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October 15, 2010

12 letters, 12 children: Erin Hendersen's family cheering her on in Ragnar Relay

If you think your life is busy, bow down to Erin Hendersen, a mom of, wait for it…12 children. Last month Erin, 33, of Afton, Wyoming, celebrated a year of keeping off 60 pounds by running her first half marathon. Now her first 26.2 is less than eight weeks away—Rock N’ Roll Las Vegas. Yeah, we’re not worthy.

Best recent run: 17 miler on Sunday. This was my longest run ever! I started running at 5:45 a.m. with my best friend and running partner, Jenny. We averaged under 11 minutes a mile, even though we kept it at a nice and easy pace (and talked the entire time!). The weather was perfect (cold, how I like it!), the company was the best, and it was one of those days when it just felt awesome to run. I felt super at the end, and mentally there is something satisfying about knowing that the number of miles I am away from completing 26.2 miles is in the single digits now. I love how these long runs build your mileage and your confidence each week.

An even dozen: My husband and I have 12 kids. We had three sons the old-fashioned way (Nathan, who is now 14, Ryan, 12 and Shane, 11), then we adopted a daughter from Vietnam (Maggie, 9), a daughter from South Korea (Amanda, 9), a son from the United States (Marcus, 6), two daughters from the United States (Mercy and Des, 15 and 12), a son from Ethiopia (Ben, 10), a daughter from Ethiopia (Belane, almost 7), another son from Ethiopia (Solomon, almost 5), and then a baby boy who was born in Ethiopia and adopted by a family from the U.S. who chose not to keep him because of his extensive medical needs (Noah, 22 months). Whew. That’s 12! We never set out to have 12 kids. We’ve moved forward with each one of our adoptions with the belief that that specific child was meant to be with us, and it has all turned out beautifully. I love being a mom, I am super organized, my husband is the greatest, and it all just works for us. My kids are amazing, and each one of them is such a blessing. I can’t imagine life without each and every one of them.

Weight, weight: Between January 2009 and September 2009, I lost almost 60 pounds and I have kept it all off since then. My husband also lost more than 50 pounds. We did not do any fad diets or pills or surgeries. I didn’t want to do anything I would “stop” (like a diet) because to me, to lose weight and gain it back would be more depressing than not losing it in the first place. So I made slow, small changes that I could stick with for life. I started exercising five days a week (at first on the Wii Fit). I stopped eating after 7 p.m. (no more Ben and Jerry’s in front of the TV at 10 p.m.). I was careful with portion sizes. I chewed gum while I fed the kids so I didn’t pick at their plates. I started eating healthier foods. I learned how to eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full. I cut out soda and empty calories. No food was off limits, although I have tried to limit the junk as much as possible. I did not have a real weight-loss goal and I didn’t want to focus on the numbers, as I wanted the focus on being healthier. I assumed my weight would “level out” at a healthy place if I was doing those things. I started off at 206 pounds and am now 148.

Jenny on the spot: Yes, my BFF is training with me for my marathon but is not running the race. I do about 90% of my running with Jenny. We’ve done a Ragnar Relay together (and are doing another next year), we have done a 5K and a half marathon together, and we usually run together five or six days a week. She is usually the first person I talk to because we go out the door before anyone else is awake. In August, another runner friend told me that with all of the miles I was doing that I could (and should) do a marathon. I laughed, thinking it wasn’t realistic. The next morning on our run I bounced the idea off of Jenny, and she said, “Of course we could.” So I believed her! When I signed up, I fully anticipated Jenny would be running the marathon with me, unfortunately, job and family obligations have made it very difficult for her to get away. Most people would have thrown away their training schedule once they realized they couldn’t do the race, but not Jenny. She hasn’t missed a long run, and she is there for almost every training run. I will miss her terribly in Vegas, but she will definitely be one of my biggest motivations when I am running that marathon. We plan on finding a marathon closer to home we can do together next year.

