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Running Mama: Finding Comfort in my Shoebox

When I was pregnant with my first, I swore I’d be one of those women who wouldn’t let her running fall by the wayside.  Sure, I’d take six weeks off, but then I’d throw those running shoes back on.  I’d read about women like that.  It was just a matter of determination…

…then the baby arrived…

I’d been put into a shoebox, flipped over and spun around.  Every single thing I had done previously seemed impossible now.  It took me 45 minutes to prepare to meet a friend three blocks away. I couldn’t figure out how to make food and actually eat it. I braced myself for toe curling pain every time my tiny insatiable being dared need nourishment.

When I was “cleared for physical activity” I gave it a go, desperate to climb out of my box.  After struggling to find something I could actually wear running, I strapped on my shoes. My husband strapped the baby into the carrier and we headed out together.  I ran a bit and let them catch up…it was awful.  Legs like planks of wood held together by rusty hinges, torso a jelly-filled balloon, I felt sure my body would never remember.

Then I went back to work and regularly got home at 1 a.m..  First feeding: 3 a.m., up for the day: 5:30 a.m..  I struggled to stay awake on the subway home.  Once I was trying to stay awake by texting and was awoken by the sound of my phone falling to the floor.

I hated myself for not following through with my commitment to running.  I had to admit though, sleeping was just as vital to my health.  So I ran when I could and slogged through my days, frizzy-haired and loopy.

The six years that followed have been a roller coaster but I’ve been able to keep running in my life.  When we first moved to Colorado my daughter would beg me not to leave whenever I left for a run.  Sometimes I didn’t feel like dealing with the guilt trip and stayed.  Then I got pregnant again.  Maybe it was because I didn’t have the crazy work schedule anymore, or because I had done the kid thing already but whatever the reason, I got out there faster the second time.

I still have a hard time finding the joy in running sometimes but I ran a marathon this past fall.  I still live in my box, but don’t keep the top on anymore.  I’ve become attached to it, and am learning to step out and have some fun with my time.  As my kids get older, I realize I don’t need to pressure myself to step out.  It’ll happen.

You know, maybe I’m already there.  When I leave for runs now, my daughter asks, “How many miles are you running today, Mama?” She draws pictures of me running and gives them to me when I get back.  I don’t think that kind of thing happens when you’re stuffed in a shoebox.

Sarah Stith lives in Boulder with her husband and two children (3 and 6) while her husband attends grad school.  Before moving to Colorado, the family lived in Brooklyn, NY where Sarah worked as a dresser at The Lion King on Broadway.  She now works from home and manages to find time between diaper changes to build her organization, “Raising Little Heroes” (http://raisinglittleheroes.wordpress.com/), a group devoted to finding volunteer opportunities for families with young children.