Live to Run Another Day

For as much as writing and running share, it surprises me how difficult it is to write about running. I can write about the logistics of training. I can describe the landscape of a favorite route, but ever since I tried to write that Faulkner-style stream of consciousness (HA THIS WAS AN ACTUAL ASSIGNMENT I HAD) about the state cross country meet back in 12th grade, I’ve realized how impossible putting the spirit of running into words is.

I’ve been training for the New York Marathon since July. I signed up for the race after I ran 1/2 a mile postpartum. I’d been in physical therapy for pregnancy-related hip problems and had just been cleared to start running again.

This summer, I logged miles with my college teammates in Central Park, raced a cross country relay and logged miles at the local rail trail with my good friend and her high school aged daughter. I PRed in the half marathon (the first PR I’d run in any distance since 2007) in October. I know it doesn’t sound credible, but I don’t think I had a single bad run this training cycle.

Last Tuesday I was in the middle of what I thought was my “third-to-last” hard run, the warm up with the double jogger, tempo run on the treadmill at nap time, when something went wrong. I took time off, saw my PT three times in the last week, stretched, rolled, iced, took anti-inflammatories…and then, when I still couldn’t run more than ten minutes without pain last night, I decided to defer the race.

I haven’t cried yet (though I probably will). Instead I feel relieved. I’m proud of my half marathon PR. I feel sad to see the day I imagined (watching the sunrise on the ferry, smiling through all five boroughs, celebrating with friends and family after the race) slip away, but I’d feel even more sad if I couldn’t run for weeks or months.

Running while breastfeeding with two young kids is so different from any kind of running I’ve done before. Not necessarily because it’s harder (though sometimes it’s certainly harder logistically) but because it requires so much from other people. On long run days, I often dug into our freezer stash (of breastmilk) for Simon. I asked Nick to take on the first three hours of the day solo. Maybe because I tried to be aware of how much I was asking from the people I love most that I cherished those runs that began in the dark or on tired legs or were squeezed in before someone woke up from a nap. But, I’m realizing this morning that even though the big goal race isn’t going to happen, those runs themselves were always part of the goal.

It’s hard to untangle running goals from dreams of invincibility and youth. It’s thrilling to run faster at 35 than I did at 24 (especially since I was already a serious runner, just out of college training, at 24), and the chance to PR in the marathon is seductive. Even as I’m finishing my course of naproxen and scheduling PT visits for the rest of this week, I’m thinking about which marathon I might do–New York next year? Something else? I’m dreaming about another summer of early miles as much as I am about the race itself.