Let’s start at the worst point. And I am SO. NOT. EXAGGERATING. I wanted to either pass out or throw up. My stomach was rolling. I felt gross. Everything kind of looked fuzzy. People cheering (shut up, please… I’m trying not to faint). A band playing (damn, that’s really loud). I could see the finish line but it seemed so far away. I remember telling myself I couldn’t stop. My kids were somewhere up there. Waiting for me. Watching for me.
Before we’d even reached the halfway point of the race, I started begging my friend, Olivia, who was running with me to run ahead but she refused. She stayed right next to me, knowing it was my first time. She had so much energy and I didn’t realize it then, but I’d made a rookie mistake… starting way too fast. Like running a whole minute faster per mile than my average training pace. By the first hill at mile 3, I felt like death.
I couldn’t breathe. My legs were screaming. I felt like I was 85 years old and in need of a hip replacement. Or a donut. MMMMmmmmmMMM…. Donuts. From Rise-N-Roll.
Anything to take my mind off of the fact that this whole race thing was anything but what I’d expected.
What is happening? I wondered to myself.
I trained for this. I’ve worked so hard. It’s 60 degrees outside. I shouldn’t feel this bad this far in.
Did I eat the wrong stuff last night for dinner?
Am I having an “off” day like Olivia and others had warned me sometimes happens on race day?
Then there was that last hill. I remember rounding the corner and staring straight up, thinking, Oh, hell no. Experienced runner-friends who have done that race in the past had also warned me about ‘tough hills toward the end.’
I’d shrugged it off, thinking I could handle anything. Seriously though, we might as well have been racing up a freaking mountain.
Hallelujia Hill, they call it. A happy little sign at the bottom said so.
What, no one thought of Hell Hill?
I Never Want to Run Up You Again Hill?
Somehow I made it to the top, super out of breath and wondering how Olivia made it look so effortless as she trotted practically in place waiting for me with an encouraging smile on her face.
I spotted a police officer friend of mine blocking traffic with his motorcycle and I may or may not have mouthed an expletive at him as I passed by. He laughed.
I saw another police officer friend a block down the road, looked at him and said, ‘HELP!’
“No hug?” he yelled with a smile on his face. “You can’t even say hi to me?”
I flipped him off. I was done. Dying. We were so close to the stupid finish line.
I should have just stuck with the 5K, I told myself. I could have killed that race.
Instead, here I was, the race killing me. I semi-sauntered across the finish line (Olivia – who has run 3 marathons and countless half marathons, 10K & 5K races – jumped, hands in the air) feeling disappointed, exhausted and defeated. Our official time was 1:01:58. I really wanted to finish under the 1-hour mark. Ugh.
“Well that sucked,” I said, scanning the crowd for my kids.
“What?” she asked. “You were awesome! You finished!”
I did. We did. I finished my first race.
The hi-light of the whole day was seeing my beautiful babies with my husband at that finish line, holding a sign and flowers. The guy had just worked a 24-hour shift at the fire station, picked up the kids at his parent’s house, got them dressed, fed them breakfast and made it to the finish line by 8 a.m. That’s pretty damn amazing!
AND my two oldest cuties got their picture in the newspaper the following day – an extra special keepsake from that first race.
I was really disappointed in myself for weeks after the race, but I could never figure out exactly why, aside from the time issue. I think I just expected to feel so much better during and afterward. Instead, I was literally sick to my stomach for hours and had no energy that day.
With time, I’ve been able to process the whole thing and in turn, really be proud of what I accomplished. Weird, I know.
It’s now been two months. I recently ran another 10K and did so much better with a time of 57:49. I started out a little slower than that first race and didn’t die on any hills because there weren’t any. Plus, my kiddos (yes, my husband once again wrangled all 3 to the finish line on time) got cotton candy & slushies. Can’t beat that!
Still, I haven’t decided if I love running, hate it or am somewhere in between. I don’t know if it’s a forever thing, a couple year thing or if I’ll stop in a few months. But somehow it has this grip on me. So much so that I'm currently training for the Chicago Half Marathon next month. Add that to the list of things I've never even thought about doing.... Who AM I!?
I don’t like how I feel if I miss a run – if I planned for it, scheduled it and for whatever reason, it still doesn’t happen. I don’t like waking up at 5 or 5:30 a.m. to get out and get my miles in (but let’s be honest, watching the sun rise on a country road during the summer in Indiana definitely doesn’t suck); but since my husband is a firefighter, that is literally the only time I have some days. I don’t like that I’m terrible at giving my body the rest and stretching time it so desperately needs to recover.
But I do like that all my pre-baby clothes finally fit again. (Too bad some of them are semi out of style now… or at least that’s what I tell my husband when I’m shopping for new ones.) I like that when I’m on the road, it’s my hour (sometimes longer) to myself – to think, to let go of things that have been bothering me annnnnnd to try not to pee my pants. Seriously… I always scoffed at women who knowingly told me my bladder control would change after having kids. I didn’t know that meant sneezes, coughs, laughter, burpees and running would become danger zones for my 31-year-old post baby body. Holy cow!
I also know that I love what running 4 days a week (along with barre workouts the other 2 or 3 days with a rest day thrown in the mix) is doing for my body and soul. I love that I’m now 4 pounds BELOW pre-baby weight and it’s still coming off. I love that I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since college. I love that after overhearing the ages of my children (1, 3 & 4) a stranger told me she never would have guessed I had that many kids so recently. I love hearing my boys say, ‘I’ll be back in a little bit, Mommy. I’m going for a run!’ as they jog laps around the inside of our home or out in the back yard. I love being able to keep up with my kids as an active, involved mom.
I also love that I can finally see the changes from all my hard work.
I have 3 kids under 5 years old. I work a full time job. My husband’s work schedule is crazy.
Those could easily become excuses NOT to take care of myself, but instead they are my motivation to work harder and be better. I have a few more pounds to lose until I hit my second “big goal” (getting back to pre-baby weight was the first).
These pictures also show my body hasn’t changed overnight. It’s been more than a year of consistent work.
Exercise is just one part of how I’m working toward a better version of myself. There are also nutritional and emotional aspects that have been crucial to the changes (shout out to my awesomely supportive husband who packs my lunch just about every single day). Don’t worry. I haven’t managed to cut out cake, chocolate or red meat… and ditching those is not in my long term plan. OMG and cheese. I love cheese too!
Someone recently asked me, ‘What’s your secret?’
At the time, it caught me off guard. The only answer I could give was, ‘Lots of really hard work,’ which is partially true.
But I also should have pointed out that I don’t put myself in some exclusive or elite club. I know lots and lots and LOTS of moms who run races – 5Ks, 10Ks, Half and Full Marathons – and squeeze in their workouts waaaaaay before the sun ever comes up.
The more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize I’m taking cues from those other strong women I know. I simply made myself a priority and decided I’m worth it. And that has made all the difference.
I'm a mom to 3 beautiful, spirited, elementary school-aged humans, I'm addicted to running + strength training, I have no filter & I work full time in the corporate world. But behind the scenes of all that is where it really gets interesting...