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Feb 23 2012

Running Marathons is a Lot Like Having Kids

By at 11:05 am

marathon runnersLast month, I finished my third marathon. It was a good race and a triumphant experience.

Looking back on the five months of training, I still can’t believe how quickly it went by and how easy it was compared to my first marathon. Like raising my fourth baby, I have found myself trying to remember what was so hard the first time around.

I think Tamara Reese got it right when she wrote that her confidence as a parent strengthened as her child got older. Successfully raising my oldest child from a flailing little blob into a chatty kindergartener has definitely given me confidence in my parenting skills. All of the challenges along the way, from binky addiction to midnight stomach bugs, have taught me how to handle pretty much any situation that may come up.

The same thing has also happened with marathon training.  Each race has had its own set of challenges that I have had to overcome. While training for my first race, for instance, I was distracted by our move across the country and forgot to register for the event before the deadline. I was trained and ready to go when I realized I didn’t have a marathon to attend. Instead, I arranged for a group of friends to cheer me on and ran the 26.2 miles on my own.

While training for my second marathon, my husband deployed with his unit in the Marine Corps. Training in single-mom mode meant relying on babysitters more often and letting some of the house chores pile up. I also had a number of injuries during that training period, which tested my resolve. All of these things, like the challenges of motherhood, made me a stronger and more confident runner.

My experiences as a mom and a runner have also taught me how and when to relax and enjoy the quiet moments along the way.  With my first baby, I spent almost every minute thinking about how every little thing would affect her.  When she wasn’t attached to my boob or sleeping on my shoulder, I was reading a parenting book or just watching her. I remember looking at her in the bouncer one day and wondering if it was okay to sneak away to do the dishes. I felt guilty spending any time apart from her.

Things are very different with my fourth child. When she is sleeping or content, I put her down and get something done or just relax a bit. If no one is crying, and my children seem happy on their own, I usually let them be. In fact, I have to let them be sometimes or nothing would ever get done around my house.

My attitude for marathon training was also a lot calmer this time around. I didn’t obsess over each step, but rather ran when I had to and then got on with being a mom. I also didn’t worry about skipping a run here or there to enjoy my family, because I knew I would be fine. All of the mysteries of my first experiences have been replaced with the comfort of knowing, “I’ve got this.”

I don’t mean to imply that I am now an all-knowing parent or that it all comes easy to me. This month my baby is teething and having extreme separation anxiety. Some days she spends all of her waking moments either on my hip or screaming.

My last marathon also had its trials to overcome. Around mile 16, I realized I had made the mistake of changing my diet on race day. Instead of drinking water at the stops along the way, I drank Gatorade. This upset my stomach and made the last 10 miles of the race an even greater challenge.

As a seasoned mom, I know my baby’s teeth will come in soon and that her anxiety is only a stage. I also know I can put her down, even when she is screaming, to make dinner or help one of her siblings. I know she will be okay.

Likewise, even with a raging stomachache at mile 20 of my race, I knew I would finish the marathon. I could picture the finish line and the relief I would feel when I crossed it. I knew the pain would go away just as soon as I realized I was done, and that it would all be over before I knew it.

My experiences running and raising babies have made me a better mom and a better runner.  I can enjoy the ride because I know it will be over in the blink of an eye.  While I don’t have all of the answers, I am confident my races and my children will turn out okay despite my imperfections.


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