Category: running (page 1 of 32)

Is It All Downhill From Here?


It ‘s all so strange to think that the baby was only a few weeks old last April when I signed up to run a marathon in mid-November. At the time I thought it would be a miracle if I was able to do much training, but the race was downhill so I hoped that gravity would help out where the baby left me unprepared. I just wanted to do a marathon again, to run a big race and to remember what it was like. I last ran the Boston Marathon in 2014, and while it doesn’t seem so long ago when I type it out, it felt like ages ago—a different life. I had lost myself and I hoped that running a marathon would help me feel more like myself again.

And so it’s also strange to think that I feel like I hardly know the person who ran down the mountain on Saturday, who ran 26.2 miles more than 5 minutes faster than I ever thought I could. I had such low expectations for this race going into it. I didn’t really make any goals except to get to the finish line. But then things didn’t go as I expected. thegirlsatthemarathon

The first surprise was that the baby was very kind to me through training. He’s been my only baby who has slept through the night at all before 10 months. So for the first couple of months of training last summer, I was getting enough sleep to be able to run before Micah went to work. When school started, I could run with Little Miss and the baby later in the morning. So, to my great surprise, training was not the fiasco I had imagined. And while I didn’t nail every workout, I did almost all of them. My training plan worked well for me—it seemed to be the ideal balance of work and rest with the speed and strength days in all the right order and spaced just right.*

As race day came I felt strong and well-trained—but still, I had no idea what to expect from my training and my body. I didn’t know if I’d done enough downhill running for a race that was essentially down a mountain. One nice thing was that my sister and a good friend were running the race as well. Abby takes a much different approach to running and training than I do. She said that she fully intended to take the full amount of time allotted to her—6 hours 6 minutes, or 14 minute miles. And Madison was so dedicated to her goal of running her fastest marathon. When the race started I just kept telling myself that I needed to run my race and not be concerned about what anybody else was doing. Because some people were there for the scenery and some people were there for the speed.girlsatthestart

With my last marathon, I wrote happy thoughts on my arms to keep me inspired and distracted (if need be) throughout the race. I did the same this time and tried to focus on one thought per mile.  It was another good reminder that I needed to run my own race, feel my own body, and not worry about what everybody else was doing. Which was great because around mile 8 or 9 I found out that I was running much faster than I had anticipated and that the crowd I was with was hoping to finish much faster than I thought I could. At first I was sure I had gone out too fast and that I would burn out before I got much farther. But I took stock and discovered that I felt fine, good even. Some minor cramps in my legs that passed as I kept running. And soon after the halfway mark, I was able to leave the crowd who were hoping to break 3:10.

meandabsTo be honest, I didn’t know how I was doing, what my pace was. I just kept going and hoping that each cramp in my legs would pass, and they did. Through each aid station I took a few gulps of water and poured the rest of the cup on my legs, especially where they felt tight. Each time, it worked like a charm—the cramps eased. At least until the last 4-5 miles when everything hurt, but I was pretty sure I could make it anyway.

So when I turned the final corner, with 1/10th of a mile left and saw that I was going to finish in 3 hours 8 minutes, I was shocked. It was such a surprise. It was so far beyond what I ever thought I would be capable of that it still seems unreal. And I still feel like I don’t know what to do with it. Accept it as the best I’ll ever do? Figure it as a fluke of a downhill race? See if I can match it on a flat course?

But then there is this: I wanted this race to be a way for me to come back to who and what I was before I got pregnant and then lost the pregnancy and myself. And I feel like in some way it is a way of giving me hope that not only can I get back to being me, I can be  stronger and faster—and more and better.

As for Abby, she didn’t take quite the whole time. But she did come dancing down the final straightaway before the finish line chute in style while my other sisters and brother-in-law cheered her on. She ran her own race—and didn’t walk a step.


