Can Running and Motherhood Mix?

Flexibility is key


Runners like to plan, plotting our weekly mileage, speeds, food/fuel intake and other variables so that we can improve next week's times. Mothers also like to plan—naptimes, activities, food and snacks—so it should stand to reason that motherhood and running ought to meld.

It should.

But very often it does not.

I started running races almost right away and soon found that one of the holdovers from my sprinting days was a bit of speed. Currently, my personal record (or, PR as we runners say) is a 22:50 5k. I am very competitive when it comes to running (and just about everything else in my life), so the big one—the 26.2 miler—has always eluded me. This is mostly because I am unwilling to "run" it. I need to race it. I need to be sub four hours and preferably qualify for the Boston Marathon. And for that I need to run it in 3 hours and 40 minutes, the gold standard. Eight minute miles all the way.

I relish pressure, I crave it, but to meet this goal while simultaneously raising a nearly 1-year-old and his crazy 2.5-year-old sister is a tall order indeed. The normal, important components of any good training program—stretching, resting, icing—are not available to me because just the hour I took to run is often too much for my husband (and the kids) to handle. My focus is almost always split and this leads to injury.

I should know. In the first six weeks of my training program thus far, I have had to take three off for injury. First my calf seized. Then my knee swelled up. My lower back hurt so much I could no longer bend over. You know you are in trouble when you have to take three Ibuprofen just to get up in the morning.

Recently, I have even started to question whether I can make it through the training program and meet the goals I have set (Boston qualifying time). After giving the matter a few days of thought I have decided to give myself permission to change my goals. I have come to the following conclusions:

1.) I am amending my marathon goal pace to four hours or under. I may not qualify for Boston (3:40), but I will still get bragging rights and feel ok with myself with this time, especially for my very first marathon.

2.) I will get a massage every other week to work through the injuries and speed up my recovery.

3.) If things get really ugly, I will downgrade my goal to the half marathon that is also taking place the day of my Oct. 4 marathon.

Having kids has taught me that flexibility is key. Do I want to run a 3:40 and meet the running dream I have had for six years? Yes, please. But I can't kill myself to get there.

And you know what? My runs have been better and less painful since I decided to let go. Exercise is for stress relief, fitness and good health. Sometimes I need to remind myself of these facts, especially when I find myself unable to play with my children because my knee is too swollen from running.

Let go. Let go. Let go. This is my new mantra.