Mama on the Run: Guest Blogger, Becky Schisler
I became a mother on July 26, 2010 and ran my first 5K on June 4, 2011. I realize these events may seem to fall into completely different categories, but I assure you, the latter would never have occurred had the former not preceded it. You see, until very recently, I have harbored a life-long hatred of running.
Beginning in the third grade, all students at my elementary school were required to run a mile twice a year as part of our physical fitness testing. I dreaded these days like no others. It’s not as if I wasn’t athletic; I was always very active and excelled at most other tests of physical fitness. Pull-ups were my specialty and I reveled in “beating” the other girls (and many of the boys) in my class in the number of times I could inch my chin over the bar. I was, and continue to be, very competitive, and that lead me to push myself in nearly all aspects of my life. Except the mile run. Oh, I’d start out optimistic and ready to take it on. I’d proclaim to my two best friends, “This is the year! I’m keeping up with you guys! I’m NOT going to walk!” Uh-huh. That lasted about three quarters of a lap around the old football field. It was if my body would turn against me. My legs were willing to keep going, but my lungs seemed to forget how to function, and before I knew it I was short of breath and my head was pounding. I saw a doctor and was checked for asthma and any other medical condition that might explain why I seemed to have zero endurance when it came to running. As there was seemingly nothing wrong with me, I just decided that I was not built for running, and that was that. So I openly hated and avoided it for the next 20 years.
Then my daughter, Lina, was born. As any mother knows, the first several weeks after having a baby are a blur of emotions and sleepless nights. My life became 100% devoted to this tiny new being who relied on me for everything. I lapped it up! But as the months ticked by, I began to grow antsy. For the first time in my adult life, I was not working outside the home. I appreciate that babies thrive on routine, but I felt if I didn’t do something to jazz up our day-to-day schedule, both my mind and body were going to turn into mush. I decided I needed to dig up that competitive spirit and challenge myself. It turns out that I never actually accepted the notion that I’m not built for running. In fact, the whole issue still really ticked me off, and after some supportive motivation from one of those childhood friends I was always trying to keep up with I was ready to do something about it.
I vowed that I was going to run for my baby, because she deserves a mother who will be fit enough to not only keep up with her, but to stay one step ahead of her. Before I could change my mind, I bought a used jogging stroller and charted my plan (Couch to 5K). It was the middle of January when I began my “training,” and although the first few weeks were technically the easiest as far as the workout went (there was more walking than jogging), it was quite an ordeal to undertake. I knew that I couldn’t yet handle the hills around my home, so three days a week I would load up my car with the jogging stroller, a very bundled-up baby, and my two dogs, and we’d drive to a local park with a long gravel walking path. I recall fumbling along hoping that I wasn’t giving Lina shaken baby syndrome from the bumpy path and feeling that familiar contempt rise in me each time I struggled to jog and breathe at the same time. The desire to quit was strong, but then I’d remind myself, “This is for Lina.” Mommy guilt is an extremely powerful motivator.
As the weeks progressed I noticed the jogs getting easier. The first time I ran for 20 minutes without walking I felt like I had accomplished something monumental. I began to look forward to pushing myself a bit further each week, and my reward was updating my friend about each little accomplishment. Before long I was measuring my runs in miles rather than minutes. I began waiting for my husband to get home in the evening to watch Lina so that I could go out for my run sans stroller. Pushing a stroller while jogging a few miles isn’t an easy feat, but, even more than that, I was enjoying this “alone” time – something I rarely get. I found that after these solo runs I was energized and eager to get back to the baby; it was a win-win!
Finally, the date of my 5k arrived. (Visit the archives June 4 posting for more about this race.) I had two goals. 1.) finish the race without walking and 2.) don’t come in dead last. I was excited at the start and had trouble keeping still as I took in my surroundings.
There was a casual yet charged vibe in the air, and when the race began I was ready to GO! A downhill start built my confidence, and my friend and I kept up a cheery chatter as we jogged through a residential area. Many folks were sitting in their front yards rooting on the runners, and before I knew it, mile one was behind us. (Ha! Take THAT physical fitness test!)
Then the course got significantly hillier, and I’m afraid I left the bulk of the conversation to my friend. I could feel the early twinges of a cramp setting in beneath my right rib cage, so I tried to even my breathing. Over the next five minutes the cramp spread across my entire abdomen, and I haltingly asked my friend for advice on how to get rid of it. She gave me some suggestions, and asked if I needed to stop for a bit. The word “No!” flew out of my mouth, and I muttered something about it not being that bad. It was easier than childbirth at any rate. So I trudged on jogging slowly with my arms raised, and by the time we passed the second mile marker the cramp began to dissipate.
We continued to serpentine our way through the course, and when a particularly large hill loomed in the distance, my friend told me in an optimistic tone, “It’s not a hill, it’s just a mirage!” Liar. But it made me laugh all the same, and I thought about how the finish line couldn’t be too far beyond that hill. I was right, and as we rounded a turn at mile three, I could see both the finish and my family cheering us from the side of the road.
My eyes locked on to Lina, who seemed to love all of the excitement as she watched the runners go by. At only 10 months old, she had absolutely no idea what was going on, and she certainly could not realize that she was the reason I was able to cross that finish line having achieved both of my goals. As quickly as possible, we maneuvered through the crowd to find our cheering section. I picked up Lina and thought about how all I ever needed to become a runner was the right motivation. I just never imagined my motivation would wear diapers and enjoy endless rounds of peek-a-boo. Life is full of surprises!