I had baby #2 in late August. I had a 4 year old who never, ever slept. I was bribing her with dollar bills to stay in her room at night. The baby only slept in three hour increments day or night. My husband (now ex-husband) was always at work. I worked a few nights a week when he was home for extra income, and always came home to chaos and a giant mess. Hello sleep deprivation! After 3 months of stress I got sick and went to the doctor. He checked my weight and said “you’re twenty pounds heavier than you were 16 months ago when you were here last”. Really? As I explain to him I’m sleep deprived, have a newborn and a very energetic 4 year old, and can’t think straight. His response “you’re breast feeding, and should be back to pre-pregnancy weight, no excuses women do it all the time”. I didn’t cry until I got to my car. Was he kidding? The next day I started walking, at night after my hyper 4 year old stayed in bed for a dollar. (I don’t recall ever paying her so I think I’m in trouble), doing some of those silly home workouts. I was never inactive, but I had not actively exercised for a few years. I got wrapped up in being mom, wife, and homemaker. So after I started walking, I tried to stop eating, but food was the only thing I was running off of for energy because caffeine is a no-no when breastfeeding. I started to lose a few pounds. A friend asked me to join the Y with her in the spring, so I did although my husband frowned upon it. Two hours to put the kids in child watch a day, I half considered taking a nap the first few weeks instead of working out. I was taking fitness classes trying to get my weight back to where the doctor wanted it. I took a boot camp class one night, and we were supposed to run a mile as a warm up. I have never run a mile, ever. I was so scared, I was still out of shape but better than a few months prior, I went very, very slow. A few years later the instructor recalled that first class and we laughed about how I barely made it. After that slow mile I realized I needed to work harder, because the entire class almost killed me. I started taking spin classes, I met a few people through classes who convinced me to start going to Master’s Swim, because it would help my cardio (I was a major huff and puffer). Boot camp and running that mile were still killing me, but I had 2 hours a day where the energizer bunny (my 4 year old) could go play and the crying baby was managed by someone else. My weight was dropping, my fitness was getting better. I was even running 2 miles at a time on the treadmill or around the loop behind the Y.
A friend convinced me to sign up for a triathlon. I still hated running. But was loving swimming and cycling. I didn’t sign up for one triathlon when it was suggested. I signed up for three, and a 5k. It was great motivation to keep working on my fitness. Finishing my first 5k was rewarding, but I still didn’t like running. After I completed the Pittsford Tri I was hooked! Even though I had to run. I completed Mini Mussel Man and Finger Lakes Sprint Tri that summer. It took me almost 2 years to be able to finish an event like this. Pretty good for an overweight mom. I was still not down to my pre-pregnancy weight, but I was healthy, I hadn’t been to the doctor once since that day I left crying. My children were finally starting to sleep more than four hours a night. I was healthy, physically. My marriage was not healthy. My husband was resentful that I was getting healthy, he made me feel bad for buying healthy food, and criticized me for exercising. After that summer when I finished some good fitness goals, we filed for divorce. I was only working part time when we parted ways. I found a fulltime job and we moved into a two bedroom apartment. It was a very hard transition. I still tried like hell to keep up with my fitness, during my 2 year divorce. Training helped keep me calm. But swimming, biking, and running was time consuming. I did what I could when I could with a 2 and 6 year old on my hip. Staying active kept my mind off of the stress of getting divorced, of being told to leave my home, and taking care of two small kids, on my own most of the time. Running was still my least favorite thing to do.
I met Mancandy, a few years later. Fitness, and racing were what we had in common. We signed up for the Flower City Du and Half a race weekend where you complete one Race Saturday, and one Sunday. It was my biggest fitness challenge at that time. I had never run more than a 10k at this point so I knew I had to run. Running was still really hard for me, and I tolerated it. I liked seeing how strong I was physically and mentally, so I tried to embrace running.
Fast forward a few more years, I buy a house. My brother has a severe stroke one week before I close on my home. He has major surgery and ends up on a coma for five days. He had a long road to recovery, and needed his family. It was early December. He was transferred to Brain Injury Rehab just before Christmas and spent a month there. Life was stressful. I spent my days working, picking up my kids and running to the hospital. Moving, unpacking, and feeling stressed out and heart broken. I didn’t have time for the gym. I did have time to run for a half hour a few times a week, when I found a sitter or my mom came over, or when my kids were with their dad. After months of home buying stress, and helping with my brother I was feeling out of shape, sad, and missing the fitness I had gained. Running was what I had time for. I had joined a local women’s running group, I had lost more weight. My doctor was no longer focused on my weight. (I still weigh more now than I did in 2004). But because I was so active he decided my weight was not an issue.
At this point in my life as a full time mom, full time employee, and part time student, I still haven’t found much time for training for Triathlons again. It’s been 2 years since my last Tri. I miss it. I was starting to toy with the idea of training for a Sprint Distance again. (I’ve done numerous Sprint and Olympic Triathlons, and several Duathlons since I was bit by the bug). Life is crazy busy and somewhere along the way running has become therapeutic. I don’t just tolerate it anymore. Maybe it was finding a group of women to run with for a while that helped. Maybe it’s because it’s easy to lace up and head out the door. But now when I’m stressed out, I head out for a run. It’s what I have time for. I can escape, shut off my mind. No one can scream “MOM”! My kids are also old enough to manage themselves for an hour now so it’s easy to run anytime. I’ve run a few marathons now and I actually enjoy distance training. I even go out and run 12-16 miles as my long run for “maintenance” now. Running a marathon is still not pleasant for me. I enjoy trail running it’s a place where I get a sense of calm that overcomes me.
I became a runner on accident. When life was hard, and I wanted to cry. Running was there. When I needed a break, running was there. When I only had 45 minutes to get in a sweat for the day at 5 am and the gym wasn’t open. Running was there. I’m not in love with running, because I would jump ship for training for a Triathlon in a second. But it’s there, it’s my friend, and it makes me feel good. Life has been a roller coaster for me for the last decade. Aside from my kids being a constant, and Mancandy for the last 7 years. The only other constant in my life has been running. It’s there when I need it. It waits for me, it accepts me no matter how out of shape or how fit I feel. It’s a challenge and always will be. Life is going to change on me again this summer. My never sleeping oldest child is going to be 16 and always sleeps. She wants to drive, god please help me. I will be working less and going to school more in order to finish a degree that I have worked on for what feels like…forever. But I know that running will be there as life is stressing me out, to calm me, and reassure me.
I have cried while running, it’s true. There are days where life just beats you down, and my only alone time has been running. As a single mom, you can’t cry when your kids are around. They need you to be their rock. I have gone for a 3, 4, 5, 6, 15 mile run to be alone, and let out all those emotions I have bottled up.
I became a runner on accident, because it’s what I have time for at this point in my life. I am okay with that, because running has brought me a lot of things. Friendships, community, calm when there a dark storm brewing inside of my head. Running and I have an understanding. I am ok with being a mediocre, accidental runner…for now, while other priorities are taking a front seat to some big fitness goals I’d like to accomplish someday.