Where I’m Going: The Next Marathon, Amidst Mommyhood

I ran my first marathon in Disney World in 2011. Almost two years later to the day I had a son and became a mom. He is dozing in a bouncer next to me as I write, my two month old   life changer– and it is for him, and myself, that I am ready to reclaim my running life to take on another marathon.

From an outsider’s perspective, I wonder if it will seem counter-intuitive that I am running a marathon for my son. I wonder if someone will question the amount of time I will seemingly be “taking away” from him in order to train, wondering how in the end that is good for him. And this misconception, I believe, is the trap many women– especially moms– fall into. We spend so much time taking care of everyone else, putting other’s needs in front of our own, that we let our own needs go by the wayside. I personally ascribe to the “airplane rule” of parenting: you have to put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others in putting on theirs– as counterintuitive as that may seem. For me, in my life, that oxygen mask is actually a pair of running sneakers. Running makes me calmer, makes me feel more in control; running gives me an outlet for stress, a reason to be healthier all around. Running is a defining aspect of who I am- one of the ways I see my life reflected back at me, without which I would feel lost. These are all reasons I truly believe running will ultimately make me a better mom– and in training for my next marathon, I expect to accept that as the next great truth of my life. I’ll be posting on this blog about the reclamation of my running life– writing about running, rearing a child, and likely some randomness (as you can see, you can expect some alliteration!)

I launch this blog for a few reasons:

  • Writing is a form of accountability: I don’t expect marathon training amidst motherhood to be easy- but publicizing my efforts should reinforce my commitment.
  • Moments can be captured: moments of an aspiring marathoner and new mom, so that I can always look back on ordinary days that might otherwise be forgotten.
  • A blog offers community: I hope to reach other runners- moms or not- and use this as a platform for a dialogue amongst us.

And so it begins…the road (back) to 26.2!

Where I Came From: The Story of My First Marathon, Pre-Mommyhood

The road-to-the-marathon began in 2009, long before motherhood, when I started running regularly again. Running was a major part of my high school years when I was on both the track and cross country teams. During college it trailed off, and during my first few years teaching middle school English it was non-existent. As I reflected on the struggles in my life– my feelings of slugishness, unmanaged anxiety and high stress– I realized a return to running would alleviate and combat all of that negativity. But knowing I am not the type of person who would run just to run, I told myself I would one day run a marathon…which I would, in 2011.  Along the way, I became a healthier, happier, better person.

It was admist my training for my 2nd half-marathon that I decided to officially register for the full. I can remember the day vividly: my husband Kegan and I were running 10 miles along the Spring Lake, NJ boardwalk, one of my favorite places to run. It was a picture perfect running day: the sun was shining, the breeze off of the ocean was cool, and I felt lighter with each step. I knew, then and there, that if 10 miles could feel easy, I was ready to run a full. That night I registered for the marathon. While I intended to train and run the race on my own, Kegan followed signed up a few weeks later, as did my good friend and colleague Kyle. All of a sudden it was a group effort, and I was so grateful for it. In fact, when I had to compete my longest training run of 22 miles, a group of 6 of us went out to do it, in the middle of December. Not many people can say they had companionship in training, and I am so lucky that I did.

I believe marathon training itself is an amazing experience. The commitment to running regularly brings a rhythm to your weeks. I would go to bed feeling achy and exhausted, but accomplished. Three days during the week Kyle and I headed out after work, and it was a great outlet during what was a stressful school year. We strengthened our friendship over those months, and when it was all over I missed having that time with him regularly. He kept me honest; days that I probably would’ve found an excuse not to run I couldn’t just skip it, because he was running, too. We were both running the marathon for our own reasons, but it was so wonderful to share training with him. Kegan and I ran together on the weekends for our long run. Sometimes couples say that they can’t run together, but we are compatible running partners. Since Kegan works such long hours, our Saturday long run was a time that we knew we would have together. We loved setting new distance records, laughing together when hysteria set in during later miles, encouraging one another when we struggled. I know that I have a great marriage, and our Saturday long runs together was a weekly reminder of that blessing.

When the 18 weeks of training ended and race day arrived, I could not believe how fast two years had gone by. The marathon was the culmination of what I had been working towards for so long, and I truly ran it as a celebration, a personal triumph. I chose Disney World because there is nowhere like it in the world to run. The tagline for their races is that “every mile is magic”. Literally that’s true– from the setting to entertainment to the level of joy and kindness from the volunteers and race organizers. I wanted to run my first marathon in a place that epitomized magic. A person needs to dig very deep to keep going mile after mile. But I did it all honestly with a smile (I have the photos to prove it!), because I knew the experience was transcendent. In an issue of Runner’s World, something Marc Parent wrote struck me as true for me and my marathon experience: “The run itself, though, had suddenly become indescribable. It wasn’t easy, but it was not hard, either. I didn’t know until that moment that there was a hidden gear between hard and easy. I tried to figure out what it felt like, but it was unlike anything else in life I could think of…The moment a run becomes indescribable is the moment it becomes private– not secret, just impossible to share…Distance is one of the only things in life you truly earn.”

Running is one of the most important aspects of my life, and training for and running my first marathon was easily one of the most important experiences of my life. I plan to run marathons again– I want to run one that I have to train for alone, I want to run one as a mother, I want to run in Disney again. Still, I know that there will never be anything like my first marathon, and for it, I am eternally grateful.