"I was supposed to be in a wheelchair by now, but mom and I are running a marathon"
—Sylvia Bresnik & Pauline Bresnik-Snasdell, marathoners
This October, Sylvia Bresnik is celebrating her 70th birthday with her daughter in Dublin, Ireland...by running a marathon. Again. Ten years ago, she and her daughter, Pauline Bresnik-Snasdell, first took on the Dublin Marathon. Back then, it was Sylvia's 60th birthday, and they plan on tackling it a third time for her 80th birthday in 2021. If that's not impressive enough, there's this: Pauline was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis shortly before that first marathon and was told by doctors she would probably be wheelchair bound by now. Between then and now, Pauline has had a baby — and a whole lot of training time with mom.
"Aside from the fact that Mom is my best friend, we are also workout buddies," says Pauline, who started running with her mom 28 years ago, when she was 14. Pauline was already active — she was a competitive Irish dancer at the time. But she was inspired to run by her mom, who qualified for both the Hawaii Ironman and Boston Marathon in a single year. "She's competed in numerous triathlons — she's a fantastic triathlete and trains with people half her age," says Pauline.
When the mother/daughter pair trained for Dublin the first time, they lived just 20 minutes away from each other in San Diego. Now, Pauline's CPA job is in London, and they track each other's training by phone and e-mail. To stay motivated, they set goals together. And it works. Pauline visits her mom three times a year, and knows skipped training days will mean falling behind. "Those visits are kept keenly in mind when I train in London," she says.
"Running has meant that we've gotten to know each other better as people — as friends," says Pauline. Even so, there was the grueling Mile 22 moment at Dublin the first time. Pauline was feeling wet, cold, and tired. But her mother, who was running out front, decided to pick up the pace. Pauline remembers thinking, "I don't like her." The feeling passed as she picked up the pace and managed to cross the finish line alongside her mother. "I think the reason we can tackle a marathon together is because we have similar life views. We are both motivated to achieve difficult things and enjoy the buzz that comes from accomplishment. And we have so much to be running for."
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"By riding together, we 'get' each other on a whole new level."
—Cathleen and Rachel Prudhomme, horseback riders and book authors
At the age of 8, Rachel Prudhomme, now 29, rode a horse for the first time, and as her mother, Cathleen, describes it, she never stopped. A passionate animal lover, Rachel embraced every aspect of the sport, from competing in the English-style show circuit to volunteering at a stable providing therapeutic and recreational riding for people with special needs.
After that first day of riding, Cathleen, now 56, says she became a "horse-show mom," attending every exhibition. Though she had ridden a little in her youth—and loved it—the mother of two, stepmother of two more, and full-time schoolteacher had no time to learn a new sport.
Seven years ago, when Rachel graduated from college and moved near her parents in their new hometown of Phoenix, Cathleen, now retired, realized there was finally nothing to stop her from hopping in the saddle herself. From the beginning, Cathleen was hooked. "Every aspect of the sport made me feel younger, stronger, and more energized." Cathleen and Rachel took every opportunity to ride together talking for hours.
Their mutual interest would take yet another turn when Rachel relocated to Thief River Falls, Minnesota, in 2004. "When you move, there's no central source of information for things like where to board your horse or buy supplies," she says. "You have to do all the sleuthing yourself." They decided to start a guidebook for horse owners, one that compiled local resources, building connections to make the sport grow and thrive.
In spring 2007, the Equine Resource Guide debuted with editions in two states and is now in two more. Assembling the guides has helped Rachel and Cathleen better communicate and has brought them closer. Although they don't always see eye to eye, they are self-proclaimed "talkers" and are able work through their problems. "Not only is it a real complement of skills, but when we go riding now, our talks are even more meaningful," says Cathleen. "We 'get' each other on a whole new level. Our hobby and our business are a team effort."
To give back to the sport and the riding community, the Prudhommes provide free advertising for horse-rescue organizations and therapeutic-riding facilities. Cathleen is currently working with the Arizona Horse Council to provide an "Equine Kit" for Arizona teachers to use in their classrooms.
Although they don't get to see each other as often as they'd like, working together has given the Prudhommes the opportunity to stay connected. It provides a good excuse to meet in other cities for horse shows and expos. Not every event is horse-related: This Mother's Day, they're participating — along with Rachel's sister Erin — in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure at the Mall of America.
Some Susan G. Komen races are still open in locations throughout the country. Find one near mom and you here.
Keep Reading: This pair beat teams half their age
"Mom and I beat a team of people who were all in their 20s!"
—Ruth & Patricia Balestra, triathlon relay team
In 2007, Patricia Balestra decided it was time to do something she'd always dreamed of doing — all three legs of a triathlon (The Nation's Triathlon, in Washington, D.C.). Back in 1993, she'd been the swimmer of a relay team in a sprint-distance triathlon (fitting, since she worked as a swim instructor). But after her divorce a few years ago, she went for the whole thing herself.
Meanwhile, her mother, Ruth, a retired Spanish teacher in Miami, revealed in December of 2007 that she was considering joining an adult swim team. At 65, Ruth knew she'd be the oldest person in the pool, but as a life-long swimmer she was looking for a new challenge.
"She signed up, and pretty soon most of our phone conversations revolved around the different drills she had learned, how she felt, and how recovery at age 65 took a lot longer than it did when she was in her 20s," says Patricia. "But my mom was getting stronger and seemed to really be enjoying the workouts — especially when she could swim faster and farther than the 30-something year-old men in the pool with her!"
So on one of her mom's visits to Washington, D.C., Patricia brought up the subject: What if they did a sprint tri together, with her mom doing the swimming and Patricia doing the bike and run? They signed up, and each trained on her own.
On Mother's Day weekend, the family, which at the time included my mom's four grandchildren, assembled near the race in Miami. "The morning of the race, we woke up at 4:30, had a power breakfast, and walked to the race site. The ocean had 4-foot swells, and all I could think was how glad I was that I wasn't doing the swimming! Our family gave us high fives and we watched as Mom ran into the water," says Patricia. "She came out of the water in less time than most people half her age! Her oldest grandchild, who was 5 at the time, ran alongside her as she came into the transition area. How many kids get to do that with their grandma?"
But the race wasn't over. It was hot and humid, which can make running feel tough. "Knowing I was in this with my mother made me keep running.
"Not only did we finish with smiles on our faces, we also beat the other relay team made of three people all in their 20s!"
That afternoon, when Ruth dropped off Patricia at the airport, "my mom said to me, 'you've been my inspiration.' I turned to her and said, 'I think the tables have turned here. You're 66 years old! You are my inspiration." Next up for Patricia? "I'm hoping one day I can be on a team that includes my mom and my sister."