Childbirth and marathon training: I have decided the two are a little alike. Not much, obviously – one involves pushing a fully grown human infant out of your lady bits, while the other requires you to put one foot in front of the other, over and over, for 26.2 miles.
THE A-Z OF RUNNING FOR MUMS
Recently had a baby and struggling to balance parenthood with running? This essential A to Z of running for mums will set you in the right direction!
Motherhood is both wonderful and a little bit shit.
It is often both of these during the course of a single day.
It is sometimes both of these within the space of a minute.
Occasionally, both the wonderful and shit bits of motherhood occur simultaneously – cue the baby eating her fish pie beautifully, while the three-year-old rolls around on the floor in a fit of rage because “it’s NOT POTATO-Y!” (It was.)
The wonderful bits make you feel like you are nailing parenting (child eats home-cooked dinner? Check. Child sits happily doing arts and crafts? Check).
The shit bits make you curse the fact you jinxed everything by thinking you were nailing it. (Why? WHY would you even think that??)
The wonderful bits make you feel like Supermum – the telly is off, all the crappy plastic toys are away and you’re about to go for a walk in the woods together. You will probably skip. You might even build a den. Fun!
The shit bits are infuriating to the point of driving you slowly insane…
Me: “Sweetheart, you can’t wear your sandals in the woods – you’ll get stones in your shoes.”
Three-year-old: “I WANT TO WEAR SANDALS.”
Me: “But stones will get in them – it will hurt.”
Three-year-old: “But I WANT them.”
Me: “But your feet will get hurt. Look, let’s put your trainers on.”
Three-year-old: “I WANT my SANDALS and I HATE YOU!”
Me: “OK, wear your sandals.”
Three-year-old [hurling himself to the ground 22 seconds into our woodland walk]: “There’s a stone! A stone in my shoe! I WANNA GO HOME!”
We all have our own ways of dealing with the shit bits of motherhood. I go running. OK, OK, I drink wine. But also, I go running (not while drinking wine).
Because running is alone time.
Running is cathartic.
Running is me and a trail and cool evening air.
Running is empowerment.
Running is that little piece of me before children.
And yes, running can also be aching legs and breathlessness and that painful stitch you just can’t shift (because, you know, sometimes running is a little bit shit, too).
And it’s those days when running is a little bit shit that it hits me: even on the tough days, I always come back to it. I come back to it because I know the wonderful bits outweigh the shit bits.
Running gives me perspective. It gives me the headspace to know that all those wonderful bits of motherhood – the smiles and cuddles and belly laughs; the boy telling me, “I really really really REALLY love you”; the baby’s warm milky breath on my shoulder at night – outweigh all the shit bits.
They outweigh them by a million miles.
A couple of times a week, while my husband is bathing the kids (i.e. getting them so hyped up with splashing and songs and bubbles it takes them about three hours to wind down), I retreat into my son’s bedroom with my yoga mat, and indulge in 15 minutes of yoga and stretching. In part, this is to ensure any post-run aches from the week get soothed, but I also do it because, well, it’s just bloody lovely, isn’t it?
Yoga. Alone. In my pants (if you can’t do yoga in your pants in the comfort of your own home, where can you?). Staring out of my son’s bedroom window, across the garden and up at the sky.
Except for one tiny detail.
I’ve been rumbled.
It didn’t take many sessions of my lovely alone-time routine for the little ones to figure out I was just next door. Just a few sessions before the shouts started:
‘Look, I’ve found Mummy! I don’t want my stories. I want to watch Mummy!’
So now, instead of having their bedtime stories curled up with Daddy in our bedroom, everyone sits on the sofa bed in my son’s room, listening to stories and watching me attempt sun salutations. Oh goody.
Nothing evokes ‘relaxation’ quite like listening to a three year old laughing hysterically at you while shouting, ‘Mummy, I can see your bum!’ (I might need to rethink the yoga-in-pants situation.)
And then, last night, just as I was about to yell, ‘OH MY GOD, GET OUT, ALL OF YOU! CAN’T I HAVE EVEN ONE MINUTE BY MYSELF THESE DAYS?’ (or something), a lovely thing happened.
It became audience participation.
My son performed a near-perfect downward-facing dog while asking excitedly, ‘Mummy, am I doing it? Am I doing it, Mummy?!’ My baby girl clambered around my legs, babbling away. We stood like trees (OK, we swayed like trees). And it was fun.
Yoga is about peace. But it is also about love.
I guess every now and then, my yoga time might be invaded. But that’s OK. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend some quality family time before bed.
My name is Claire and I’m a runner.
It’s been 31 days since my last run.
So I’m not sure I can legitimately class myself as a runner right now. In fact, I’m seriously considering changing the name of my blog to Keep Eating Chocolate Digestives Mummy. This would currently be more factually accurate.
There’s a catalogue of reasons for the lack of exercise (isn’t there always)…
The baby contracted gastroenteritis; my son had a bad cough; the baby had a bad cough; I had a bad cough. The baby still hasn’t quite grasped the all-important concept that night time is for sleeping. There is, instead, still a considerable amount of feeding going on. Which is fine – she’s only nine months old. In fact, this is very normal baby behaviour. But all things considered, it’s left me a tad exhausted.
Then there’s the latest development… the baby is on the move.
Yes, in an unprecedented development, my baby girl set off at a decent-paced crawl at the ripe old age of eight months. Considering my son didn’t make his move until almost 10 months, I thought I’d have more time to prepare for this.
