In my quirky little mind I’ve always associated runners’ accomplishments with professional credentials. Instead of PhD, or Esq. my imaginary business card reads: Kathleen Lau. Runner, Half marathoner, Marathoner, Boston finisher. My most recent addition? Mother runner. At first I thought it was just a catchy phrase, something to slap on t-shirts and throw behind a hashtag. But then I started to live it. And although I am just a little over 4 months into this new title, I understand now that it is so much more than a trendy bumper sticker.
It’s that first postpartum run, where your legs resemble Bambi, but your body has more of a Dumbo feel. It’s trying on sports bras in sizes you thought were reserved exclusively for porn stars. Only having to make the mistake once of heading out for a run without emptying the tanks. It’s stuffing your postpartum body into the workout clothes you wore before you got pregnant, and wondering how on earth spandex can feel so restrictive. It’s standing in front of a mirror, trying to drown out those critical voices by reminding yourself over and over again that your body has done a lot of work to grow and nourish a child over the past year.
It’s the feeling you get as you walk in from that first run. The rush of endorphins, the heavy breathing, the taste of sweat above your lip. Suddenly it all comes back to you. Makes you feel whole again, makes you feel like YOU again. In the darkness of those first weeks and months, it’s a beacon of light in the dark ocean that is nursing, soothing, diaper changing. It keeps you from drowning.
It’s passing a screaming baby off to your husband the moment he walks in the door, because you just need 2 miles so that you can be mom again tomorrow. It’s when Friday night becomes “you time”, when you can get in a run without worrying about what you need to do for the next day. It’s pushing through those last 10 seconds because you know that as hard as it is to put one foot in front of the other, it’s one step closer to your old self. That every run will get a little easier. It’s the goosebumps you get as you crawl across your first postpartum finish line. The clock that doesn’t read a painfully slow finish time but instead blinks a subliminal message… “You’ve still got this”.
It’s pointing out all your favorite running routes to your son in the car, when you know he can’t see more than passing images through the window. It’s that first time you head out with the running stroller, when you spend the majority of the time trying to figure out what the heck you’re supposed to do with your hands.
It’s the new and improved Sunday morning run. When it’s just you and him. When instead of plugging in headphones, your run is narrated by the sound of the wheels hitting the pavement and your heavy breathing. When you peer into the stroller to find a sleeping baby. Relaxed and content because somehow even he understands how therapeutic running can be. It’s knowing that even though he may not remember this moment, you know that you are setting an example for the rest of his life. Mom runs, mom is strong, mom can do hard things.
Sunday is my very first Mother’s Day. And of course, I couldn’t imagine starting it with anything other than a run. It will be Riley and I’s first race together (since he’s been on the outside anyway). Something I’ve dreamed about since the day that little line showed up on a pee stick. And for once I won’t be chasing a time clock. I won’t have a playlist in my ears heck, I probably won’t even wear a watch. On Sunday, that finish line is about me and my little guy sharing this special thing. It’s about earning that shiny new title, mother runner.