The other day I was glancing back through my Facebook photos when I happened upon the first album I created after my son was born.
Since one of the gifts those sleepless nights give us is a blissfully spotty memory of those early postpartum days, I was horrified to be served with a reminder of just how rough I looked post-birth.
Ok, so yes. I know pregnancy is a beautiful thing and that those first three months postpartum are not time to be launching a major campaign to get oneself back in shape. But I also know I was. In those photos, two weeks after Alan’s birth, where he is still curled on my chest, assuming the womb-position, I was running. Probably more than I should have been (15+ miles a week) and probably more than I would advise a friend to do in my same position. But I was. And ultimately it served its purpose.
It was not easy.
Alan did not sleep through the night until he was 15 months old. He is now almost 18 months and still nursing three times a day. Still, I ran.
I have to take extra pride in my fall marathon time because I did it on months of less than six hours of sleep per night, months of training that saw 20 mile runs immediately followed by stripping down and nursing and on time so limited that sometimes I would run to the children’s museum a few miles away to meet my family there while also meeting my daily run requirement. I trained pushing 65+ pounds of screaming children and their cumbersome gear and I woke up early, before them all so that I might run before they even woke.
So why am I having so much trouble motivating now? Now when life is so much smoother. Now when we average between seven and eight hours of sleep most nights (thank goodness) and my kids generally are “easier” than they were?
This training should be smooth sailing. I have done it once before, my children are older and I know better how to meet my goals. But instead of being easier, it has become more difficult.
I am more winded, harder to convince to run. I have spent the last five days out of training mode due to a back injury, most likely caused by constantly hauling a 25-pound meatball on my right hip. Never in all my eight years of constant running have I ever been so demotivated. Not even when I was eight months pregnant in the middle of June and had round ligament pain that was almost debilitating.
So, what gives?
Part of it seems to be fear. That I came so close last time, but it was just beginner’s luck. So much of what I read about marathon running seems to suggest that mine was a bit of a fluke—a confluence of good training (in a good season), a good day, good weather and good energy. The fact that I even came that close in my first hilly marathon is both convincing me I am capable and psyching me out. Because people train for years, better runners than I, and they keep missing their qualifying times by minutes. Why would I think I would be any better?
Perhaps what I am suffering from is less burnout and more just the general malaise that comes both from the Been There Done That’s and the Dark Dreariest of New England winter. I hope so. Because somewhere inside lies my deeper fear that this is, in fact, runner’s burnout and that I will never again look forward to waking at 4:30 to pump, meeting my friend at 5 a.m. on an icy road, three weeks after my baby was born just to get a few miles done.
I miss that drive, the sense that running was the only automatic part of my day. It never mattered how; I just always knew I would squeeze it in somewhere. And I still do. But it is no longer as easy. I am dragging and tired and not in the I Just Had A Baby way.
So I am asking anyone and everyone for advice. How does one keep their motivation high marathon after marathon? What do I need to regain my footing, so to speak? And how do I avoid the second marathon jinx that seems so pervasive on the running blogs I read? As always, advice is welcome.
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.