When I trained for my first marathon as a childless and young 20-something-year-old, I used to worry so much about numbers. The 10% rule. Calorie counting. Stride rate. Paces. I still do think about numbers in relation to running but to what degree has changed for me since becoming a mom and really has changed since becoming a single parent. Now I find myself worried about a complete different set of things. How many miles can these once-again flat tires go? Is it too hot to go for a stroller run….too cold? Can that car up ahead see me pushing this stroller? How many solo miles can I crank out before my sitter has to leave? Did I remember to grab a juice box for her this time?
I am such a mom.
Some days it’s easy getting a run in. Other days it feels pretty much impossible. It’s on these impossible days (the days when I’m at home with a feverish child who is throwing up left and right) that I look towards my personal inspirations and know that although I may not get the run in today, I will get it done. Someday.
You see, in my realm of things that I’ve deemed important, I rarely give elite runners the time of day, especially males. It may sound sexist but it’s true! In my crazy beautiful life that I love so dearly, I am only so impressed by numbers and who won what. You know what does impress me beyond all measure?
Real mothers running.
The women who get up bright and early to squeeze in miles before the kids wake up, get their kids on the bus, run their households, make sure the bills are paid, make supper, bake cupcakes for the school fundraiser, and somewhere in the blissful chaos of raising their children are out there racing (and some of these mother runners are racing exceptionally well — just look at what one of our writers accomplished recently). Truly, I am beyond impressed by these women, these mother runners.
A few weeks ago I started asking some moms in my circle why did they run and how has their running evolved throughout motherhood. Here’s what four über mother runners had to say.
It’s the summer of 1989, and I am stressed out trying to pack up a new baby, a baby jogger, and find the directions to The Iola 5k Race. As I pull into the parking lot, I hear the gun go off to start the race! Yikes, I should probably turn around and just go home, right? Wrong, not me! I strap my oldest into the jogger and take off a couple hundred yards behind the pack of runners. Now I had something to prove: that I could be a new mom, competitive and still do the sport I love…running. That’s one of my favorite memories, because I actually got first place that year in my age division, and still have the coolest trophy. The trophy doesn’t signify my winning, as even though it is fun to win, it is the fact that I proved to myself that I could remain fit and teach my boys the same lifestyle. Yes, it is a lifestyle! For the next 24 years, as a family and going solo, I have explored all types of fitness activities, with running as my base. At 53 years old, I am now a competitive snowshoe racer, do a triathlon or two a year, and try to at least do something active every day. I have learned that I don’t need to put in the mega miles to be a good runner, as weight training, biking, long trail walks, kayaking, racquetball, tennis, and snowshoeing all contribute to my overall fitness, and actually, make me a faster runner than when I ran that Iola race in my late twenties!
While this may all sound easy, truthfully, every day I have to make the effort, and I am always grateful when I do. Having a girlfriend (training partner) with kids also helped pull me off the couch some days. Exercise and fitness also make me better at my job. I am a better employee because I stay active and healthy. Lastly, I think of the active lifestyle I have instilled in my 22 and 24 year old boys. Yes, from those early days of pushing them in joggers, to strapping snowshoes on their feet, to hitting a tennis ball on the garage door, they continue to love sports, competition, and fitness.
The saying “Just Do It” is something we all should say when we wake up every morning…I do!
I have tried to answer the question, “Why do I run?” I do not have an answer. I have no idea why I run except to say that it’s just a part of me to do so. However, what I can explain is is how my running has evolved over the years.
I remember running as a small child and really just enjoyed the feeling of running. At age 7, I remember beating the boys in 2nd grade in our 100 yard dash. I was always physically active and growing up in Ohio we had to walk or run to and from school. We didn’t have a car so walking or running was how we got to the store and back. So, pretty much everywhere I went I walked or ran.
