I was reading my latest issue of Runner’s World today while my children screamed, threw cars/crayons at the barking dog and tried to slam one another’s fingers in the door. Since I am a stellar mom, I ignored the mayhem because I was engrossed in this month’s essay by Benjamin Cheever.
In it, Cheever discusses one of his most “memorable” runs. It is a beautifully written account not only of his run, but also of the relationship he has with his son. Running is such a personal sport and yet in this issue in particular, I was struck by how many of the articles and essays spoke to the issues I face: finding the time to run, squeezing it around my other activities and hoping that my dedication inspires my children to want to run as well.
But the real question: could I name my three most memorable runs? Obviously, I could name my most memorable races--the marathon, my half marathon last fall, my first 5k back in May of 2005—but what about just everyday workouts? The times I just felt strong and pushed, the runs that reminded me why I dedicate so much time and energy to the sport?
I can, indeed. And here they are:
1.) The first run after my daughter was born
It was about 10 days after Sam was born and I was eager to get moving again. Although I had been to the gym and used the recumbent bike and elliptical, my midwife has suggested I put off running until I felt “up to it," which was vague enough for me to think 10 days was perfect.
I had never really stopped working out. In fact, the day I had Sam, I walked five miles earlier that morning, so of course that meant working out again was easier than it might be for someone who cut out the gym early in pregnancy.
A friend had come to visit and I was grateful for her help since I was feeling overwhelmed by this new life for whom I was more than 50 percent responsible (at least on the weekdays). And so my friend told me to get out the door, that she would watch the baby and I could go for a run. I remember the feeling I had when I left her: a cross between abject terror at leaving her while also wanting to run far, far away. And I remember the way she slept so soundly on my friend’s chest while I crept out the door.
I was 40 pounds heavier than I had been the previous spring and I felt every pound on my legs. But I was surprised how light I felt everywhere else. It was only three miles and it took me much closer to a half hour than it had before, but I listened to my music, thought about how grateful I was for my health and my baby and I ran.
There is one point in my favorite four-miler where I pass a building. Often I catch a glimpse of my profile in it and I remember seeing myself that day, my body much wider and different than it was pre-Samara, but I also remember for the first time since her birth, that I did not care. That even though I looked like someone else, I felt like me. And during that run, for that half hour, that was all that mattered.
2.) The last run I had pregnant with Alan
The title of this post is Most Memorable Runs. It is not best. Because if it were, this one would not be on it. Because this one? Ouch.
I ran until I was almost full term with Alan (36 weeks). I had planned to go all the way until delivery, but that was before I encountered the shooting pain down my thighs, extreme exhaustion and frequent pee breaks that came along with intense pregnancy running.
I vowed to stop every few weeks and then surprised myself by continuing to run 10 miles a week (normally I do about 35, so this was a big scale back) until the fourth of July weekend.
I was at the lake house and it was a humid (and hideous) 85 degrees. We had guests that weekend and I was feeling bloated and heinous to behold so to make myself feel better, I went on a run. Bad plan. I forced myself to traverse all four miles, but each one was more excruciating than the last. 26.2 miles over hills has nothing on this run.
I truly wanted to die. I sobbed through half of it. But of course, since I am me, I kept on running. It took about an hour.
I can remember coming up the gravel path and spotting the house. Sweat poured down my forehead, my legs ached from toe to thigh, my sciatica was screaming, my heart racing and inside me, my little boy was kicking, moving and squirming. Even though there was a part of me that was terrified for what was coming, in that moment, I knew we had done our last run with him on the inside
3.) The final run before my marathon
Marathons make me emotional. My own marathon? Make me a wreck.
The day before my marathon, I was to jog a slow two miles around a 10-minute per mile pace. Very leisurely. It was pouring rain that day and I put on my new rain jacket, tightened the hood and walked out into it.
Almost immediately, I was in tears. I was scared and uncertain and feeling overwhelmed (actually, a lot like I felt after having my first baby). As I ran, I loosened my brain a little and let go of some of the fear. I thought about my mom and how excited she would probably be. I thought about my family and how lucky I am to have them. As crazy as it sounds and as difficult as they sometimes make it to schedule my running, I am not sure I would have attempted to qualify for Boston had it not been for them. And not just because labor convinced me I could do anything.
I feel so lucky to have them in my life, to have this husband I love so much who was unbelievably supportive in so many ways leading up to the marathon, taking the kids for hours at a time, making sure I had ample recovery time, always listening to my endless chatter about strategy and pacing. I thought about the three of them that last run in the rain and I got soaked (it was torrential) and I cried just as hard, but it was like a meditation on what was in store and a refuel of all I needed to push me through the next day. It worked.
Is it any wonder all three of my most memorable runs were also poignant moments for my family? I think not. Somehow the two—my running and my family—have become inextricably linked. My success with one is related to my success with the other.
Sasha Brown-Worsham is a writer, a mother and an unabashed, unashamed runaholic. Check her progress each week as she trains to qualify for the Boston Marathon.