*If you are curious, my plan was something like this: a shorter (4-6 mile) run and strength training on Monday, an easy 6-10 mile run on Tuesday, speed training on Wednesday (alternating hill repeats, 30-45 minute tempo runs, and 800 meter intervals each week), rest on Thursday, a 6-10 mile pace run on Friday, and an easy long (8-20mile) run on Saturday, with another rest day Sunday.

Pushing It While Pregnant

Last month I ran a half marathon. I was 17 weeks pregnant*, feeling decently good, and in pretty good shape. But I really didn’t want to push it. My training runs, especially my long ones, had been slow. And after so many months of emotional upheaval over pregnancy/non-pregnancy, I was willing to cut myself a break. Then again, one of the (many) things that continued to be source of sadness for me was that I really like to be in good shape when I get pregnant—like, just ran a PR-marathon kind of shape. rocknroll2015

That wasn’t in the cards this time. I mean, I did get pregnant soon after I ran my last Boston Marathon, but then I lost the pregnancy. And in the months of sadness that followed, although I ran, it was half-heartedly. I felt like in addition to losing the pregnancy, I was losing my body (and my heart, and my mind, and my soul . . . ). So getting back into shape for this pregnancy was a minor goal of mine. Maybe I didn’t run a marathon the month or two before I got pregnant, but a half marathon a month or two after was just as good.

Still, I had modest goals for the race. Sub-2:00 is what I told myself. (My PR is 1:36.) I would run, but I wasn’t really going to race. And then, the day before the race, Micah said he was going to run with me. Which is fine. Actually, the other half-marathons we’ve run, we’ve run together, crossing the line hand-in-hand, more or less. But the thing is, Micah hasn’t been able to train well for a few years. And yet despite that, he’s still always the one pushing the pace. It’s . . . inspiring. And infuriating.

So on race-day we lined up together. He promised to let me set the pace. The gun went off, and so did we. It took a few miles to find our place amidst the hordes of runners, but by mile 4 the crowds had mostly thinned out and we weren’t bobbing and weaving quite so much. I was hoping to settle into something comfortable. Somehow, that didn’t happen. The pace kept feeling a little fast. Micah kept finding someone else that we really couldn’t let be in front of us. And every mile, I would listen as my phone told us our average pace. It kept dropping.

Every now and then, I’d alert him to this fact. He seemed unconcerned. I reminded him that he said I could set the pace. He said he didn’t realize I wasn’t. We kept running. By mile 9 I was pretty sure I couldn’t hold onto that pace for the rest of the race, but then, we were running next to a Macho Man impersonator and it was pretty much the best thing ever. (“Hand me a Slim Jim!” he’d grumble as we sped by the aid stations.) We couldn’t let him go. So we kept running.

I was pushing it. Going faster than I’d planned and giving it more than I intended to. Yes, I wanted to be in shape for the baby, but then again, the baby was also my excuse for taking it a little bit easy.

As we approached the 13 mile marker, I felt the baby kick. Micah said it was a sign we should kick it in. We finished in 1:43. Way off “goal pace.” Way faster than I had intended. But really, it felt good to push it, to not make excuses, to really see what I could do.

Before we left the finish coral, we thanked Macho Man for pulling us along in the last mile. Then we met up with some friends for a minute and walked home. Micah talked about how easy it had seemed, how quickly the miles had flown past and I tried not to kick him in the shin. I had actually trained and it wasn’t quick and easy for me! But then, I also wanted to hug him, too, for always always ALWAYS getting me to try my best, push a little harder, keep going a little farther.

It’s always a little nerve-wracking in the middle of it, but it always feels so good to see the result.


*I know some people are concerned about running during pregnancy. So here’s the DL: it’s good for mom, it’s good for baby. It strengthens the baby’s heart. And for those who worry about any bouncing the baby may be doing in utero: there is no evidence that there is any harm done to fetus through “bouncing.” Think of it similar to your brain: your brain is also suspended in fluid, and is completely fine as you run and jump and “bounce” it around. In fact, the baby may be safer than your brain, because there aren’t even any bones to hit up against. And even if you were to lose your balance and fall while running (or walking, or whatever), the concern is not for the baby so much as it is for the placenta. If you fall and bump your belly, the baby will almost certainly be fine, but it could cause a placenta abruption, which can be very dangerous. 

