the October Challenge, Sarah beat Amy’s total steps by just over 650 steps one day. Sarah replied to her daughter’s step submission, “I finally beat your step count!” Through friendly competition, they are always pushing and supporting the other to reach their goals.

In November, Sarah and Amy signed up to participate in a running festival in Rhode Island in April 2021. Sarah signed up for a half-marathon, and Amy signed up for a full marathon. These would be firsts for both of them. They were hoping the festival would make a fun mother-daughter weekend to conclude months of dedicated training and celebrate their accomplishments.

When they signed up for the running festival, they were participating in the HAC Fit to Feed Virtual Workout Challenge. During this challenge, which required participants to work out four times per week, Sarah and Amy frequently posted their workout selfies together after doing a group fitness class, cross-training, or running together! Even if they weren’t physically running at the same location, they would “run together” by texting each other as they each were preparing to run, when they started, throughout the run (especially longer ones), when they finished, and afterwards. The text updates helped them keep in contact and provide additional accountability and motivation for their training.

Moving forward in their training, they continued to participate in HAC’s monthly virtual challenges as a fun way to stay accountable to themselves and each other. Their average daily steps increased from their first virtual step challenge in October to the March challenge, seemingly with ease. Amy’s daily average increased from 15,201 to 16,600 and Sarah’s from 9,325 to 13,908! Even though they both were running quite a few miles each week with their race training, the virtual challenges kept them accountable on the days they weren’t.

Family members gathering at the end of Amy’s marathon to celebrate

When your running partner is also your family, there are numerous benefits both on and off the trail. Through running and training together, Sarah and Amy have improved their bond and become closer. They often exchange encouraging words and advice about what clothes and shoes work best and which to avoid. Going through the same journey has strengthened their relationship. Amy explains that a post-run “good job” means more from Sarah because she actually understands. They were constantly impressed by each other over their weeks of training. Sarah described Amy’s heart and consistency as one of the most impressive aspects – “it’s inspiring!” Amy added with how impressed she is when Sarah takes her dogs out for an extended walk after a long run. Having each other’s support kept the pair motivated even when they got word, just a month before the race day, that the Rhode Island running festival would be postponed to a later date and they unfortunately would not be able to attend. They were determined to keep training and run the race on their own.

Running together has been good for the rest of their family as well. “It’s been good for them to see us prioritizing healthy habits,” Amy said. Amy’s daughter will frequently ask to join her on her runs. “She only lasts about two blocks,” laughed Amy, but she still welcomes the company of her daughter for the short distance.

Sarah after finishing her half-marathon

As their training started to approach race day, they had a new task to tackle: finding a race day location. Through their participation in the virtual challenges, Amy, Sarah, and I became acquaintances and co-cheerleaders through one another’s running journeys. After learning about the marathon that I ran in November, Amy reached out to me for details about my marathon location. Amy was able to test out the race day trail on a long run before race day and felt good about using the C & D Canal Trail.

On April 17th, Sarah and Amy completed their respective half and full marathons on the C & D trail. Even though their marathon experience wasn’t what they had initially planned when they signed up, it turned out to be a terrific day. Doing the race closer to home, they had their family cheering them on along the way and celebrating at the finish line. In-between checkpoints, they received texts with words of encouragement from their family members. During the challenging moments of Sarah’s half, she said, “Having Amy ahead of me the whole way pushed me….boy, she has a fast pace!” Amy even looped her route back around to run with Sarah through Sarah’s 13.1-mile “finish line.”

After Sarah finished, Amy was alone for the second half of her marathon. The texts of encouragement during the second half were extra helpful. They reminded her why she started her journey and all the training she did to prepare. Even though there were moments Amy wanted to stop during the second half of her run, she pushed through and finished her first marathon! Her family met her at the finish line with balloons, signs, flowers, and lots of cheers. “I was so happy just to have finished, and we are so proud of ourselves and each other for completing our journey together!” Amy reflects on the completion of race day.

Before doing their race, they said they planned to take some time off running and just run for fun after completing their marathons. As soon as the race was over, Amy told herself never again! But within a few days, she and Sarah were already planning to run another half marathon together towards the end of 2021. They are even planning to run a few 5ks together and coordinate a new training plan leading up to their next big running event.

“…It’s fun, challenging, and will bring you a lot closer together!”

When asked what the duo would say to others planning to start a training plan with a family member, they said doing so is a fantastic experience. “Go for it; it’s fun, challenging, and will bring you a lot closer together!” exclaimed Amy.

“I definitely feel that we have a closer relationship and only see it getting deeper and deeper,” Sarah elaborated. “Amy is an inspiration and encouragement, and also simply fun to hang out with!”

Overall, the two say training together was a beneficial experience. Running is now a fun activity to improve fitness and work towards long-term goals while at the same time strengthening their relationship with each other and their families.

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