I always thought I would be one of those women who would run her way through pregnancy. If others can do it, why not me? I was naïve to think that my body could easily manage the weight gain and bowling ball sized belly stretched out in front of me, and that I could fight through any obstacle that pregnancy threw my way. Yeah, right. It’s amazing how every pregnant woman is different, reaching various peaks and valleys throughout her 10-month journey.
The reality of where I am at in my pregnancy is starting to kick in. I’d be lying if I said that running right now is easy and enjoyable, although I do have my shoes laced up and am ready to go on a short run as soon as I finish this post. It’s not. While I enjoy being outside and reaping the psychological benefits that running provides, physically it no longer feels “good.” There are days when I can run three miles without stopping (albeit at a very slow pace) and days when I have to walk for long periods at a time, turning the run into more of a wog. Regardless of the distance or type of run, the pain is there nonetheless and it takes a while for my body to recover and feel good again.
For a few weeks now, I have been in denial about the possibility of hanging up my running shoes. It’s a hard reality to face, especially for someone who has never had to take a break from or give up entirely the sport that I love. Running became a central part of my life in 2006 after losing my father to pancreatic cancer. To help cope with the emotions, pain, and grief, I signed up for the Houston Marathon and haven’t stopped running since. This will be the first time in NINE years that I won’t be able to just go out for a run when I need it. It will be a long break (for me) but one that I know I will need.
The reality is, it is a decision that ultimately rests with me. No one is telling me not to run. It will be much easier to accept the break and not run once our baby is here, knowing that I will be following doctor’s orders. But for now, it is my decision and my responsibility to listen to my body. Unfortunately, my body is speaking several different languages to me right now and I just don’t know when or how to stop. It should be easy, but it’s not.
The one emotion that really lingers when I start to think about hanging up my running shoes is fear. I am honestly afraid of taking a break from running. The fear is what keeps me going back for “one more run.” Can I do it? Do I still have it in me? Am I capable? I also have a fear of losing my identity as a runner. Running has been such an intricate part of my life and who I am for so long – what does that life look like without it? It scares me to think of what might change during those months away. How will I cope with stress? What will be my new outlet when I need to get away with my thoughts? Will I still love running when we reconnect down the road? Therein lies a lot of uncertainty. And this girl likes her certainty.
On the flip side, there are a number of positive questions lingering in my mind regarding my running ability when it ramps back up after the baby arrives. Will running with him in the BOB help form the foundation of an active lifestyle for him? Will it strengthen my mental fortitude? Will my ability to persevere through physical discomfort and fatigue, which is already strong, be further increased? Is it possible that I could actually come out of this stronger, wiser, and faster than my pre-pregnancy self? I hope the answer to all of these questions is a resounding YES, but only time will truly tell.
All that being said, I am beyond grateful that I have been able to run up until 34 weeks into my pregnancy. Running has taken on an entirely new meaning for me this past year. It’s no longer about training for a specific distance or speed, but rather about getting outside, breathing in the fresh air, having uninterrupted time to reflect and think about the changes ahead, and connecting with the life inside of me. Even through discomfort and pain running has:
→ made me feel like me again. Like my doctor always reminds me, I am lending out my body for 10 months and have very little control over the changes it endures. When I am running, I feel reconnected to who I was before my body started to change.
→ increased my confidence and shifted my mindset, allowing me to focus more on what my body is still capable of doing, rather than what it is now limited to.
→ helped me to reconnect with my body. I’ve learned to listen to and be in tune with how my body is feeling and what it needs. I used to downplay certain hints and signals that my body would send, but now I welcome them and listen openly to what my body needs. There is nothing wrong with walking or cutting a workout short. This does not make me weak.
→ given me a newfound appreciation for what this sport means to me. The fact that I get tears in my eyes knowing that I will soon have to say goodbye is a good reminder of how much I really do love and need running in my life.
→ taught me a lesson in humility. It’s hard to slow down and find yourself in a physical state that you have never been in before. My relationship with running has always been one of progress and improvement, and I’ve learned this year that it’s okay to slow down and not have to be “better” than I once was. There is a time for growth and there is a time for rest. I had never been very good at rest before pregnancy.
My days running are very limited and soon I will have to say a temporary goodbye. But I know I will be back. It’s crazy to think about how life is going to change in the coming weeks.
I will never again be the person I once was.
I will never again be the same runner.
The next time I step up to the start line of a race, head out for a long run, or push through a little speed work at the track, it will be in a body that will have gone through something truly remarkable. And I will have a little miracle by my side, cheering me on along the course, or waiting anxiously for me at the finish line, to show for it.
Have you ever had to give up something, temporarily or permanently, that you really loved? How did you cope?
Has there been a moment or event in your life that has changed you as a runner – or athlete in general?