Simple Summer with Big Steps

In the mornings, we often go out. We ride bikes, stop at a playground, kick a ball around. And in the afternoon, we play and build and invent and imagine in the air conditioned comfort of our apartment. It’s simple and nice and pure and pretty much perfect—even though it fights a little bit against my idea of what summer should be. I mean, shouldn’t we be camping? Shouldn’t we be at the beach all day every day? Shouldn’t we be traveling and seeing the world?


But then again. Shouldn’t we be climbing trees (or playground structures, as the case may be)? Shouldn’t we be creating ziplines for our stuffed animals in our bedroom? Shouldn’t we be reading all the Magic Treehouse books and then imagining that we get to play soccer at bottom of the tallest oak tree in Frog Creek, Pennsylvania? Shouldn’t we be wearing capes as we run around the park with our friends?


Yes. Yes we should.

I worry sometimes about these city kids I’m raising. No trees of our own to scamper up, no backyard to build forts in. Playground rules state that I can’t even send them there by themselves. In some ways, I feel like the gatekeeper of their childhood adventures—which seems to squash the very idea of childhood adventures just a bit. But despite that, childhood seems to be finding a way. It may not be as far flung or un-accompanied as some other childhoods, but it’s happening. They are making their own adventures, learning to do handstands and cartwheels and to ride their bikes with one hand.


What more could a mom ask for? Especially this mom, this summer. To see them experimenting and taking risks, trying new things and making adjustments as I am on the cusp of launching my podcast—doing the exact same thing on a completely different level—well, it’s pretty great. It gives me a little courage.

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After all, we’re all learning with what we have—and maybe what we have isn’t the ideal. We’re all just making it up as we go along. And maybe we start these new endeavors a little awkwardly, a little unsure, a little cautiously. But I’ve seen Manchild go from hardly being able to scootch halfway up a pole to making it look easy to adding little challenges to himself in just a matter of weeks. I’ve seen Squish “accidentally” learn to ride his bike one-handed. And I’ve also seen Little Miss climb a little too high and need a little bit of help getting down without getting hurt.


So if, in this new podcasting endeavor, we (meaning my team) are a little bit awkward and clunky at first, it’s fine. If we have a few hiccups, I’m not worried. And if we happen to get ourselves in too deep, I’m trusting our audience to bear with us while we figure things out.

I am really, really, really happy and excited about that we have done so far. I’m proud to put things out into the world. But I also know that we’re going to get better at it. We may be climbing playground structures now, but we have our eyes on bigger things.


ps You can listen to the Cocoon Stories trailer at the website, or on iTunes. Take a listen, share, and subscribe!

Iceberg Ahead

I knew when I started Cocoon that it would be bigger than I expected. I knew that no matter how much I thought about it and researched and learned before I started, there would be things that I didn’t know until I stumbled across them weeks and months into the project. I knew that I should give myself a generous amount of time to figure these things out—and then plan for it to take even longer for it to be ready to launch.


But knowing all those things doesn’t make it any less daunting when I continue to discover the depth and breadth of this project I’m tackling. And honestly, although I’d love to say that the reason I haven’t been checking in here on MotherRunner as frequently as I’d like is because I’m working tirelessly and diligently on Cocoon, the truth is that I have been more or less staring uncomprehendingly at the many facets of the project that keep revealing themselves, unsure what I should be doing right now.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one working on it. It seems like everywhere I turn someone more talented and knowledgable than I has been willing to step in and help. We have an actual team working on this thing now. And yet it is still going to be at least a couple of months before we are ready to launch. (That’s the beauty of an all-volunteer workforce who are on vacation for parts of the next two months.)

