I’ve been running regularly for five years. I’ve run two marathons, five half marathons, a ten mile race, and countless 5Ks. I’ve run in the rain, in the cold, in the sun, and in the shade. But, for whatever reason, I didn’t consider myself a runner until I got pregnant.
Last January, when I found out I was having my first child, I was overjoyed. But also a little disappointed. I had signed up for what would be my sixth half marathon that spring, but morning sickness (and afternoon sickness and midday sickness and evening sickness and middle of the night sickness) kept me from training in the early months of my pregnancy. To run the race, my doctor and I decided, would be imprudent. The bigger I got the more uncomfortable I became, and running through the sweltering heat of the New Jersey summer was off the table. In the years since I began running I had taken it for granted. I hadn’t realized how important it was for my sanity, my serenity, my soul. Now it was taken from me, and I didn’t know how to get it back.
When I gave birth this October running was the last thing on my mind. I wanted to lose the baby weight, sure, but in the miasma of diapers and bottles and Sophie the giraffe I couldn’t imagine the person who would lace up her sneakers and head out the door. Even though running filled me with peace and joy (both of which I desperately needed those first few months) I just couldn’t do it.
At the end of January I returned to school and, what I hoped, would be a routine that would let me get on the road again. But once again I had underestimated the demands of being a mother and a teacher (also a kind of mother in many ways) would take. So I didn’t run. And I didn’t feel good about it, but as I struggled to adjust to my new routines and my new roles I couldn’t see how I would be able to fit in another layer to my already muddled identity.
Then my sister, my wonderfully interfering sister, stepped in. She registered me for the Brooklyn half marathon this May, even though I have not run a step since last January. She registered herself and my husband as well. They are both runners, too, always must faster and much stronger that I am. I was daunted by the challenge. Could I find the time for my training runs? Would my body, which had seemed so foreign to me for so long, cooperate? Return to its old routines and rhythms?
I went for my first run on Sunday. My sister, husband, and I took the baby to the park where we all got our training in. I pushed the carriage while my husband and sister ran. Then my husband pushed the carriage while my sister and I ran. It was only two miles, and I walked a lot, but they were two glorious miles.
I don’t know that I’ll be able to run all 13.1 miles this May. I may have to walk some of them. I may have to crawl some of them. But I’ll finish that race. Because I’m a runner. And that’s what runners do.