I have been a runner since I entered my first 5K when I was ten years old. So, I am going to
That's right, I said eras. I'm in a grandiose mood today.
During my teens, my running was defined by one man, my high school cross country coach, the appropriately named Coach Quick. Quick had very high standards for his teams, and I know that we worked harder and had longer, tougher workouts than many of our competitors. Varsity runners would start the day with a 6:00 AM practice, a simple 5 mile road run. After school, there would be a mix of road runs, hill work, and brutal track workouts. I averaged 10 miles of running a day. On weekends, we could have stuck close to home and creamed our competition in local meets, but instead, we woke up pre-crack of dawn to travel to the Chicago suburbs to compete against the best teams in the state.
That hard work got results. All four years that I ran for Quick, our teams (both boys and girls) won our conference, regional, and sectional championships, qualifying for the state meet.
From Coach Quick, I learned not to cut corners. I learned that a hard workout wouldn't kill me, and that, in fact, after I got over wanting to die, I'd feel amazing. My memoir for this time would be:
Running hard. Running with the best.
In my 20s, I did a lot less running than I had in high school. I think I was a bit burned out, and the prospect of running for my college's cross country team was unappealing. And after graduation, I was awfully preoccupied with my horrendous, soul-sucking first job, cutting down on my time for running.
Still, I'd go to the gym and see disturbingly thin girls pounding away at the stairmaster, looking miserable, and probably figuring that their workouts earned them the right to add some fat free dressing to their evening meal of lettuce as a special treat. That's not how I do things. Instead, I'd lift weights for a while, then go out for a three mile run. Why did I run then? Not for extra salad.
Running so I can drink more.
I turned 30, and a few weeks later, had Jack. Unless you've experienced it, it's impossible to describe how parenthood shakes your world. I realize now in a way that I never understood before how, if you let it happen, taking care of that baby can easily occupy every minute of your time, every thought in your head, every ounce of your soul. As a woman, you become invisible, because if you walk into the grocery store holding a baby, nobody looks at you; they look at the baby. You are a faceless Mommy.
That's not a good way to be.
There are a million articles in women's magazines about how important it is for a new mom to make time for herself. None of them were appealing to me. If I went and got a pedicure, I felt guilty for spending the money on something so completely frivolous. Take a nice bubble bath? Not so relaxing when you can still hear your baby crying.
But one thing that I felt absolutely no guilt about doing was going running. I mean, come on: I was exercising. Losing baby weight. No way could I feel badly about that. And when I was out running, I wasn't Jack's Mommy; I was Betsy.
Running became a way for me to forge my own identity, completely apart from being a wife and mother. My new inner strength, resolve, and dedication allowed me to fulfill a lifelong dream of running a marathon. My memoir for this time of my life?
Running lets me be me again.