I started running when I was in junior high, and for 20 years, running has been my “thing.” I stink at most sports — definitely anything involving a ball or any other implement — but I can run. Which is fantastic, because running doesn’t demand good weather, or equipment other than good shoes, or rounding up other people for participation. For someone who’s big on routine, as I am, running just fits. Running is stability, recreation and release. And that’s why I’m so grateful that running has accompanied me this year, during my first pregnancy.
The first thing I did when I found out I was pregnant was go for a run. Not because the sight of two pink lines freaked me out and I needed to burn off some nervous energy — or not exclusively because of that — but because that was the next thing on my schedule for the day. Over the past eight months, running has provided a sense of normalcy on days when it has seemed that most stuff around and within me is in upheaval. Nauseated? Run it off. Exhausted? Run for energy. Stressed about trying to find, buy, move into a house? Anxious about another night of lousy sleep? Sweat that ish out.
In the spring, after getting the OK from my doctors, I managed to complete (and honestly enjoy) my ninth, slowest-ever half-marathon. In June, right before I hit the seven-months mark, baby and I got in a final 5K race. Two months later, I’m satisfied getting in a daily mile or two.
Sometimes, predictably, it has been frustrating to see my mileage plummet while my pace per mile soars. I worked hard for the marathon PR I notched two months before I got pregnant, and I get a little jumpy seeing my monthly running mileage amount to no more than what I used to be able to do in a week. I still feel a little embarrassed to be seen walking rather than running.
But as always, running for any distance or length of time is rewarding. And knowing I have a little running buddy with me makes it that much more so. I talk to this baby before and after my runs, thanking it for letting me head out to the gym or on the road for a bit. And despite the alien sensations in my abdomen — is that a knee moving across my belly? — running makes me feel like myself. That’s a feeling that can be hard to come by nowadays, and it’s much appreciated.
I’m inspired by friends and family members who ran, swam or otherwise stayed active throughout their pregnancies, and by their commitment to being fit and active new parents. I know that whenever I resume running post-pregnancy, I’ll need unprecedented reserves of patience. Running won’t be the same, but I’d like to think that I’ll run with a new sense of pride and purpose, cliché though that sounds. I’ve spent 30+ weeks tracking my pregnancy in terms of miles on the Chicago Marathon course. Right now, baby and I have a little more than a mile to go; we’re staring down that 25-mile marker on Michigan Avenue. This is perspective and peace of mind for me — I’m so grateful for this gift that running provides.
And it all has made me that much more excited to do my first post-partum marathon, whenever/wherever it happens. This time, I hope, I’ll be greeted by something even better than a medal at the finish: a new little cheerleader, waiting for me with Daddy.
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