I started running in my mid-30s. I hated it, but my body was changing and I wanted a physical challenge. When I finished my first 5K event, on New Year’s Eve, I actually cried; I was hooked. I became a 5K specialist: just over three miles in just over 30 minutes (yes, I am slow).
Unlike most sane people who run outside, I fell in love with the treadmill. Turn it on, turn up my headphones and I was lost in my own thoughts. I ran solidly for about two years, until I was five months pregnant and my doctor told me I had to stop because I was having Braxton Hicks. Apparently running pissed off my uterus.
My daughter spent nearly a month in the NICU, I went back to work full time a month after she came home, we sold our condo and moved to a rental house, my husband went back to school full-time while also caring for our baby. I was running alright—just not literally.
When I hit the treadmill four months after my daughter’s birth, I finally felt a glimpse of myself again. I signed up for an 8k, trained too hard too fast and tweaked my ankle in the last 1k of the race. I battled chronic issues for a year before swallowing my pride and seeing a physical therapist who fixed it in six sessions. But by that point, running had no place in my life.
I turned to 20-minute Jillian Michaels’ DVDs—short, intense, squeeze it in any time. I did the DVDs too often and messed up my knee. This time I waited only six weeks before seeking PT help, but it took three months to fix. I missed my runner’s high, but on the few occasions when I hit the outdoors (gym membership long forgotten), I hurt. Running seemed part of my distant past, who I was before baby and before my body started falling apart.
But when 2012 rolled around, I resolved to run regularly again. My daughter was 4, my husband was working a regular job—both were more than willing to accommodate me for a 30 minute run. Yet the resolution didn’t stick for even two weeks. Then my husband grumbled about paying for our family running club membership even though I baled on the run every month.
He was right. No more excuses. I committed to two runs a week, waking at 5:30 a.m. and heading to a huge park near our house. Seeing the world emerge from sleep as I cruised the park, lost in music, lost in thought, felt worth waking up for. My uterus, however, wasn’t so pleased. When I ran, it actually ached. Obviously in the process of housing a small human, something inside had shifted. Then again maybe my uterus had become a metaphor for my mind: a bit jumbled up, crampy when I stretched it, but somehow still holding on.
Recently I ran my first 5k in recent memory. It hurt a bit, but it was a “hurt so good” (give it up for John Cougar) kind of hurt. I was back, just an altered version of myself.
Winter is here now, and I’m too nervous to run through the city alone before morning’s light. But I don’t want to return to the treadmill. That girl was on autopilot—so busy blocking out the world she didn’t notice she wasn’t going anywhere. So, I refuse to let winter derail my outdoor runs. The path may be full of goose poop and I sometimes have to avoid the sprinklers, but I’ve learned to like paying attention. And I’m pretty certain that if I keep on running, both my uterus and my mind will fall into place.