Why I'm Running a Marathon 6 Months After Having a Baby
Having a baby didn't stop this runner from lacing up and tackling (another) 26.2.
Last January, I signed up for the 2017 Boston Marathon. As an elite marathon runner and an Adidas run ambassador, this had become somewhat of a yearly ritual for me. Running is a huge part of my life. To date, I've run 16 marathons. I even met my husband (an accomplished runner and sports chiropractor) at a road race in 2013.
Originally, I didn't think I'd run the race. Last year, my husband and I had set our sights on another special goal: starting a family. Ultimately, though, we spent 2016 trying unsuccessfully. So just before the deadline to sign up, I decided to take my mind off of "trying" and turn back to my normal life and running. As fate would have it, that very day that I signed up to run Boston, we also found out we were pregnant.
I was so excited, but admittedly also a little sad. While I decided I'd run still-training through my early pregnancy (listening to my body and logging lower mileage)-I knew I wouldn't be able to participate in the elite field as I usually did. (Related: How Running During Pregnancy Prepared Me for Giving Birth)
Nonetheless, I was happy that in the first trimester of my pregnancy, I was able to run most days. And when Marathon Monday came around, I felt great. At 14 weeks pregnant, I ran a 3:05 marathon-good enough for our baby boy's first Boston Qualifier. It was the most enjoyable, fun marathon I'd ever run.
In October, I gave birth to my son Riley. While in the hospital, I had a few days where I barely got out of bed. I was itching to move.I crave a good sweat, fresh air, and feeling strong. I knew I needed to get out and do anything.
A few days later, I started going on walks with him. And at six weeks postpartum, I got the go-ahead from my ob-gyn to run. I'd had some tearing-common in vaginal births-and my doctor wanted to make sure I was fully healed before I exerted myself too hard. The body is undergoing rapid, tremendous change during the first few months postpartum, and starting too soon can put you at risk for injury. (It's also worth noting that every body is different. I've had friends feel fine running just a few weeks postpartum and others who find it more challenging.)
A friend of mine also created a #3for31 December Challenge (running 3 miles all 31 days of the month), which helped me reignite the habit of running. When Riley was 3 months old, I started bringing him along for some of my runs in the jogging stroller. He loves it and it's a great workout for me. (To new mamas out there: Try pushing a stroller up hills!) The jogging stroller also gives me the freedom to run when I want, so I don't have to wait until my husband is home or get a sitter.
Soon, I started to fit into my clothes, had more energy for my son, and slept better. I felt like me again.
My husband and my friends were also starting to train for Boston. I had serious FOMO. I kept thinking how awesome it would be to see my little guy along the course and how it would feel to get back into marathon shape.
But I didn't want to be disappointed in my fitness level. I'm a very competitive person and was self-conscious about what people thought about my slow runs on Strava. I was also constantly comparing my fitness to other women's. When I wasn't able to run, I felt really down. Plus, running a marathon is a big undertaking with a 6-month-old breastfed baby at home-I wasn't sure I'd even have time to train. (Related: Fit Moms Share the Relatable and Realistic Ways They Make Time for Workouts)
A New Goal
Then, last month, Adidas asked me to participate in a photo shoot for the Boston Marathon. During the shoot, they asked me if I'd run the race. I initially hesitated. I hadn't been training and I wondered how doing long runs would fit in with my new responsibilities as a mom. But after talking with my husband (and deciding to alternate runs with him so that one of us would always be with Riley), I decided to throw my insecurities out the window and just go for it.
I knew I had the opportunity to demonstrate how to train in a safe, smart way and be a good role model for all new moms. Since I made my decision, I've been blown away by all of the positive feedback and questions I've gotten about postpartum fitness.
I'm not saying everyone should shoot to run a marathon after having a baby. But for me, that had always been my "thing." Without my running (and without marathons), I felt like a piece of me was missing. I learned that ultimately, doing what you love (whether it's studio classes, walking, or yoga) in a safe way and having time for yourself makes you feel great and ultimately makes you a better mom.
My goals for Boston are different this year-they're to stay injury-free and to have fun. I won't be "racing." I love the Boston Marathon-and I'm excited to simply be out on the course again, to represent all the strong moms out there, and to see my baby at the finish line.