Also thankfully, I’ve been here before. We’ve all been here before. We start something new and it is hard. The first time we put on running shoes specifically to go running. That time we came home with a tiny little person who the world, apparently, expected us to keep alive. When we took up a hobby to wile away those nap time hours and it sprouted and grew into something we never expected.

It was hard. We were bad at it. We didn’t know what we were doing. But then we learned. And we got better. And it got easier.

Even knowing that, it’s still hard to push through. It’s hard to imagine that things will get easier. It’s hard to feel like I am neglecting this blog—and my writing in general. I remember, not so very long ago, how amazed I was at what I could do when I had to. I looked at busy days as a particularly delicious challenge and relished the feeling of accomplishment when I got to the end. I loved that feeling of stretching and discovering. And I still do. But right now I need to be more focused. I can’t think too much about all the other things I wish I were doing.


So I’m asking for your patience and understanding. I hope you’ll check in and see how Cocoon is coming along. I hope you’ll stay tuned for updates. And I hope you’ll still be here when things get easier and I can do more of the things I love to do.


PS Micah has been working much more diligently than I have been on the website. It’s still a work in progress and not all of it is functional, but it’s there.  You can check it out and sign up for the newsletter if you want. Or follow us on Instagram: @cocoonstories.

Make It Last All Year

Sometimes, the Muppets say it best:

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It’s in the singing of a street corner choir.
It’s going home and getting warm by the fire.
It’s true, where ever you find love, it feels like Christmas.

A cup of kindness that we share with another.
A sweet reunion with a friend or a brother.
In all the places you find love, it feels like Christmas .

It is the season of the heart,
A special time of caring,
The ways of love made clear.
It is the season of the spirit,
The message if we hear it
Is ‘Make it last all year.’ 

-It Feels Like Christmas from A Muppet Christmas Carol

I really hope you find a little bit of Christmas today and every day, all year long. Merry merry Christmas to all of you.

Just One Extra Mile

I still run. A couple of times a week, usually. The reason I mention it is because people have been asking. I suppose they are asking because I haven’t mentioned running here on this Mother Runner blog for a while. And the reason I haven’t mentioned it is because there hasn’t been anything to say. Running has been very ho-hum for me lately.

In the past, it has been a time for me to de-stress, to loosen up the mental and emotional knots I sometimes get tied in, to chase after inspiration or to let it stumble across my path. But for several months now it has just been something to do. I haven’t trained for any races or committed myself to run a certain number of miles or a specific pace. My focus has been elsewhere, and I’ve just wanted my running to be comfortable.

But then again, I don’t know where my focus has been. It feels as though a lot of my life has been in the same place as my running: comfortable. And while there is a big part of me that feels like that is exactly where I want to be right now—that I deserve a little bit of time to curl up and just be—there is that other part that is feeling anxious.

Anxious because I’m stressed about being comfortable. And I didn’t really realize it until today, when I was out running. I was trying to decide if I wanted to go an extra mile. Time was a little tight. Little Miss fell back asleep right after the boys went to school and took a long nap. We didn’t get out until almost lunchtime, and I had some other errands to run while we were out. Could I squeeze in one more mile and still make it to the store? Still have lunch and make it to pickup on time?

Almost as soon as I made the turn to take the longer route, it clicked for me. Suddenly this run was not ho-hum. Suddenly, I was living dangerously, running in uncharted territory. Suddenly, I had a challenge. And suddenly, I felt inspired. It all made sense.

Of course I haven’t been feeling motivated. Of course I haven’t been able to write like I used to. Of course my running has become so rote that I haven’t even seen anything worth photographing while I’ve been out lately. It’s because I’m not pushing. I’m not trying.

That little revelation led to a lovely afternoon in which not only did I push myself to shop and eat and shower and still get to pickup on time (this is me patting myself on the back), I also managed to daydream a bit and imagine what I could do and what I want to pursue when I’m ready to endure a little more discomfort—to challenge myself to see things with new eyes and to run in a slightly different direction.

