It’s been seven weeks since I last posted about running. It’s too bad, because I’ve come a long way since then…literally and figuratively.
My first run after having Mary Virginia seems so long ago because running feels totally different now. It has been a slow process, but my daily run no longer seems insurmountable. And about a month ago in the middle of a 3-mile run, I felt strong for about a block. That feeling has taken hold. Running feels good again.
It’s too bad that I didn’t write more along the way, because as if the transformation from then to now seems like TV magic. Like when Rachel Ray puts the batter in the oven, take a commercial break, and you come back and they’re all perfectly baked, cooled, and decorated like little footballs for your next Superbowl party.
Sometimes I worry that, to non-runners, it seems like there’s a magical group of people that running is easy for, and those are the people that run. But that’s not true. At least, it’s not true for me. Running is tough, getting in shape is hard and takes time no matter who you are. It definitely true that some people are naturally faster, but even the fast people put in work. Usually a lot of work.)
What I didn’t write about were the weeks when each mile was thick with effort and dread. The weeks when I couldn’t run more than five minutes without stopping, and would run out of dry places on my shirt to wipe the sweat from my face.
I hate that I didn’t document those runs more closely, because they’re maybe the most important ones. I’m glad those runs are behind me, the summer heat is breaking, and my weekly long runs will be in the double digits in no time. But even though I’m feeling more like myself in my running shoes, I still have a long way to go.
Even though I’ve made a lot of progress, I still don’t feel totally back. Here’s my progress report.
I started out by run/walking. I’d run about five minutes, then walk until I felt like I was ready to run again. Eventually I upped it to 10 minutes of running, or 15. I did that every day for a few weeks. The regimen wasn’t strict, I just ran until I felt like I needed to stop. And then one day we decided to run three miles without stopping. I was petrified. Then when the run was over, I was ready to host the Oscars in my living room. Because if I can run three miles without stopping, pulling off an event like the Oscars would be no big deal.
(The “we” is my neighbor and me. We’ve been running together for about a year. I wouldn’t have made this much progress if it wasn’t for the accountability of a running partner. I’ve written about this before: if you want to start running, get a partner. Doing something hard is 1000 times easier WITH someone.)
Now I’m running about 4-5 days a week, 3-4 miles on the weekdays and a long run on Saturday. It adds up to a little over 20 miles a week. I’m still training for the Richmond Half Marathon in November, and so far things are going well. I’m nervous about a lot for this race, but a lot of the things I was nervous about are falling into place. Covering the distance, for example, seems more doable after every long run. We’re up to 8 miles, and 10 miles is right around the corner. Once we do 10 we’re unstoppable.
My goals for the race are also flexible; like every race I run, my goals are on a sliding scale. First, I want finish and feel good doing so. Second, I wanted to run/walk in 2:30. If I run the whole thing, my goal was 2:15, with an optimistic goal of 2:10. Now that we’re training, we’re running all of our training runs at or under 10 min./mile. That would get us across the finish line in 2:11, meaning 2:10 is in the bag if all goes well. So now my optimistic goal is 2:05. Sub-2 hours? Dare we dream?
Probably the biggest thing I’m dealing with is exhaustion. Under normal circumstances, when you run a lot you need more sleep. But sleep just isn’t an option for me right now. I’m tired. I’m very, very tired. Mary Virginia isn’t anywhere close to sleeping through the night. She still wakes up every three hours or so, sometimes more. She also still likes to wake up very, very early. She’s slept until 7 a.m. maybe twice in her life. The combination of not sleeping, breastfeeding, and running 20+ miles a week is hard on me.
I don’t know if this is because of my general fatigue, but I’ve started to feel out of breath on long runs. We’re running a comfortable pace, but I start to breathe like I’m sprinting. That’s never happened to me before. I’m thinking it’s just because I need to build endurance? My hips are also achy, something I’ve never felt before. A friend reminded me that relaxin, the hormone produced during pregnancy that allows the pelvis to expand, is still in my system and that could be to blame. Makes sense to me.
And even though running is feeling better, I still feel like I have a long way to go. After each run I’m grateful to be done. And when we finish each long run, I feel like I couldn’t run another step. I blame it on fatigue, my 14-week hiatus, and then there’s the whole pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding thing. Let’s not forget that.
But I’m also really, really proud of myself. When David was almost four months old, I was still in a 2-2.5 mile routine. And now I have two kids to deal with and I’m running 20+ miles a week. So even though I’m slow and sweaty and my running clothes are still a little too snug in the midsection, I consider this serious progress.
Tom is also running the half marathon, which means we’re juggling running schedules and childcare.
Having running in my schedule is a lot. It’s definitely not something I have time to do, and absolutely not something I have energy to do. But I’ve been running so long, not running is out of the question, too.
It’s kind of great that training is always a process; gaining strength, endurance, and putting in the miles isn’t just a postpartum thing. All runners are generally working hard to improve, get faster, fit into their jeans. And that’s exactly where I am.
The other day I loaded up the stroller to take the kids to the park. When I started walking down the street, David said, “Run, Mommy! RUN!” I loved it. Who knows what will happen in the future, but for now I think it’s great that he loves running, too.