It wasn’t until my teen years after moving from Ohio to Georgia that I started to run for exercise. I joined the track team in my junior and senior years in high school and then joined the first cross-country team in my senior year. I ran the 1-mile and 2-mile events and was the second best girl on my team. I was also the second best girl on my cross-country team. I fell in love with cross-country and enjoyed trail running more than I ever did on the roads.
I continued to run through college on and off but really became burnt out on it mostly from over training and the stress of competition from my track coach. He meant well, but it was too much pressure because I had always ran for enjoyment and now I was being pushed to run. Running for time became a new concept and one that has stuck with me for life. I just can’t seem to shake it or the self-inflicted pressure I feel when I race. However, it’s a good stress because it drives me to do my best and to stay motivated.
I took a break from running for several years in my mid 20’s mostly because I incurred an Achilles tendon injury that hurt for three years. So, I became a gym rat and participated in group exercise classes for 13 years. I’ve tried everything except Cross-Fit and Zumba.
After the birth of my second child, and after nearly a year of exercise and trying to lose the weight, I just couldn’t shake the last 10 pounds. I decided to take up running on a treadmill before my exercise class. I quickly lost the weight, signed up for a local 5k, and after six weeks of training, I ran the 5k in 25:32 minutes and won my age group. I’ve been running ever since and that was nearly eight years ago.
I was lucky enough to break my elbow nearly two years ago when I fell of my bike. I couldn’t continue to strength train so I began running more. I ran my first 10 mile training road run in July 2011, and it was so hard in mile 8, but I pushed through to get to mile 10. I always thought I’d like to try a 10k and so I did and won my age group there that same summer, but I still really liked the fast 5k’s best.
Surprisingly my goals continued to change as I started to find local long distance runners to run with on occasion. I couldn’t find anyone to run with me for 3-5 miles, but boy could I find some long distance runners!
I decided to sign up for a tough trail race in the local North Georgia mountains. It was the hardest run and race I ever ran because it was a 30k but ended up being one mile longer than advertised. I had never run 19.6 miles before. I thought that race in Nov. 2011 would kill me, but it didn’t. I started seriously training on mountain trails in Jan 2012 and have been running trail marathons and ultras ever since.
In 2012, I decided to take a race journey whereby I wanted to run and get a taste of different kinds of races. I really just wanted to find my “niche” in the ultra world. I ran a 12 hour trail race (38.65 miles winning first female), 24 hour race (1 mile flat loop for 70 miles placing 5th female), two 50k races, 2 trail marathon races, and a 50 mile trail race.
So far, in 2013 I won first place overall in a 12 hour race and broke the course record running 50.7 miles over 7800 feet of elevation gain, ran my first road marathon although 2/3 of this race was on back graveled roads, and ran a 65 mile point-to-point race covering 31,000 feet of elevation change placing 8th female.
It’s amazing to me, that as a 42 year old wife, mother, and full-time working nurse, that I have recently become stronger and faster. I never expected it. I am just thrilled to have had the opportunity to push myself farther and harder, running the trails I love, and that I once thought I could never do. Somehow, I just appreciate it more in a way that I never thought would happen for me. But, I’m so happy that I didn’t give up and that I continue to try. I know that if I can do this than anyone can.
~Rachel Middleton Clark~
Even though I ran track my junior year of high school as a sprinter and very sporadically as an adult I never considered myself a runner. It was too hard. My lungs burned, my legs ached. I tended to shy away from things that hurt so any visit with running would be short lived. That changed the summer of 2010. Now a mother of four my family was complete. My youngest wasn’t quite two and I had recently stopped nursing. I joined a site called My Fitness Pal to keep track of calories in order to shed the last few pounds. It was through friends I made on that site that I was reintroduced to running with a program called couch potato to 5k or C25K. I ran on the treadmill so I could keep track of my distance. This also made it easier to fit in as I could jump on while the kids played. I lost the weight quickly but the running did not come as easy. I remember those early days of running being such a struggle. I hated it but I wanted to love it and I would, eventually.