I’m not quite there yet, but I’m looking forward to getting there.

ps In case you are interested in the conversation I was part of on HuffPost Live (see previous post), here’s the link.

To My Sweat Sisters


To Allison and April, who first showed me that running for fun was a thing.

To Diana, who challenged me to try it for myself and gave me something to aim for.

To Jen and Katrina and Ana who acted like it was no big thang to keep their legs moving for hours at a time—and took it for granted that I would learn to do it too.

To Christy and Suzie and Mara and Marin, who imparted more wisdom and strength to me on a handful of 3-milers than I had learned in the decade before I met them.

To Carrie, who put a marathon on my radar when it was the last thing I thought I could do.

To Shiloh and Valerie and Valerie and Heather and Elizabeth (and the menfolk, of course) for being my Ragnar team—where I learned, for real, that I could actually run.

To Abby, who inspired me with her determination to keep finish her first marathon, even when every part of her was saying, quite distinctly, “NO.”

To Becca, who is not ashamed to commiserate with me over the messy parts of running.IMG_5825

To Kathleen and Emily and Noelle, whose quick “Hi!” as we pass each other in the park often left me smiling for miles.

To Ashley, who keeps me running, even if it is only to see how many miles I can do in a month.

To Heather and Rachel, who took me in and cheered me on in Boston.

To Madison and Sharra, who made miles and miles in 20 degree weather not only manageable, but fun—and kept my mood high and bright all of last year’s long, cruel winter.

Ladies, if I had my druthers, every meeting between friends would include a run—a time and a place to move together, think together, to share a conversation or share the scenery in silence. It’s work, but it’s play, too. It knocks down walls and narrows your focus to what is right in front of you. It tunes you into the same wavelength and gives you an opportunity share laughter and tears without the awkwardness of eye contact. It can clear the air and cleanse your soul.

Wish we could meet up for a lap at Prospect Park tomorrow. But since we can’t, I’ll just say that I’m glad we’ve had a chance to share the road.



Sisters Tell Stories

You know that the best part of any girls’ night is the loads and loads of stories that come spilling out of everyone’s mouths. One minute you’ll be laughing so hard you can’t breathe and then suddenly you’ll be crying for real as you make an emotional 180.

As much as I love hanging out with friends, cracking jokes and musing about nothing, it’s really in the storytelling that friends become sisters.
Last night I listened as two wonderful sisters-from-church talked about their experience with divorce — shared their stories of heartache, loneliness, redemption, fulfillment. I knew these women before, had talked with them, had a sense of their strength and depth. But hearing their stories colored in the lines.

They talked about how much hearing other women’s stories helped them through their own difficulties. We have sisters all over the place, we just don’t know it until we hear their stories, or tell them ours.

“Story of my life!” and “I love that story!” one of my sisters-in-law always says.

Stories are our lives, and I hope that we love the stories we live, whether they are happy or sad, tearful or fearful. And I hope, too, that we share them with our sisters to strengthen and support them — to help them color in the lines of their own lives, of their own stories.

Sister Saviors: Guest Post by Livia Taylor

Babies babies babies. So much joy! So much pain! And so much we get to discover the hard way. But having sisters around to lead, guide, walk beside—and give the baby a bottle while we regain some sanity—can bring some order to the emotional/physical/mental chaos that is the postpartum period. Amiright? My friend Livia Taylor wrote up this story of how her little sister stepped up and saved the day (or many of them) after she had her second baby a few months ago. Thanks Livia!


Being six years apart, my younger sister and I didn’t have much in common for a long time. I moved out for college by the time she may have been considered old enough to become my friend. There were a couple of sporadic visits over the years when I was across the country in school, but we didn’t connect very deeply.

She eventually moved to the same state as me to attend school herself, and we started seeing each other on major holidays, when I hosted family and friends at my home to celebrate. When my daughter was born, my sister spent the weekend at my house and helped me pull myself back together as I dealt with postpartum. The first week I was home from the hospital, my sister called me every day to make sure I was alright.

