26.2. This is the number that has pushed me out the door. It’s the number that reminded me of my strength and endurance that I thought I left behind in college. It’s also the number that filled my postpartum days with rhythm, cadence, hope and a sense of purpose. Don’t get me wrong. Being a mother to Hudson is purpose enough, but training for a marathon gave me something that was just for me. It pushed me to prioritize my own sanity and well-being. It gave me goals. It gave me something beyond changing diapers and making meals. In many ways, the choice to sign up for the San Francisco Marathon, allowed me to finally feel more like myself.
I get it. Running a marathon might not be your postpartum remedy. Maybe for you it looks like going on that yoga retreat that you have been dreaming up. Or drafting that book idea that has been roaming in your head for years. Or taking up gardening, cooking, knitting. Whatever it might be, I am convinced that as new mothers, it is essential for us to find something beyond our roles as moms, wives, and workers. Find the thing you are most passionate about and chase after it. It is so easy to say, I will pursue that passion when the kids are older, when I have more time, when I actually sleep through the night. A few months ago, before I signed up for the marathon, that is exactly what I said. Running a marathon doesn’t make sense now. I have a baby, I barely sleep, I will run one later. The more I thought about it, later was not going to be any easier to train for a marathon. Later, likely means, more kids, more schedules to balance, and even less sleep. I realized that right now, was actually probably the simplest our life will be. Now was the time for 26.2. Life would not become any less crazy if I waited. Postpartum life is exhausting and draining, and in a lot of ways it might not feel like the best time to pursue that passion project that has been brewing in the back of your mind; however, I am convinced this is exactly the right time. Pursue that passion. Set personal goals for yourself. And chase after it wholeheartedly.
The marathon has been much more than just a marathon. In a lot of ways, it was never really about the marathon. Not fully. It was about me. It was about that girl I used to be. The one that was competitive and driven and passionate. It was about running back to her. It was about getting back some of those traits I seemed to let go of for a bit. It was about re-meeting her, but also about showing her this new woman I have become. It was getting back some of the fierceness I had let go of, and showing the old me the strength and confidence new motherhood has given her. In a lot of ways, it was a blending of worlds. It was never about getting back to that girl I was in high school or college. I would never want that! My life now is a million times more full and beautiful; however, it was about grabbing back that thing that drove me and pushed me and made me better. It was about reaching out back to running and squeezing it to fit back into my current life of diapers and nursing and baby snuggles.
It hit me the most about how different my life is compared to when I used to compete and race, when the couple days before the race, I was concerned not about a sore hamstring or calf, but my chest, specifically my left breast. My body seemed to just not want to give up on producing milk, so even though I stopped nursing nearly a week before the race, one side was entirely still engorged leading up to the race. And I was freaking out about it. Every time I ran, it hurt. After prayers and hot showers, it ended up being fine for the race, but this is the perfect picture about how things change. And I love this change. I still can compete and race and train my heart out, but there are realities of my life, like milk supply issues, that keep me grounded and remind me that running is a good thing I can still enjoy and pursue, but it is not the thing. Being a good mother is my focus right now, but that doesn’t mean I need to throw out my other passions. It just will look different.
As I ran the marathon yesterday, I felt very proud. Of course, I was proud to finish it and finish well with a 6th place female finish and a sub-3 hour time, but my pride went far beyond that. I was proud I stayed committed to the intense training even when my life of less sleep and chasing after a toddler, is not the best training conditions. I was proud that I could run competitively and put myself in the race, but still smile throughout. I was proud of those countless runs with the jogger that made both my arms and mind stronger. I was proud of those longer tempo runs where I pushed myself into uncomfortable places and was reminded that I still have speed left in these legs of mine. I was proud of those 20 milers completed in Malaga Cove and always hitting the mileage even when my legs wanted to stop.
In the unpredictability of motherhood, it is nice to have one thing that you can control. While racing and running can also be unpredictable, you still have control leading up to the race. You have the control whether you complete the runs or not. You have control of the pace. You have control of the moments you push yourself and the ones you hold back on. Those first few months postpartum, I was drowning and overwhelmed by the fact that I felt I had lost all control. I could not control when or how he wanted to eat. I could not control when he slept. I could not control when he decided to cry. This loss of control brought me down on my knees to the bathroom floor. Motherhood has been my very needed lesson and reminder that I am not the one in control, God is. It showed me how I needed to let go of my very tight grip on things. While my ever-controlling heart learned to let go of things outside of my control through motherhood, running reminded me that there are certain things I can still have control of. I still have control of my attitude and whether I step outside and push myself or not. Attitude and miles. I have control of that.
So if you have recently entered postpartum life and are drowning, like I was, I hope this can serve as encouragement to sign up for something! It doesn’t need to be a marathon, but it could be! Sign up for any race distance. Sign up for that retreat I mentioned above. Sign up for that hip hop class. Sign up for that calligraphy class or that ceramics class or that knitting class. Sign up for something that fills you up and reminds you of your unique giftings. You are more than a mother. You are more than a wife. You are a daughter of the King and he made you with a great purpose. Live out that purpose. Sometimes to follow that purpose and His will, all it takes is signing-up. He will take it from there.