Even if you’ve been religiously following along here over the last eight months , it is very possible you have no clue I am a runner. I stopped running in the third trimester of pregnancy, and my baby beluga is already five months old.
It actually feels a bit silly to describe myself as a runner. I feel like an imposter, like someone living in the past.
It reminds me of when my Dad tells me that he ran three miles in under twenty minutes; he has a big grin on his face and looks like he feels very proud of himself:) Mind you, that run happened literally thirty five years ago. I have never seen him run one mile. But when he tells his story, it’s like it happened yesterday.
It feels more honest to say I was a runner.
I mean technically I do still run (about eight slow miles a week). But these days, my “runs” have morphed into something I barely would have laced up my running shoes for less than three years ago.
I’ve run 5k’s to 50k’s and everything in between. And I’m one of those weirdos that actually really enjoys it.
But running, like all things after children, changed.
Before children, I used to run to stay healthy, and push myself to improve by setting new speed or distance goals. I would use my runs to blow off minor frustrations so I was a better human. And I loved the way it made me feel like I was doing something good for myself. I also loved how it took very little gear and prep, and didn’t require anyone else but myself.
Running was my athletic equivalent of a soulmate. It was so reliable and so simple. I was never remarkably fast, but it was my happy place.
And, every once in awhile I would find the perfect human to join me. Which, by the way, is harder than some might imagine. You need someone of similar speed, similar distance goals, not flaky, not turned off by a 6am start time, not afraid of using the bathroom outdoors, and loves embracing in a sweaty goodbye hug. When you find that person, the natural conversation makes the miles just slip by. It’s golden…but I digress.
There is very little that is simple about running five months postpartum. My legs feel heavy because I don’t run as often as I used to, and I’m still carrying a few extra pounds. I barely believe that the mile splits belong to me. My trusty old running partners now have young kids with unreliable sleep schedules. My husband and I have to draw straws to decide who gets to leave the house while the kids sleep. And I have no choice but to pump or breastfeed before a morning jog, because there is no comfort in running with full boobs. It would be so much easier to quit for awhile. But I can’t. I mean I could. It would make things more simple. But really I can’t.
When my first daughter was born I noticed it. And when my second daughter was born, it was confirmed. I am kind of a sh*ty mom if I don’t get personal space and time to blow off steam. Running just happens to be my thing, but the therapy it brings could be found in many other endorphine building activities.
Running is my me time. There are no kids crying and clinging to my legs. It makes me feel like a person with an identity that extends beyond Mom. There is so much clarity and free space to think, I feel like I could solve all the world’s biggest problems.
It is so much deeper than the limited thinking I do when toddlers and babies are around.
- Pondering if I have enough time to head to the grocery store before, or after, naptime.
- Contemplating if I really need to take my baby to the doctor for the cough that has lasted over a week.
- Lost down a rabbit hole for the hundredth time trying to figure out how to block the mindless videos of Blippi and Ryan’s Toy Reviews that keep popping up on Youtube Kids when I told my daughter she could watch Sesame Street.
The mental free space running provides me allows for thinking that reminds me that I am a person outside my children. Thinking about what I want to do with my future. Thinking about how the final chapter in my next book should flow. Thinking about my husband and family members individual needs. Thinking about how I feel. Thinking about how I can make the world a better place to be.
I care about my kids 100%, but I care about a lot of other things too. I notice that I have lots of big plans for myself when I take the time to pause (or in my case run) and point myself in the right direction.
After thirty five years I know myself. I’m not pretty when I don’t get that time. I suffer, my husband suffers, my kids suffers.
Running very well may not be your thang. I won’t hold it against you. But every parent needs their personal space, a healthy habit, and some mental time for thinking about things other than their all consuming beautiful monsters.
No matter how much free thinking space we have at home, one of our sweet bebes manages to figuratively climb right up and snuggle in. When we are near them they manage to fill every nook, in our minds, just like they manage to do with the tiniest spot next to us on the couch. Sometimes you just need to temporarily run away.
While my run time and distance goals are nothing to brag about these days, at least I’m not writing from a jail cell. I feel like a new pair of running shoes is a small price to pay for a mother’s sanity.
My time and distance goals are currently about climbing out of the fitness hole that swallows many of us up postpartum. Today I’m pressing on through the hard and ugly runs (10:30 mile pace, four miles) knowing that soon enough I’ll work on getting back to setting some PR’s (8:10 mile pace, half marathon here I come).
In the meantime I’ll think of running as a free therapy session.
- Runners, what are your personal qualifications for a solid running partner?
- Those that hate running, what activity do you use as your own “therapy” to make you a happier, healthy person?