In the four years since my daughter was born, my relationship with my sister has grown into more than just sisterhood; we’re friends. She has since served a mission and done a study abroad while finishing up school, but her influence is often felt in our home even when she’s gone.

I had my son about four months ago, and I was very nervous throughout my whole pregnancy that I’d have a difficult postpartum again. My depression flares up when I’m sleep-deprived and hormonal after childbirth, and it was scary for me to consider having another when I knew he’d be born while my sister was out of the country.

But then my sister gave me the greatest gift; she sent me an email letting me know she was rescheduling her flights back to America so she could make a pit-stop at my house before finishing her summer vacation with our parents in Maine. She ended up staying four days, and it was such a relief to me to have her help while I recovered from the chaos of hosting my son’s blessing and my daughter’s fourth birthday that weekend. I couldn’t have “caught up” on sleep (all parents know that’s not really possible, but you know what I mean!) without her.

My sister will thaw breast milk without being asked and feed my baby while I sleep. She knows how to wrap him tightly and rock him until he’s ready for bed. She can negotiate with my feisty toddler and tolerate her tantrums without skipping a beat. She insists on babysitting so my husband and I can have a date every couple of months. She helps with meals when she stays at my house and cleans up without being asked. She has made it possible for me to cope with having two kids while struggling with managing my depression. Just when I think I can’t do it any longer, my sister will take a break from her life at school and visit me, giving me the boost I need to be a better mom and wife.

I’m so grateful that my relationship with my sister has evolved to this. Our family has been through so much that could have turned us against one another, and I consider it such a blessing we have become real friends. My sister is an example to me of hard work and selflessness, and I hope I can someday return the favor if she chooses to have a family of her own (hopefully by then my baby will be sleeping as well as my toddler so I’ll have the energy to do so 🙂 ).

Also, I feel like I owe her for all the times I’ve borrowed her clothes without asking while she was out of the country.

photo credit Mary Oveson

Second Guessing

So, this aired today:

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(It looks like it got cut off. Sorry about that!)

You know, I thought I knew what I wanted. I thought I knew what I was doing. I thought I wanted to be a mom who taught her kids, who gave them opportunities to learn and grow. I hope that by doing so, they’ll become strong, self-reliant, capable adults.

And I also thought I wanted to be a writer. I thought I wanted to write about life and motherhood and marriage, about continually finding happiness and joy in the most mundane and repetitive of circumstances.

But experiences like this bring all things into question. Like, am I raising my kids well? Am I endangering them by either giving them too much freedom, or by writing about them, or by not giving them as much credit and responsibility as they can handle?

Obviously, having people question my parenting choices would cause me to question them as well. I think that’s a good thing to do. I hope that I am always looking for ways to improve, looking for holes I didn’t see, looking for paths and tools and ideas for how to help my kids become the best they can be. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want to get too comfortable in my motherhood, to think that I know anything. I want to be teachable and to be open to the idea that there are better ways that I currently know.

So that’s that. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to be part of this discussion. I hope it has been as enriching for others as it has been for me.

On the other hand, I’ve also had to question whether or not what I really want is to sit quietly and write about my life as a wife and mother. So I’ve questioned it and decided that it is what I really want in life. Really and truly. I find a lot of joy and value in it. And it seemed a good fit for me. I’ve joked that I have a face for radio and a voice for print, so writing is probably where I belong.

But then, I never expected to have the opportunity to try anything else out —to actually do live radio or live television, to speak on camera without a script. I can hardly say what I’m thinking in a normal conversation, so why would I even consider one in which I was sitting under stage lights, wearing a mic, with cameras rolling?

But I had the chance to consider it. To try it out. To do it. And now that I’ve done it, I feel like maybe I should question that, too. Just to see if maybe there is another way for me to say the things I want to say.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get there again, if I’ll ever be able to do anything but peck at a keyboard. But at least now I know that the keyboard isn’t my only tool. If I want to, I can reach for something else.

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