I vant to be alone! Truth be told, I am not a big fan of being alone. I love some peace and quiet to read (although I usually get it surrounded by kids who are also reading or watching TV), and I thoroughly enjoy it when I do run by myself, but I really am a big-time people person, and am just happier when I am with Josh, family, or friends. Since I more often than not run with someone else, running isn’t my alone time, although running is definitely my “me time.” There’s no kids, no phone, no emails, no laundry, no dishes, and no one that can need me to do anything. It’s a beautiful thing! With 12 kids (one of whom has significant handicaps), a husband, and a demanding job (I work from home as an adoption coordinator for special needs kids), running often seems like the only thing I do for myself.

Favorite running song: “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera. I like to see myself as strong and tough when I run, and this is an awesome song to fuel those thoughts.

“Cause it makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
o thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter”
In my head I change the one line to “Makes me run a little bit faster.

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Erin and her BFF/running partner Jenny before their 17-miler

36 Comments leave one →
  1. Paige permalink
    October 15, 2010 4:37 am

    I’m so moved and inspired. Thank you for sharing this wonderful running mother with us!! Good Luck in the marathon!! I know you’ll be awesome!!!

  2. Nancy M permalink
    October 15, 2010 5:27 am

    WOW Erin… I’m in awe. GOOD LUCK with the marathon, you will do great and I am cheering you on!

  3. Martha permalink
    October 15, 2010 5:46 am

    6:45 am and the tears are flowin’ What an amazing person! Thankyou for sharing your story!

  4. October 15, 2010 5:54 am

    Awesome and inspirational!! Way to go! And best of luck in the marathon! 🙂

  5. KarenM permalink
    October 15, 2010 6:23 am

    I love this story! And the pic of all the kids holding the signs is fabulous! Best of luck, Erin, on your first marathon!

  6. Lesley permalink
    October 15, 2010 6:30 am

    12 KIDS!~!!!!! Wow, I thought 4 complicated my running time!!! Fighter is my finishing song. No matter what the distance I am running…the last KM is that song. I start with “Lose Yourself” Eminem and finish with CA!!! You are an inspiration to all Chicks who RLAM!!!

  7. October 15, 2010 7:09 am

    Wow, seriously inspiring woman! What a great reminder that there is always room for a run. I love that picture from Ragnar–I bet you had the hugest smile when you passed them! Best of luck at the marathon–I’m sure you’ll be awesome!!

  8. Csaf permalink
    October 15, 2010 7:30 am

    So inspiring! I’ll stop whining now about having 3 kids and a job and being too tired to get up at 5am and run!

    I also have “Fighter” on my play list. It seriously pumps me up. LOVE that song!!

  9. Joanne Godfrey permalink
    October 15, 2010 8:09 am

    although i don’t know you, i WISH i could be there to cheer you on! what an inspiration, not to just moms, but to your children!

  10. October 15, 2010 8:45 am

    What an amazing mom to follow! I don’ t know how you guys find them – but she is truly inspiring! I promise not to complain about my 2 kids ever again 🙂

  11. October 15, 2010 9:03 am

    How amazing that she can pull off a whole marathon with so many children. What an amazing feat. 🙂

  12. October 15, 2010 9:36 am

    All that came to mind was “WOW!” Thank you for sharing YOU!

  13. October 15, 2010 9:59 am

    I realize it has already been said, but I have to echo… WOW! Truly amazing and selfless. Best of luck with the marathon!

  14. Rebecca permalink
    October 15, 2010 10:21 am

    How cute are you?! You are truly an inspiration! As a 28 year old I think about the day where I may want to have kids and I doubt my ability to do it. If you can do it with 12, can’t I do it with 1 or 2?

    Good luck with the marathon! Enjoy the experience!

  15. IA Running Momma permalink
    October 15, 2010 12:06 pm

    Awesome story! See NOONE should have any excuses for not working out! Way to go! You are an inspiration!

  16. October 15, 2010 12:17 pm

    Oh yeah…not worthy. Wow!! Good luck and thanks for sharing your story! ~K

  17. Alana C permalink
    October 15, 2010 1:49 pm

    I’ve known Erin 9 years and she is truely an inspiration to me in all ways of life. Her relationship with her husband and family is amazing and her dedication to training and work are unmatched. I’ve watched her from a newbie runner to an outstanding athlete and love her accomplishments. Wish I had her strength! LOVE YOU ERIN!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Anna Thorburn permalink
    October 15, 2010 4:13 pm

    Go Erin!! I have 5 children (2 bio, 3 adopted) and one of my good friends just ran her first marathon last weekend–she has 8 children ranging from 1 yrs to 12 yrs old. Moms who manage a household of children well are very capable of managing a running schedule. 🙂
    Good job, keep going!

