When I was 7 months pregnant, I registered for the Philadelphia half-marathon. My baby would be 5 months old by the time the race arrived and I figured five months was plenty of time to figure out how to juggle a full-time job and a new baby and being a new single mom. Surely five months was ample time to “get it together.” I thought I should be ashamed of myself if I wasn’t able to fit marathon training into the mix. After all, I’ve run 2 full marathons, 3 halfs and a ten-miler. Running another half five months post-partum should be a piece of cake.
The Philly half was extra important. It is one of the runs on my marathon bucket list and last year I registered for the race and was supposed to run it with my daughter’s father. By the time it rolled around, I was 3 months pregnant, dealing with extreme fatigue, and he wasn’t speaking to me. Our fun and free friendship was over and life had become very real and raw. I gave up my place for someone else to run. It was a smack in the face when I already felt beaten.
By the time my second trimester came around, I was feeling great about my pregnancy, found support from others that filled the void left by Bella’s father, and I was determined. The Philly marathon became symbolic for me. Not only would it be a way for me to get back to running again, it was, in all honesty, a way for me to prove something. It was my way of saying, “not only am I going to single-handedly raise our child, I am going to do it like a super hero.”
Then my sweet Isabella arrived. She was almost a month late, the birth left me with physical complications, figuring out her schedule, my schedule, sleeping, working, nursing, and how to manage a baby and all her accessories living in a third floor walk up apartment, was overwhelming to say the least. I got in about 4 short runs in 5 months.
When I admitted to myself that there was no way I could run in Philly, I felt defeated. I had only become a runner in the last few years and now I felt like I lost that part of me. In the weeks leading up to the marathon, I faced major challenges with my car, my health, Bella’s health, and legal issues. These problems put me in a very low place mentally and emotionally. This really wasn’t how I saw all of this playing out.
I couldn’t sell my race bib, so I decided to go to Philly anyway. I strapped Bella in her carrier, hopped on the train and went to the race expo. Heck, I paid for my race packet, I might as well at least get the free t-shirt. This was the best decision I made all week. Being around the other runners who were pumped up and excited for the race was enough to lift my mood and make me feel normal again. It made me miss that community of runners that got me through the death of my father and his preceding illness. It made me realize I’m not defeated, I’m still a runner, I’m just taking a short pause for now. It felt so good that I got up the next morning, put my marathon shirt on, put Bella back in the carrier, and went to support my fellow marathoners. It was a beautiful day and I cried as I cheered and watched dozens of runners cross the finish line. That’s all it took to get me out of my bad funk and bring me back to reality.
When you run a marathon, each mile brings with it it’s own challenges and victories. The gun goes off and the first three or even five miles go by so fast you don’t even know what hit you. You are still smiling and excited and you are still smiling at those around you. As you run through the next 20+ miles, you may get cramps that you have to walk off, you come upon hills that you have to climb, you see people literally pass out, you lose time because you have to break for water and bathrooms, you speed up, you slow down, you listen to power music and you turn it off so you can hear the beautiful sound of a thousand rubber sneakers hitting the pavement. When you come to that last mile and the finish line is in view, you remember every early morning and late night run. You remember hitting the snooze and regretting it. You remember that long run when you beat your personal best. You feel every ache in your body and sometimes feel like you may never move again. You know that no matter what, it was all worth it. And as you cross over that finish line and see the crowds of people cheering, you feel a sense of accomplishment that is like no other.
This is, as I see it, exactly what life is all about. There are some miles that feel amazing and fly by like a breeze and there are others that feel close to death. There are miles where you can tell all your hard work paid off and there are miles where you know you could have worked a little harder. There are unexpected things that happen like cramps or a spectator handing you that cup of water at just the right moment. There are miles where you cry and miles where you laugh(and these May be one in the same). All in all, unless you’ve gone way off the path, you always have a sense that what you are doing is good and you are headed in the right direction.
Right now I’m in one of those miles where I am going uphill and feel a little cramp. Luckily, I can see the top of that hill and cramps are temporary.
See you all in Philly next November!