MBK - She's Back!

I read a recent NYTimes article regarding the gender-specific finishing results of this past Boston Marathon and was admittedly underwhelmed by NYT’s main argument as to why a significantly higher percentage of women finished all 26.2 miles over their male counterparts:  Kids.

Yes, women have babies and that makes us as tough as nails. Pregnancy and childbirth are unique and permanent pain-threshold-altering events. We get it.

But the truth is that women have been planning training and racing schedules around cramps, bloating, and menstrual cycles since puberty. There were plenty of women who finished Boston in wet and nearly freezing conditions who have not and will not ever have children.  Right?

As a gender, I would argue that women perhaps have a stronger, more emotional connection to a given athletic endeavor and THAT makes a finish, despite the harshest of conditions or narrowest of odds, incredibly personal.  We’re reluctant to flip the “ugh, that’s enough” switch in a race, because it's not just about us as individuals - oftentimes our support team has shared in our commitment. We, in turn, feel immensely strong about completing our goal... for ourselves AND for them.

(P.S. I know plenty of dudes who feel exactly the same.)

My point here is that today, I witnessed the nuance of this topic firsthand, and I realize that maybe it's actually some combination of both.

I traveled down to Ironman Texas for the North American Championships for Meredith Kessler’s first race back since the birth of this little nugget of joy:


At 4:10am this morning, I embraced a dear friend and athlete I have had the pleasure of working with since 2012. I also met the love of her life, Baby MAK (!), for the first time.

Pretty much everything else was the same. Bike loaded. Special needs bags reviewed and in tow. Park. Walk. Drop bike and bags. Eat final gel. ROKA Swimskin ON.

Oh yeah. And breastfeed. Welcome to the new normal.

Before walking down to the swim start, Mer held her child tightly as tears came to her eyes.  It was in that moment I saw the emotional connection and recognized that the commitment to her family had taken the concept of “doing her job” at this race and elevated it to a completely different level.

Today's race at Ironman Texas marks the longest period of time Mer's been separated from her infant - exactly 8hrs and 47mins. She raced today 5 months post c-section with a fire, grit and determination even beyond that of an athlete who's completed 61 Ironman races.  She raced not just as an athlete who completed her second fastest time at an Ironman event EVER. 

She raced as a mother. 

Mer raced for her child, who was there to greet and cheer for her throughout the day many thanks to her loving husband, Aaron, and the immensely generous support of Hillary Biscay. She smiled and waved for every cheer and she pushed on in the heat of the afternoon to achieve something for her family even when that smile started to become a grimace.  She raced with an emotion and a commitment to being a professional triathlete greater than her 6th place finish - a mere 4 minutes slower than 2nd place (SECOND!) and on less than 6 weeks of run training.

I have been in awe of MBK on many occasions, but never, at any time, have I felt this so intensely today.  She challenged my predisposed notions on the power of motherhood.  She reinforced the strength and commitment that an individual can display to ultimately cross a finish line.  Today was two parts gutsy and one part truly beautiful.

Thank you, MBK, for an amazing day, and congrats to the entire Kessler family (+1) on their impressive return to Ironman racing.  I know we're very excited to see you all back out at the starting line - diaper bag and all!

Kate Ligler