Why I’m Still Running
|November 15, 2013||Posted by Lauren under Running|
I ran 2 miles today.
More accurately — I waddled around the neighborhood for 21-ish minutes (in shorts of course, because pregnancy is not reason enough to give up the Great Running Tight Boycott - 3 years strong!), and then called it a day. 20 minutes of physical activity feels harder, and more satisfying, than it used to.
At 35 weeks pregnant and looking like I’m ready to pop at any minute, running isn’t really the most natural thing.
Candid from this week’s appointment…this body looks more natural reclining on the couch than running through the neighborhood
My feet scuffle along the ground, my body rocks from side to side, and I feel anything but graceful. As I rounded the last corner on my run, I tried to pick up the pace for a final “sprint” to the end. Instead I just laughed as my head leaned forward, my shoulders strained ahead…and my belly and legs stayed firmly put. I couldn’t run any faster if my life depended on it.
This slow, steady movement is so different from my typical associations with running — feeling fast and free, light and strong. In the past, a successful run meant hitting my stride and dropping paces that felt effortless, coming home exhausted but exhilarated. Now I consider it a victory if I can simply keep myself moving for a full 2 miles. In some ways, running is harder than ever. My heart rate soars with just the slightest increase in effort, I have a human pushing against my diaphragm making breathing difficult, and my stride is just clunky. Not to mention all the extra weight (concentrated primarily in one place) that I’m toting around.
But in other ways, it’s easier. There’s no training plan to follow. No mileage or pace goals to hit. I don’t feel bad about skipping workouts or frustrated when an easy pace feels hard. I know that when I head out, my pace is going to resemble a slow jog, no more, no less. My belly is large enough that I no longer experience any round ligament pain. And I’m not out there long enough for my pelvis to start complaining. It’s just movement in one of its simplest forms.
I’m sure there are many more efficient workouts I could be doing. Cross training for longer periods of time would provide more benefit without all the pounding on my already strained lower body. It would help me strengthen muscle groups that get neglected during training cycle after training cycle. And would still provide all the mental and physical benefits of regular exercise, without all the emotion and baggage that running can sometimes bring.
But yet, despite all that, I prefer to run. It may be hard to understand why. I haven’t been able to run very far in a long time, running less in a week than I used to be able to cover in a day. Running hasn’t helped slow my pregnancy weight gain. At 35 weeks and up 28 pounds, I’m at the high end of the normal curve.
The green dot is me…brushing the top of the “normal” curve
And it hasn’t helped me grow a smaller baby either — a recent (unplanned) scan revealed that Cheese Baby is already quite chunky, measuring almost 2 full weeks ahead(!!) with an estimated due date of 12/10.**
Instead, it’s caused ups and downs as I’ve adjusted to my new limitations and wondered if/when I should give it up for good…or at least until next year. So having said all that, it may be hard to understand why I do it.
The author of the WSJ article would say I’m still running so that everyone will look at me and see how hardcore I am. That I do it for the accolades. For all the attention I’m sure to get for running even as I approach the end of my pregnancy. For the Instagram pictures and the #pregnantrunner hashtag (sidenote: why is #motherrunner a thing but #pregnantrunner is not? Not that I’d use either…) But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I run because there’s something inside me…something in the way I’m built…that drives me to keep moving forward. I can’t explain it, but I know that other runners feel it. The drive to get up early to fit in a training run, to finish that last repeat despite the fact that your legs are toast, to push that extra mile when you feel like you have nothing left to give, to run through cold, wind, rain, heat…and to keep running mile after mile, year after year with relatively nothing to show for it. That drive is what motivates a runner. Not the medals. Not the t-shirts. Not the fancy clothes or flashy shoes (although they help).
And even though I’m not running faster or stronger today than I was yesterday, even though my “training” seems to be moving backward, that drive is why I still continue to run. Why I get all laced up and hit the pavement for a measly 2 miles. Because running is part of my identity. Running has been with me through every single phase of my life. And somehow, no matter how slow I go, running makes me feel like myself. It’s something that I’ve been able to share with my daughter. This little person that I’ve never even met has already run hundreds of miles with me. Has already been rocked to sleep by the motion of my own two feet. I can’t think of many things I find more amazing than that.
Throughout this whole journey, I’ve always maintained that I’d hang up my running shoes the second it no longer seemed safe — for me or the baby. I’ve cut back on my mileage, let go of running goals, and learned to approach this whole process one day at a time. As much as I love identifying as a runner, I wouldn’t be destroyed if today was my last run. I don’t feel the need to hit a certain mileage goal or push my body on days when I think I need more rest. And if I had to give it all up and face 9 – 11 weeks without any running whatsoever, I could do it.
But for now, I’m thankful. Thankful that I have a way to clear my head when the pregnancy brain or the stress of it all takes over. Thankful that I’m still moving, breathing in fresh air, and sharing this time with my daughter. And thankful that I have some other way to measure the passage of weeks, besides the countdown to her eventual birth.
**I actually believe my original due date (12/21) was miscalculated, due to how irregular my cycles were when we got pregnant. But as far as I know, my OB is not actually changing it. So at this point, we’re just hoping for an early arrival (or a huge measurement error!).