I know what you’re thinking: how is she possibly blaming her lack of running on the baby’s crawling? But bear with me.
It comes down to that whole exhaustion thing again. These children of mine are pretty active little movers and shakers. But do they ever both move and shake in the same direction? Do they hell. Generally, it goes like this…
The baby heads into the kitchen, in an attempt to partake in her favourite activity (licking the bin), at exactly the same time my son shouts, ‘Mummy I’ve got my crayons, I don’t want paper’; I grab the baby under one arm and dash to rescue my walls; the baby decides to rearrange the DVDs (while casually popping a piece of crayon into her mouth) just as my son races upstairs to find a toy; he slides down the stairs on his stomach, hurtling at an alarming pace, at the exact moment the baby decides to attempt her first ascent; and just when I get a moment to try to engage my son in a puzzle, I hear the baby thundering off (she’s small, but she sounds like a medium-sized herd of wildebeest) towards the bathroom for her second-favourite activity (trying to wedge herself behind the toilet).
Honestly? It’s like I’ve been charged with caring for a couple of hyperactive lemmings.
The result: I don’t think I sit down. At all. For the whole day. Apart from perhaps lunchtime, when I momentarily park my arse on the sofa, in between requests for yogurts/new spoons/breadsticks/drinks.
This is motherhood. And it’s wonderful, and all-consuming, and vital, and rewarding, and frustrating, and awe-inspiring all rolled into one.
But it is tiring.
So something has had to give.
For the moment, that thing is running. Hopefully not for too long, or else my sanity might make a dash for it out the back door one day while I’m not looking. I’m hoping that over Christmas, while my husband is around a bit more to look after our little lemmings, I will get back into something of a running routine again. Slowly; steadily.
Despite all this, I’ve learned something very necessary over the past month: I need to give myself a break. Running used to be a top priority for me. And it’s still up there. But something else has taken its place.
Two little things, in fact.
And that’s just fine.
“I really like your blog,” my mum told me the other day.
Followed closely by a tentative:
“Although there’s not a lot of running in it, is there?”
Well, no actually. I suppose there isn’t.
But you see, I haven’t yet got my evenings back, because the baby still thinks it’s great to stay up late, and I’m really quite tired what with the night wakings, and I don’t have lots of childcare help during the days, and it’s been quite hot recently, and I’ve had a bit of a cough, and…
A friend recently said to me that if you really want something, you’ll find a way, and if you really don’t, you’ll find an excuse.
Which I think is pretty much the truth and has given me a bit of a kick up the arse.
Because when it comes to next year’s marathon, I really really want it. Not that you’d know, because I’ve been making a fair few excuses recently.
I didn’t realise I was making excuses. I thought they were reasons. And pretty valid reasons at that.
But they’re not. And here’s why.
Because I knew I would have very little time to train when I signed up. Just like I knew I’d be tired, and I knew summer was approaching, and I knew – what with a two-year-old who goes to nursery once a week – illnesses would be frequent in our house.
But I signed up to run 26.2 miles regardless. And this time, that means signing up to the whole time-poor, tired package too.
I’ve just started reading Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running*. In it, he reveals he adopted the mantra, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional,” to see him through his many marathons.
I now know marathon training as a mother will be many things: painful, tiring, tough. It will require more dedication than I have ever had to apply to anything before. But by embracing this fact, it means it doesn’t have to be awful.
So. The first two goals? Upping my training days during the week and a half decent 10K time by September.
No. More. Excuses.
*I have two children and very little me-time. In two years I will probably still only be on chapter three.
I’ve spent so much time telling myself “I can’t”… that I forgot to try.
But this weekend, for the first time in a long time, I ran for 30 minutes. With no walk breaks. Four years ago, this would have been nothing. Today, it is everything.
This was an accidental development. I’d planned a couple of walk breaks during the half-hour outing, but for the first time since my humble comeback, I got caught up in the actual running and forgot to check my watch. By the time I’d made it off the roads and into the woods; by the time I’d escaped the cars and the concrete; by the time I was immersed in dirt tracks and tree roots and green leaves, I’d been running for 12 minutes. I’d missed the first walk break. I was about to stop and then a thought struck me… perhaps I could do this. I kept running. I missed the second walk break. I ran up a couple of pretty steep hills. Still no walk break. My timer hit 30:00:01. This was a big deal.
I’m stronger than I thought.
I was ecstatic when I arrived home… although I didn’t have a huge amount of time to revel in my achievement: the toddler was excitedly wielding a toy hammer and was having a crack at “fixing” everything in sight. Including the baby.
I dragged him into the bathroom with me, so my husband could have a bit of bonding time with the baby, and he pottered around banging the bathroom cupboard and sink, while I showered. And then he looked up at me and yelled:
“Mummy’s got balls!”
I questioned him quickly, before he yelled it again and freaked the hell out of his father.
“Look, there [pointing at my chest]! Where baby’s milk comes from. Balls.”
I’ve been worrying a little (OK, a lot) recently about the fact I’ve signed up to run the Brighton Marathon in ten months. I’m nowhere near the fitness level I’d like to be, I have two children to look after, there are a fair few sleepless nights (and, I fear, a lot more still to come), and I just don’t have the time I used to have to dedicate to marathon training (the last one was in 2011. Pre kids). But yesterday made me relax about the whole marathon thing. I’ll be fine.
I can run for half an hour. I’m stronger than I think. And I have balls.