I just finished the hardest 2.5 mile run of my life.
Pregnancy sure feels like I’m doing fitness in reverse. My runs are getting shorter, not longer. I post status updates and before and after pictures showing my tummy getting bigger, not smaller. I celebrate milestones where my normal activity is getting harder, not easier. When I started running three and a half years ago, people would tell me how great and different I looked. Those compliments stopped after awhile, not because I wasn’t still looking great, but because the fact that Pattie Runs wasn’t a novelty any more.
Then my friends and family forgot. I started to get comments, even from old friends, that were like, “I could never run like you do. You’re amazing. I just don’t have the [insert roadblock here].” I know they’re being nice, but I would want to throw my hands up in the air and say, “Really?! Don’t you remember me in 2009? I couldn’t run to the end of my driveway!”
And then, I think, I forgot. I forgot what it was like to be a beginner. I strapped on my running shoes and went out there because I knew it would feel good and I knew I could do it. I forgot what it felt like when it was a challenge every. single. step. The 24th week of pregnancy — last week — hit me like a freight train. It came with exciting things, like our second 3D ultrasound (she’s a girl). But it was, to use that really tired phrase, the straw that broke the camel’s back. I gained 3 pounds that week, about 30% of my overall weight gain this pregnancy. Every run takes so much mental focus and effort now.
(Aside: Now I know plenty of women who ran all the way to the end. Joan Benoit Samuelson won 9th place in the Boston Marathon at 3 months pregnant and all that. I’m trying really hard not to compare myself to them.) So it reminds me of what it feels like to be a beginner again. Fortunately I have some tools in my toolbox that I didn’t have then:
- I know to listen to my body. I keep my breaths to three breaths out, two breaths in rhythm. If I have to breathe faster than that, I slow down … no matter how slow that is.
- I know to focus on my posture. It’s easy to absent-mindedly slack over because it’s a lot of effort to pull my belly in … but the effort to pull my belly in is less than the effort it takes to run in an inefficient manner.
- I know that every step counts. Running even a little bit today means I’ll be able to do it again tomorrow.
- I know that as hard as it is, it wasn’t as hard as before. I still weigh 20 pounds less than I did the day I started running.
So my victory this week was running those 2 and a half miles today. And it was not a little one.