Friday, July 25, 2014

Reflections One Year Later

One year ago today I returned to running two months after the birth of our third child.  I didn't take up running until our middle child was about 18 months old, so this was my first run with a postpartum body.  For months I had vacillated between excitement and horror when I thought about returning to running.  I knew it would hurt.  I knew I had lost all of my previous fitness and would have to claw my way back from ground zero.  But I also knew that running could give me balance again, save my sanity, and momentarily free my mind from the routine tasks of mothering three small children.

The night before my run, I laid out my clothes, iPod, and shoes and triple checked my alarm.  At dark o'thirty, I tried to talk myself out of going, but I knew it was now or never.  "Just get it done, lady," I told myself.  I stepped outside into a remarkably cool July morning, breathed in the fresh air, and took my first tentative steps.  And were they ever awkward.  Every inch of my body ached during the 60-second run intervals, and my lungs felt like they might explode after just a few steps.  As I plodded along, forcing myself to continue placing one foot in front of the other, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin, unable to recognize the former runner housed in my doughy postpartum body.

But as awkward and clunky as my body felt, my mind was elated to be out of the house and free to explore my own thoughts.  I love my baby and my older children dearly, but I was thrilled to have this tiny break from being a mom.  To enjoy a few moments where I was just me: out of shape, sleep deprived, milk-stained me.  And I loved every second of it.

My post-run FaceBook status perfectly captures my thoughts that day.

A year later and life feels very different.  In running, I've raced a 5k, two 10ks, and a half marathon over the past year, and I'm registered for a fall half marathon, too.  In life, the Little Lady is bursting with personality, trying to learn how to walk, and chatting up a storm.  I feel healthy, strong, balanced, and miles removed from that exhausted woman who forced her unwilling body to move 365 days ago.  But she's along with me on every run, reminding me of how far I've come.  I admire her courage to restart the journey when sleep was hard to find and when her pre-run ritual required not stretching but pumping breastmilk.  She encourages me to continue when the road is difficult and inspires me to keep trying when it would be easier to quit.  I'm grateful for all I've experienced in the past year, and I look forward to many more years to celebrate running, life, family, and friends.