The tribulations and (quiet) pride of marathoners’ children

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff
Francie Chase sent her youngest daughter, Halle, off to the school bus before setting out on her run in Southborough. She and her husband alternate years running in the Boston Marathon.

During Boston Marathon season, 12-year-old Halle Chase dreads one thing: Her parents’ ridiculous running clothes.

Spandex athletic tights. Too-short running shorts. It’s all so embarrassing.

“Especially when you’re coming out in the morning and I’m waiting for the bus,’’ Halle, a sixth-grader at Trottier Middle School, told her father, Dick Chase, in their Southborough living room. “I go on the bus, and they’re like, ‘Hey, that’s your dad!’ And I’m like, ‘No, that’s not my dad!’ ’’


For the children of the men and women running in the Boston Marathon, the months leading up to the big 26.2 are filled with disruptions big and small: droning chatter about the upcoming race, an influx of disappointingly healthy snacks, Saturday mornings spent apart as parents disappear on long training runs.

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But deep down, these kids say, they take great pride in parents who persevere up Heartbreak Hill and raise thousands of dollars for charities.

Dick Chase and his wife, Francie, are two-time marathoners who train with the American Liver Foundation. Because of the demands on the family, they alternate years running in Boston. This year, it’s Francie’s turn.

When she ran for the first time in 2007, 16-year-old Samantha, then 11, had no idea how long a mile was - let alone 26.2. Having her mother gone most Saturdays was “kind of annoying,’’ she recalled.

But Halle and Samantha have come to appreciate the routine. Pre-run carb loads mean Friday night pizza. On Saturday mornings, the sisters watch marathons of “Say Yes to the Dress’’ while their parents are out running. They ready themselves to dodge sweaty hugs when their parents return in the afternoon.


“We’re proud of them, because I could never imagine doing anything like what they do,’’ said Samantha, who plans to run the last mile of this year’s race with her mother. “And how they still have time for us and stuff - it’s pretty cool.’’

Michael Moore, who is chairman of Boston College’s undergraduate psychology department and specializes in children and sports, said while the time involved in marathon training can sometimes put strain on a family, it can offer parents the chance to teach lessons about fitness, healthy eating, and goal-setting.

And the challenges of training, he said, may give children some insight into the fact that their parents are real-life human beings.

“Most kids see parents as a combination of an ATM machine and a chauffeur. They don’t appreciate their parents as people with feelings, goals, and motives,’’ Moore said. “It’s good for the child to see that Mommy and Daddy have their own interests and worries, and that they have to work at things.’’

For Jennifer Andrews, 39, scheduling training for her first Boston Marathon has been especially challenging. She shares custody of her two daughters, so Saturday runs with her Leukemia & Lymphoma Society training team mean that Emma and Abby Casady, 13 and 9, don’t see her most of the day.


But it’s OK, they say, because they make chocolate chip pancakes with their stepfather during their mother’s run.

“Sometimes we’d miss her - she’d get home late, and that part was actually kind of hard on us,’’ said Emma. “But I’m really proud of her for doing it. It’s a really big challenge.’’

And soon after Andrews started training, Abby presented her with $100 she had been saving in her piggy bank to buy an iPad.

“I want to donate to your thingy,’’ the girl proclaimed.

Amy Davis, 38, of Somerville refused to let children put an end to her love of long-distance running. She ran the Boston Marathon six months after the birth of her first child. Monday’s race will be her eighth.

But things are different now. Her Saturday post-run regime entails icing her legs and guzzling water as she drives her 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son to birthday parties. And because her children are small, they sometimes tread on her toes in excitement - a mistake that can cause excruciation.

“The kids know now that there’s a bubble around my feet after I run,’’ Davis laughed.

For Audrey Ng, 17, and her brother Thomas, 13, of Concord, the day of the marathon is the reward after dealing with months of their father’s training: They drive into the city early, ride the packed T to Chestnut Hill, clank cowbells at passing runners, and wait for the text message that alerts them that their father is close.

It’s kind of a marathon for them, too, they joke. Thomas admits that more than once, he has thought: “Can Dad hurry up?’’

Andrews, who admits that she is not exactly a running fanatic - “the best part is when it’s over,’’ she said - recalled a run she took with her training team last month - 20 miles, the longest of the season. Her husband and Abby, her 9-year-old, met Andrews at the end.

It had been a long, cold run. Many of Andrews’s teammates had passed her in their cars on their way home as she struggled to finish. Over and over, in her head, she recited the names of people she was running for- friends and family who had died of blood cancer.

When she arrived after hours of running, panting and sweaty, Abby was surprised at what she saw.

“She was, like, crying,’’ Abby recalled. The girl paused to consider why.

“I think,’’ Abby said, “she was glad she finished.’’ Andrews is glad her daughter was there.

“She saw how long I’d run, and she could feel how much time elapsed,’’ Andrews said. “For as much as a 9-year-old can comprehend the idea of setting out to do something, I think that probably drove it home for her.’’

Martine Powers can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.