Five Weeks, Four Kids in a Tent and a Collapsible Toilet

Theresa Ferguson and her family are embarking on a cross-country trip. Photo: Saucony 26 Strong

Theresa Ferguson is going through the same challenges as any first-time marathoner training through the summer. But she’s getting a more diverse view on her runs than most.

This summer, Theresa and her family are in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime, five-week trip across the country. Her husband is a teacher, and they’ve planned for this camping trip for years. But it has meant that for most of this month, running for Ferguson isn’t as simple as it was back in west suburban Chicago.

“We’re spending five weeks mostly camping in a tent,” she said. “Sometimes we’ll be in the mountains or in other places where running is difficult. My goal is to maintain where I am now so I can continue building when we get back.”

Ferguson, her husband and four kids — the youngest of which is 3 years old — will be visiting at least six National Parks in the western United States, from Rocky Mountain National Park to the Grand Canyon.

“We’re going from three full bathrooms at our house, to vault toilets at the campgrounds and a collapsible potty that travels with us as a back-up,” she says.

Last year they did a shorter trial run camping with the whole family in the tent—and experienced everything from 100-degree highs to 40 degree lows. “It taught us to be ready for anything,” Ferguson says.

As for her running, she worked with her veteran mentor, Kate DeProsperis, to devise a training plan that allowed her flexibility on the trip. “She’s been fantastic, helping me plan this and giving me the peace of mind that I’m going to be OK with this break from my regular training,” Ferguson said. “I’m going to focus on one speed workout and one long run each week. I’ll be hiking as cross-training. I don’t think it will be a problem getting my exercise.”

Ferguson left for the trip with an excellent training base, having finished a half marathon before she left. “On paper, it sounds like everything is in place,” she says. “Now I just have to make sure I can find the places to run.”

Chances are, she’ll be doing those runs in some of the most beautiful places in the country.

“This isn’t the normal way to train for a marathon,” Ferguson says. “But at the same time, how may people get the chance to run in our national parks?”

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