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I Always Wanted to be a Runner.

But I Never Wanted to be a Mom. Yet, here I am, very much both a mother and a runner. While I’m at a place now where I can do both with (reasonable) success, and – as most parents will tell you – I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything in the world, there was a time when I truly wasn’t sure how I could possibly fit both into my daily life.

Cheer Squad.

The Thing About Becoming a Parent…

The thing about becoming a parent, is that it is equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. Sometimes that balance shifts in favor of one emotion or the other, but parenthood is a wild ride that changes your life in ways you cannot envision. I knew, when I found out I was pregnant for the first time, that my life would be terrifyingly different. Despite my fears about whether I was suited for motherhood, I did the clichéd thing when my son, now 8, was born. I fell in love.

The emotion I wasn’t expecting and that was overwhelming at times, was grief. What did I have to grieve? My son was a healthy, happy baby. I was gainfully employed, and we could afford to provide for our family. Still, I grappled daily with this nagging sense of loss. Of mourning myself, the pre-kids Kate, the one who had career goals and travel dreams. I felt shame for this. Shame, that I was having these feelings of loss when I was one of the lucky ones.

Small Steps

In those early days after my son was born, we walked around our neighborhood with the stroller a lot. I desperately missed running, having run every day of my pregnancy. I still felt selfish for wanting time to myself. After a few weeks, I pulled out the BOB stroller gifted by my parents, and tentatively jogged one mile on a local trail. Was pushing a stroller harder than running on my own? Sure it was. But I felt the stress melting away as I jogged, and a new daily habit was born.

Along for the ride.

Getting Help

While pregnant with my now 5-year old daughter, I attended therapy to try to come to terms with this lingering sense of both guilt and grief. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but that therapist changed my perspective radically by validating my grief. Parental grief is not uncommon, but many of us won’t talk about it for fear of being judged. The truth is that becoming a parent does require sacrifice, sometimes enormous sacrifice. That doesn’t mean parenthood must come with a loss of identity.

New Phase

So began a new phase of my life. One that combined motherhood and running in both exciting and challenging ways. Once I realized my guilt was not only okay but normal, I made the most of it. In fact, my involvement in the local running community increased dramatically after I had kids. I joined the board of my local running club, I became a coordinator for a kids’ running series, I pursued a running coach certificate, a personal trainer certificate, and a Master’s degree in exercise, fitness, and health promotion. My running mileage actually increased relative to what it was pre-kids.

I became a master at fitting together the pieces of my busy life. I would often fit 2-3 separate runs in any given day and challenge my kids to races and running games. I also leaned on the friendship of other moms to keep reminding myself that MY health, MY well-being, MY sanity is important.

Yes You Can!!!

I had an “ah-hah” moment a few months ago with my son. He was helping me set up for one of the kids running series events, and was tasked with putting together the race direction signs. After a few moments of concentration, he stopped and asked me, “Mom, why do other kids’ moms not do stuff like this?” I rifled through about 40 different responses before settling on, “I don’t think all moms know they can do stuff like this.” He took this in quietly before smiling and asking if it was ok if he ran a mile instead of putting together signs. I took that as a win.

We, as moms, underestimate and undervalue ourselves so often. For me, running not only saved my identity, it also expanded that sense of life. It made my life richer by allowing me to combine two of my greatest loves in life – running and motherhood.

Author: Kate Marden is a certified running coach and personal trainer with experience working with runners of ALL abilities and paces since 2018. Kate is also a Community Coordinator for Healthy Kids Running Series, a county committee advocate for the health and well-being of Arlington’s kids, and a champion for anyone wanting to make healthy lifestyle choices. Kate created Flash Running Wild to help others make sustainable, healthy changes that work with their schedule and needs. 

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