Perseverance, hard work, and dedication. Those are the first words that come to mind when I think of my friend Chrissy. We met in the context of running, back in the fall of 2015 when I first started coaching for the Alzheimer's Association Boston Marathon Team. She had run for the team several years in a row, raising tens of thousands of dollars for a cause dear to her heart, and completing (I believe) over 10 Boston Marathons. This included the year of the bombing, the year it was really hot, years it was freezing, in dedication to family and friends lost, and always training outdoors through the Boston winter.
Chrissy leads through quiet example and consistency. She was a leader on the team, and now a dedicated loving mother. When I spend time with Chrissy I think, gosh I wish I was more like her, what a great mom and runner, and a remarkable woman! She just gets it.
It was easy to ask Chrissy to be our Mum of the Month because I want other moms to read her story and be able to relate to the realities of marathoner turned mother. I know one day soon we will see Chrissy crossing that Boston Marathon finish line again!
Before I was pregnant, if someone asked me how I would describe myself, the first word I’d use was runner. If asked today, my first response would be mother.
With the title change certainly comes a change in priorities, but also a new enjoyment and
appreciation for something that had for so long been a regular part of me. Even before I was pregnant, I was researching guidance for running while pregnant. At that time, the thought of not being able to run for 9 months was torturous and I was so relieved to see it was normal, even healthy to continue running as long as it felt ok.
In the beginning though, I thought all the advice was bull$hit. Running during the first trimester was miserable, as was most everything. I was struggling to run my easy pace on most runs and assumed my chances of continuing to run further into my pregnancy were low. But things turned around as I moved into the second trimester, and though I was starting to slow down as I got a little rounder, I no longer felt like I was dying on every run. Mostly running while pregnant gave me a constant during a time when things were changing and a reassurance I was strong enough to get through whatever lay ahead. I ran until I was about 33 weeks pregnant, when a mid-March snowstorm combined with a growing belly finally determined I start my running hiatus.
Running, specifically running marathons (not while pregnant!) prepared me for childbirth.
Childbirth was still way harder than any marathon I have ever run, but I think I held up better throughout the process because I could relate some of the experience to the physical and mental exhaustion I had felt running 26.2 miles. The biggest difference was that unlike a marathon, for most of labor, I was not exactly sure how much longer I had to go to get to the finish. But somehow we got there and the reward for finishing was greater than any medal I’d ever earned!
I hadn’t really thought much about running after having a baby until, well, I had a baby. I was cleared to run at my 6-week postpartum check up, but waited another week and a half before I attempted my first “run.” That first run was humbling. Even when injured, I had never lost so much fitness. But I was in no rush. I took my time run/walking for a few weeks and slowly stretched the run portions long enough that I could eventually run 3 miles straight.
I hung around 3-5 miles for several months. My fitness did come back, but that distance was really all I could handle for a while. While my son was between 2-6 months old, running was more of a treat than part of a regular fitness routine. I could not give up any of my precious limited sleep to fit in the 5am run before work like I had pre-baby. I squeezed in what I could, when I could. Sometimes that meant 3 miles at noon on an August Saturday or 2.5 miles after work before daddy and baby came home. And post run, it almost always meant I was back on mama duty before I could even stop sweating.
At first I was a bit frustrated at the lack of consistency and volume of my workouts as I went back to work and tried to figure out how to fit working out into a whole new daily routine. But once I did establish some routine, even if it was just 3 short runs a week, I began to appreciate both my time to run, and my new time spent not running.
Cuddling in bed after a morning feeding replaced Saturday morning long runs, and I was ok with that. Running enough miles to meet race goals was put on hold for a bit and replaced with running enough to fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes and feel good about myself.
As Everett got older, routines got a little easier and I could fit in a little more fitness. Our running stroller, combined with the start of spring was a game changer. My little buddy and I would run together most weekend days. It was a great way for us to knock out both a run (for me) and nap (for him).
Over the summer, I finally got up the courage to sign up for my first real race, a half marathon. With my husband’s help, I committed to a schedule to train 5-6 days a week. It was great to be back on a training schedule again and really start to see gains in my speed as I did more workouts, and not just stroller runs. The biggest difference from training pre-baby was the recovery was much shorter/non-existent. While my husband was great about trying to give me some time to shower and eat after longs runs, there was no napping or lounging on the couch, as I might have done in the past. But even if a bit tired or sore, running around the playground or backyard was ultimately always a worthwhile tradeoff.
The race fell on a humid Sunday morning, the kind that makes you look like you jumped in a pool by the end of the race. There was no miraculous PR, but I ran what I thought was a solid race for the day and my training. And one thing was for sure, seeing my husband and my son, my 2 favorite smiling faces at the finish was better than any medal I’d ever earned.