I signed up to run a 5k at the completion of C25k. Just three days before the race I injured my knee doing the most menial tasks of motherhood, changing a diaper. I was told I had bursitis and would need to take 4-6 weeks off to let it heal. What a disappointment and just when I was getting the hang of things. That winter as soon as I was able I took my running outside. That’s when I fell in love. There is something about running outside. I feel such a sense of freedom. The fresh air, the sights and sounds are so refreshing!
Running has made me realize I am capable of much more than I thought. It challenges me physically and mentally. I raced a lot that first year from 5k to half marathon. I was just so glad I could run that whenever someone asked me about my running I’d always shrug it off and say “Yeah I run but I’m slow.” I soon realized if I kept telling myself I’m slow that’s what I was going to be. I changed my mantra and later surprised myself by placing in my age group a few times and even first female overall! I run mostly for enjoyment now and as a way to keep fit. Running has been a great tool for the whole family. You will often find us in the summer running together at the track or racing. I love that it’s a healthy activity we a can all do together. We even started our own race, the Lake Esadore 5k.
As summer approaches I’m eager to cover new ground. I recently dipped my toes into ultra running and ran the Tuscobia 35. My feet are anxious to be led to their next adventure. I can’t wait to see just how far I can run…50, 100 miles maybe, not for any purpose just because I can. I run because I can and I am so thankful for that.
My whole life I have been active, played all sports in high school and was on Varsity, joined the Army National Guard while a Junior in high school, and worked the family farm from a very young age. These events eventually led me to what I refer to now as my therapy. Running is a place I go, a state of mind I enter, my sanctuary.
The action of running has not always been a joy though. While I was younger working the farm, playing sports, and serving my country I had a silent medical issue brewing in my feet. I remember the pain surging in my ankles as I would trot through the hallways on a wintery afternoon through my high school building up endurance for basketball season. I remember the zing in my ankles when I would come down from a rebound and the pain surges that riddled my ankle as I would trot across the corn rows running through acres and acres of irrigated territory inspecting the water flow down each row. My mantra was “don’t be a wuss Megan, no pain no gain”. I had no idea at that time that I may have had a real issue.
Five years later, I was still running and staying active enduring the discomfort just so I could escape the real world and spend time in my running place. I deployed to Iraq another three years later and running remained my temporary escape from the realities of War and sharing a tent with ten other females. After a year in Iraq, driving trucks over dangerous red routes, engaging the enemy, running security operations on our base perimeter, and doing all of this while toting around a battle load of 1,000 rounds of ammo and a Squad Automatic Weapon weighing about 17 pounds empty, I decided to go to the dark side of military and recruit in my home town. During a recruiting event set up, I fell from the top of a climbing wall 20 feet to the ground and severely sprained my ankle. After an MRI I learned that I had severe Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) of the talus in both ankles and needed surgery. Surgery consisted of microfracture and limited me for quite some time.
Running was put on a shelf and would stay there for about 4 years until I decided one morning that I was going to beat my pain and find my sanctuary. I loaded up my twin boys in a stroller and retrained my body to learn how to mid foot strike and studied chi-running. I slowly trained and took care of my body listening for issues. I have had to stop and have microfracture surgery again and learned I needed more extensive procedures in the future, but each time I am thrown off that horse I take the time to get fixed. I heal and rest my body. I listen to my doctor and I get back on the horse that threw me off.
Running is so important not only for physical health but for mental health. It is my therapy even though I can only do a few times a week. When I run I feel empowered, I am strong, limitless, a beast of the wild. I can do all things and no one or thing can stop me. Everything seems so easy. When I run “I AM”.
About Lacy Lynn, BS, RRCA
Lacy has been a runner for 7 years. She is an aspiring breastfeeding counselor and self-proclaimed public health advocate. She runs because the beat of her own pace is what makes her feel alive. Her writing reflects her passion about encouraging others to find out what “inspire yourself” means. Throughout her own pregnancy and the subsequent postpartum months, she noted a lack of information for mother runners like herself and created Über Mother Runner to provide an experience-based resource for those looking.