Running. This is the only "hobby" into which I put any sort of real time. I do enjoy cooking, trying out new recipes and being an adventurous eater. But, well, I have a toddler. So, um, my experimentation in the kitchen is limited to finding food he'll actually eat. I'm not crafty, or artistic, or, well, hobby-tastic. I used to play the piano pretty well, I used to sing quite a bit. Shopping? Is that a hobby? If it is then I'm nearing pro-level (although, I've recently cut myself off, cold turkey).
So back to running. I ran in high school, quit, went to college, would periodically attempt to run again, was fat, quit, graduated from college, worked insane hours, joined a gym, made a new friend, ran with him, quit, got myself a real job--a career, one might say--and was asked to participate in the Corporate Challenge on my school's team.
Then I started running for real.
I actually ran the whole 3.5 mile race, and placed in the top two females for our school district. So, I signed up for some summer 5Ks, and, to my great amazement, started winning medals and trophies for placing in my age group. Like, pretty often. I started getting faster and training harder, and my times steadily got quicker.
This was about 10 years ago. I've made so many friends through running, and have logged about a billion miles alone and with these friends. I've learned there's little better way to get to know someone well than to spend an hour and a half huffing and puffing together. You find lots to talk about. I've run nearly every distance race, from 5K to the marathon. My favorite is the half marathon. My first half marathon was an eye-opener, but I learned how to pace myself to get faster and to actually race one, rather than just survive it. I haven't mastered that for the marathon yet.
Let's not kid ourselves. I'm not going to the Olympics, or setting any kind of records. But I do enjoy competing against myself, pushing to do better on races year after year. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not. My favorite time to run is the Fall, and my favorite races happen then, too.
When I found out I was pregnant with E, C and I went on a seven mile run together; it was Columbus Day, a Monday. I felt, well, different. And the whole time I kept saying, "Oh my god, I can't believe I'm pregnant!" I stopped running about four months in because my body just HURT. With Calla, though, I was coming off months of marathon training. I kept running, logging about 15 miles a week. I ran all the way to Thanksgiving--the Turkey Trot was my swan song. I was almost seven months pregnant, and that had been my goal. Also, immediately after Thanksgiving the weather turned to winter, so I decided I didn't want to risk slipping on the ice, even though I felt great still.
And then Calla died, and was born. I remember lying in the hospital bed, wishing I could run away. Run home. Run anywhere. After wondering how to survive, and how E was going to be, my first thought was, "When can I run again?"
I got the green light two weeks later, and it became my salvation. The only time I could escape my life, my head. I loaded up my iPod and just went. I started running with a new bunch of friends, every Saturday morning at 6:15AM. I figured, hell, I didn't have to be home to nurse a newborn, why not? And it really helped preserve what remained of my sanity.
That's not to say I enjoyed it. It was hard. My body was shot; my brain and heart were hurting. The few races I ran were slow and miserable. My bestie Mo helped me through and especially hard 5K--one run in memory of an infant who died from childhood cancer. And uh, I was pregnant and fighting wicked nausea the whole way.
Oh, right--remember how I got pregnant two months after Calla died? Yep.
So here we are. It's been over three years since I've been fit, or fast, or have run like my old self. But to be honest, the summer before I got pregnant with E, my running was losing emotion--I was running out of gas. Now that I've spent three years running while pregnant, running while nursing, running while grieving, running while overweight, I'm looking forward to getting back to the girl I was a short time ago.
I've learned a lot about my body and what's really important over these three years. It will be awhile before I'm fit, or fast, or race-ready or healed. But the time will come. And maybe I'll bring home another medal yet.
But. I'd gladly trade it all in for a healthy baby in a few weeks, for some peace, for a different outcome. Nothing can bring my little girl back, but I'm glad she was my running partner for many miles.