I’ve been a runner since middle school, when the cross-country coach saw some promise in my decidedly un-runnerish body and recruited me for the team. Though I was never the fastest, I was one of the more enthusiastic runners. Running, I discovered, gave me everything: motion, endorphins, discipline, fitness, and confidence.
Plus, it’s easy to do. All you need to run is a pair of shoes and a good jog bra.
I tried to run during my pregnancies, but stopped both times toward the end of my first trimester. I told myself I’d be back on it once the babies were born and my ligaments and joints didn’t wobble and jiggle on the inside and my pubic symphysis disappeared.
(For those who don’t know what pubic symphysis is, consider yourself lucky…it’s that feeling that something is jackhammering on your pelvic floor from the inside out, and it plagued me during my pregnancies.)
Coincidentally, Dimity MacDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea published a book called Run Like a Mother about a month after Henry was born. The book is hilarious, written in 26.2 chapters (the distance of a marathon is 26.2 miles), it’s an inspiring manifesto that encourages moms of all abilities to tap into their inner runner and get out on the roads or trails. It also deals with the embarrassing details of post partum running, like needing to wear two sports bras to contain milk-heavy breasts, and the delicate issue of “leaking,” after pushing a baby out of your nether parts.
I started to run about six weeks post-partum and pushed myself to train for a trail running half marathon that had about 2,000 feet of vertical elevation gain. Having the goal inspired me to regularly lace up my shoes even after sleepless nights with a fussy baby.
I ran the race, but it was hard. Super hard. My body was still loose, I had no sense of normal (did I run an eight minute mile or a 12-minute one now?), and my endurance was shot.
I swore that I’d chill the fuck out following my second pregnancy and take a solid six months off to recover. Then I gave birth to Silas in March 2012 (around the same time Dimity and Sarah published their second book, Train Like a Mother) and ignored my advice.
I exhausted myself logging miles in anticipation of running the same half marathon and the hopes that I’d shed the extra 20 pounds of baby weight I still carried. Run. Run. Run.
It was a schizophrenic experience. On one hand, I was pleased to get the running high and to make progress, however slow, toward reclaiming my body. On the other hand, I was more tired than I had EVER been, and on the mornings I was completely honest, I would have traded my 45-minute run for more sleep every single time.
Running was a slog. I kept doing it, but I whined and complained to my husband and friends, most of whom were moms whose kids were older than mine.They promised me it would get easier.
I hated when they said that.
I couldn’t fathom a day when ANYTHING would get easier, when the baby would sleep through the night and the toddler would dress himself, and the laundry would not stack up and the idea of cooking a meal wouldn’t make me want to cry and the prospect of a run was something to look forward to. It wouldn’t happen. I’d had two kids and ruined my life forever.
And then, something shifted. I can’t say when it was, but gradually I adjusted, the kids adjusted, more sleep came. Running became less of a slog. At first I was suspicious and afraid it wouldn’t last.
But it did. Running became part of almost every day. Getting out the door was a pleasure (more on that in another post…) and I felt myself growing stronger. So strong, in fact, that the idea of entering a marathon did not seem a batshit crazy move, and I convinced my friend Lisa to run the Portland, Oregon, marathon with me next October.
And I’m actually looking forward to it.
This morning I ran five miles in the bright spring sun and when I got home I realized it hadn’t hurt at all. It was smooth and steady, like my running had been 20 years ago in high school, and I hadn’t once thought of the kids at home or the effort it took to propel myself uphill. This even though Silas was up at midnight last night and wailed for 20 minutes before I got him back to sleep and tucked into his crib. Six months ago, that would have derailed me and I would have skipped the run.
But it’s getting easier. Just like my friends promised it would. Who knows? Maybe they were on to something.