Being a mother is stressful.
Some days, you feel like a lion tamer in charge of monkeys while juggling fire batons. Blindfolded. And those are the good days.
On the rough days, the ones where I can’t take it one more minute, I run away from home.
No, really, I actually lace up my running shoes and run away from the circus that my life has become since motherhood took over.
I wasn’t always a runner, though. In fact, though I ran competitively in high school, I didn’t dust off my running shoes again until after Fruit Loop #2 was born. And, I did it grudgingly because having babies means you can’t have nice things in terms of abdominal muscles and thighs that don’t jiggle.
So, against my better judgement and in the absence of a clown chasing me with a bloody knife, I returned to the sport of running. And “by returned to the sport of running,” I mean I jogged behind a friend while swearing and sweating Chardonnay as she perkily told me I was “looking strong!” and “doing it!” and other not at all inspirational phrases that made me hate her a little. Okay, a lot.
Slowly and little by little, running gave me my life back. Not the life I had before kids, of course, because that would be absurd.
But, I found myself on the open road.
And I made friends along the way. I joined a women’s running group designed to help moms like me get back into shape and, twelve years later, my friends and I have completed marathons and triathlons. I did not see that coming when I was huffing and puffing in a pinot noir induced fog twelve years ago, trust.
But, that’s what motherhood does to you: having kids means you will stand at a stop sign in sub zero weather, wearing a My Little Pony scarf and mismatched running socks as you wait for your fellow mom runner to disentangle herself from the lion pit at her house. You stand there not only because you need her but also because you know she’s barely hanging on by a thread, too, and that your run will be just what you both need.
In the twelve years I’ve been running regularly, I’ve made four close mom friends who have helped me survive the trials of being a mom, both on and off the road. We’ve survived marital struggles, deaths of parents, and those moments when we hate our kids. There’s real truth on the road and running has become a lifeline and a salvation for me. Even if my pace is only slightly faster than a turtle wading through peanut butter.
As my friends and I have pounded the pavement in the name of reclaiming our sanity, I’ve realized that there are 10 absolute truths that only mom runners will understand.
1). Sports bras were not made with the nursing mom in mind.
No, but seriously: when you are a nursing mom, your tatas are epic. And heavy. And OMG, would someone please just invent a sports bra that keeps nursing moms from getting black eyes on a run? Please and thank you. Oh, and PS: your partner should never ever see you try to remove a sports bra.
2). Mom runners have been known to add a few miles to their runs to avoid making breakfast.
And lunch. And dinner. And nap time. And bath time. And bed time. And……ahem.
3). A long run means those Oreos get polished off with zero guilt.
I am fond of saying that I run to support my eating and drinking habits during This Is Us. I know you do, too.
4). Mom runners start out running to lose the baby weight but come to realize you gain sanity instead.
Like I said, parenting is hard. And so is running, yes. But, somedays, doing something physically hard makes you mentally stronger.
5). If you make a date to run with a mom, she’ll show up not because she wants to lose weight but because she’s desperate to talk to someone taller than three feet.
Just show up. Seriously.
6). Sippy cups fit perfectly in tool belts.
And gummy snacks make great running fuel in a pinch, too.
7). Passing another runner while pushing a jogging stroller during a race feels really good.
Like, really good.
8. Hearing the crowd yell YOUR name, instead of “Mooooooooommmmyyyy” during a race makes you remember who you were before you became a mom.
When I ran my first race after becoming a mom, I stopped short when I heard a stranger yell, “Way to go, Christine!” For moment, I was confused as to how he knew my name but quickly realized he saw it on my race bib. He didn’t know I was a mom. He just knew I was some 30 something woman with a red face, swearing profusely while trying to run up a hill. And felt amazing to be called my actual name.
9. Running is yours. You don’t have to share it with a toddler.
Moms have to share everything: our snacks, our beds, even our laps. We give of ourselves from the moment we wake up until our exhausted heads hit the pillows. But heading out for a run is just for us and, if we are lucky, we can outrun the toddler.
10. Running away from home will always help you find your way back. Even if you have to take the long way home.
Seriously, even if you find yourself running until your house and family are but a tiny speck in the distance, that’s okay. Mom runners don’t judge. We know how hard it is to get out the door for a run, much less to gain the clarity and headspace to be able to run back to the fire breathing dragons at home.
Yes, motherhood feels like a three ring circus. And raising toddlers is harder than coaxing elephants to do tricks and mastering the flying trapeze, 100%.
But running helps you realize that being the ringleader isn’t all that bad.
They don’t call it the Greatest Show on Earth for nothing, right?