  19. Anna Thorburn permalink
    October 15, 2010 4:16 pm

    ERIN! Do you work for Adopt America Network, by any chance? 🙂
    You are a kindred spirit

  20. Cybele Smith permalink
    October 15, 2010 4:28 pm

    Awesome, no excuses story! I start every fun with that song “Fighter”. You are going to be so proud when you finish that race. Awe inspiring!

  21. October 15, 2010 4:49 pm

    I’m the oldest of seven and the oldest of 30+ grandchildren. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the mother of 12. Thank you for sharing!

  22. October 15, 2010 5:02 pm

    Wow! Go, Erin! Running mamas rock — and a mama with 12 kids who runs? Well, she rocks x12! Have a great marathon!

  23. Tamica Kenyon permalink
    October 15, 2010 7:16 pm

    Hi Erin!! You go girl. I am the friend that Anna Thorburn is talking about. I just ran my first marathon. My husband and eight children were waiting(actually eating their lunch) at the finish line and missed me finish. Oh well it was the thought that counts. I know you will do well. It IS all worth it! Enjoy your marathon. BTW I lost 50 lbs running is a great way to keep it off.

  24. Crystal in Canada! permalink
    October 15, 2010 8:32 pm

    Wow Erin, you are the Queen of RLAM! I am so proud and in awe of you for all you do as a Mom, Wife and Athlete! Congrats on your family, races, healthier you! GOOD LUCK in Las Vegas!!! I will be running the Marathon, too! (please pick me up if I am laying somewhere against a curb) Thanks for the inspiration and keep being the fabulous fighter that you are!

  25. Amanda permalink
    October 15, 2010 8:51 pm

    Hey, I’m an 11 min miler and I’m doing the Vegas alone too. I’m going to look for you and hit you up for parenting advice at mile 18!

  26. Erin permalink
    October 16, 2010 12:53 am

    Wow!!! If Erin can find time to run with 12 kids to take care of, I am fresh out of excuses. It’s time for me to get moving! Way to go, Erin. You are an inspiration! Good luck in Vegas!

  27. Kelly permalink
    October 16, 2010 8:11 am

    Erin will be inspiration to me when I can’t seem to motivate to get out the door!

  28. Suzanne permalink
    October 16, 2010 9:09 am

    All the moms you profile each week are so inspiring! Love Erin’s story and each Follow That Mother mom. Thank you for sharing them with us!

  29. Terzah permalink
    October 16, 2010 10:34 am

    What an inspiring runner and person!! I will definitely follow this mother. And I *love* the tip about chewing gum to keep out of the kids’ food–thank you!

  30. Erin Turner permalink
    October 16, 2010 10:51 am

    Amazing story! If a mom of 12 can do it, anyone can! Thanks for sharing Erin (I’m an Erin too). Your story is very encouraging. You are going to rock that marathon!

  31. Missy permalink
    October 16, 2010 2:53 pm

    Wow – are you runner 10? I did that leg a few years ago and boy how-dee!!!! If you did all of that running over Ragnar I am confident you will do a super job at your marathon.
    Rock on, Mom!!!

  32. October 17, 2010 2:32 pm

    Yup, another fantastic mother to feature, as usual! Thanks, RLAM, for keeping me inspired by the other moms out there who manage to make time for fitness. 🙂

  33. Janine permalink
    October 17, 2010 2:50 pm

    Good luck in your marathon, Erin! As a fellow AAI adoptive mom (with two kids from Ethiopia) and fellow flee-the-family-when-you-can runner, I’m thrilled that your inspiring story is being shared … so you can get all the great feedback and support you deserve!

  34. October 18, 2010 9:54 pm

    Yay, Erin! Proud to know you, girl!

    Mary, mom to 10

  35. October 21, 2010 1:11 pm

    You are one inspiring Mother!!! I can’t get my act together raising two children, and you have 12, just beautiful !!!! Congrats on ALL your success!!!!


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