I always took issue with the label "mother runner."
Why do we have to stuff moms into a box, stripping them even further of their individual identity? She's no longer just a person, she's a mom. No longer just a runner, she's a mom. "Mom" is the label. I don't work, I'm a working mom.
Krista used to be a runner. Krista used to have a career. Krista used to be Krista. Now she's a mother runner working mom.
3 Days Before Arrival vs. 9 Months After
And then I got it. I became a mom. And my running went to shit.
Let me be clear, being a "mother runner" doesn't equate to bad running. But becoming a mother, for me, changed everything about my running, which is exactly what I feared would happen, and, to be honest, made me even more frustrated with the mother runner title.
Since the moment the pregnancy test gave me a surprising positive -- 12 weeks into training for the 2017 Boston Marathon -- my running changed. First, because I was petrified of doing harm. But then because I was growing a human being within my own body, and as hard as I tried, I barely made it beyond 30 weeks of pregnancy with the occasional 1-mile hobble around my neighborhood.
That was the first strike against me. Running while pregnant. It was hard for me. So, so many women run seamlessly through their pregnancies. It looks effortless. They run every moment, up until the day they give birth. All the #fitpregnancy and #fitmom hashtags filling their Instagram posts.
Where are all the women who struggled? I couldn't find them. I am one of them. Running was very uncomfortable most of the time. The pressure on my bladder, the exhaustion, the ever-expanding midsection, the summer heat, the sore pelvis. It all beat me to the ground. I dreamed of running through pregnancy and maintaining a level of fitness that made me worthy of the #fitpregnancy hashtag.
That was not me.
I did run Boston that year at 13 weeks pregnant, though it was a very, very different race than originally planned. But after that? Running made a slow, tumbling decline into nonexistence. All the way until my son's preterm birth with a handful of complications that left my body recovering for nearly two months.
Some women are up and running, literally, three weeks after birth. I, with my continued postpartum bleeding and complications, was not one of them. And that stung, hard.
I am a strong runner. Was a strong runner. I could train hard and hit goals and maintain fitness with little mental effort. Nearly 20 marathons with two Boston finishes and 50 half marathons, all reaching their peak just before pregnancy. Now I'm lucky if I get myself out to run twice a week.
A running stroller helps, but it doesn't solve everything. The struggle is actually real.
My son is almost 14 months old and I'm still stuck.
This is not at all how I envisioned my glorious return to running. It's not that I've lost fitness, though I certainly have, I've just lost… me. That said, in exchange I've gained my son and built a family and I love being his mom more than I can put into any amount of words, but I never expected it to be so hard to find running again.
In the early months I could, and did, blame lack of sleep. I could blame breastfeeding. But Owen's now been sleeping through the night for months and only half-heartedly nurses once a day at bedtime. But I let it all trap me. The level of guilt I feel now if I want to head out for a run -- a task that used to be as simple as lacing up my shoes and kissing my husband goodbye -- is heavy.
Now I've interrupted his day. He needs to be "on duty," tending to our son's needs. What if he cries? What if he needs me? Our son, that is, not my husband. Although, I suppose the reverse could be true? I feel as though I'm shirking my duties as a mother by putting it on his father. Which is bullshit, to be clear, and not at all a mindset put in place by my husband. He's more likely to shove me out the door for a run than he is to even bat an eye at, well, being a dad. Of which he is a fantastic one.
But the logistics give me anxiety.
"OK, I'm heading out for a run. Feed him this and this and this at this time and make sure he gets a nap at this time, but don't forget to turn on his white noise machine or he won't sleep at all, and did you change his diaper, also don't take your eye off him, you know that bookshelf isn't secured to the wall, right?"
My anxious mind and need to control my entire environment debilitates me. It burns down my motivation. It makes me tired. It makes me absolutely, 100 percent unable to get my ass out the door to take care of my needs. I am laser-focused on the needs of my son, even though there are other, incredibly capable hands available to do the same.
Our weekday schedule is a plague of impossible. I can wake up to run at 4 a.m. or save it until 7 p.m. On the occasional good day, I can squeeze in a run during my lunch hour. But two out of three of those options are pure trash when your motivation is gone. My day is go-go-go from 5 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., and once I finally get our son's sweet, precious head down to sleep, the very, very last thing I can fathom is hitting the treadmill. And waking up at 4 a.m. to do the same? Please. On the weekends, I put it off. I'll wait until nap time. I'll feed him first. Let me just rest for a while before heading out. Before I know it, it's dark, I need to eat dinner, and every opportunity fell out the window.
Lather, rinse, repeat. Excuse, excuse, excuse. I am my own worst enemy. But those opportunities to run are my options and this is where I am. I need to make it work.
A former self would have hit the ground running. She would have stolen the opportunities she had when she had them. I once started a run at 3:58 a.m. just so I could squeeze in a 10-mile workout ahead of the work day while training for a goal race. Another time, just two years ago, I headed to the gym in the dead of winter at 7 p.m. regularly to do the same.
I miss her. I miss that woman who had drive and motivation. The one who had success with her running. The one who didn't scroll her social media feeds, finding herself in an ugly head space because every new mom around her was smashing goals and documenting the experience with ease.
Why couldn't I be them? Why did motherhood change my running? Where is my consistency? My drive? Where is my passion?
To be fair, I am running. Physically, I'm capable. And fine, actually. I've run three half marathons in the year since my son was born, and while none of them were earth shattering, they happened. My fitness isn't gone, although my endurance could use some work. I am capable -- physically.
But this mother runner has to get her head right. And that's been incredibly difficult. So few women in my orbit are documenting the same struggles I'm having. Are they not having them? I feel like the exception. Like the failure. Like my mother runner card should be revoked.
I think it's fair to say that passions change and priorities change, as much as I rebuffed that concept during pregnancy. Surely I'd always be a runner. This would never change. No way motherhood would take that from me.
And to a point, that's been true. I am still a runner. But my son does take up more space among my handful of priorities, as he should and as I'd like him to. As a mother runner working mom, my favorite label is "mom." I cherish it.
But I'm not done being a runner. I have personal records within me yet. I want more marathons. I want to break half marathon goals. This last year, 2018, the year of learning motherhood, has not been my year. I need to be OK with that. I need to trust I'm in good company with both the moms who are killing it in their comebacks and those, like me, who aren't.
This half marathon was completed AFTER becoming a mom. It can be done.
I'm taking 2019 back, I think. I'm making myself OK with being uncomfortable, even at 4 a.m. Even after bedtime. I'm taking care of my body, which has very much changed with motherhood and demands more of my attention and care.
I'll be 37 next year. I'll have an ever-curious toddler. I'll be a wife, I'll hold down my career. And I will be a runner. A mother runner, if you must.