Running toward possibility

I’ve long been fascinated by the concept of streaks: doing something every single day. My father, who spent his career as a professor of Old Testament and Hebrew scriptures, has read Hebrew every single day since 1977. In late 2016 — December 24, to be exact — I decided to start a running streak. I would run at least a mile every single day. I wasn’t sure how long the streak would last. But 30 days turned into 60, 90, 100…a year, two years…

Then in May of 2019, I learned I was expecting kid #5. This happy news came with the knowledge that most likely the streak’s days were numbered. In the past, I’ve generally stopped running around 8 months into my pregnancies, and of course delivery itself requires some recovery. I set a goal of making it to 1000 straight days, which would occur in late September.

Then late September came and went and I kept running. My third trimester brought some gorgeous October runs. Even as November came and I slowed more and more, I still generally felt better after a run than I did before. In December, I started mostly confining myself to laps around the house and yard (less boring than the treadmill). I made it to December 24 — three years. I decided to run a little the next day too. On December 28, the weather was so warm I decided to run outside through the neighborhood: just a mile and a half, total, but it was doable.

Then, that night, I went into labor. My baby arrived at 5 a.m. on December 29 and I spent December 29 in my hospital room. So I didn’t run. Honestly, I didn’t think much about the fact that I didn’t run. I’d already built into my mental model of birth that the streak would be over so I didn’t spend too much time marking its passage. Nor did I think about it much over the next week as I recovered at home (both from childbirth and the nasty cold I contracted around the same time!) Frankly, I don’t think I would have been capable of much running during the first bit, largely because of the fatigue of whatever sleep I could get with the newborn being interrupted by coughing, so perhaps best I didn’t think about it.

But by the middle of last week I was starting to feel like myself again. I went for some walks, which felt decent. So on Saturday, I decided to try out my legs. I went for a very short (just about a mile) walk/run.* It went good. On Sunday, another unseasonably warm day, I ran slowly for about 30 minutes. That felt good too.

And so now I am pondering my running goals, which I could start building toward in another month or so. As I felt myself slowing last fall, I decided to sign up for the Philadelphia Marathon in November 2020. I wanted something to motivate myself, to urge myself to take the view that while my body was limited now, in a year I could potentially be in the best shape of my life. I don’t see why not. I’d like to start lifting weights more seriously, and since my one marathon time was pretty slow, barring bad conditions or injury, I could probably get a personal record (PR). In the meantime, I’m signed up for a 5-mile race in late February. I’m signed up for a 10-miler in May, and I will likely try to do a half-marathon as a tune-up in late summer/early fall.

I don’t think I will do a streak again. I do intend to run most days, and while I’m on my semi-maternity leave a streak would likely be doable, but once I’m back to work I don’t really have the appetite for waking at 3:30 a.m. to run on a hotel treadmill before a day of flying. I think I could satisfy myself with averaging, say, 5-6 days per week.

But as I ran on Saturday and Sunday, I couldn’t help but smile. These runs felt like the start of something new. I have felt a lot of gratitude for my body over the past year. I am grateful that it could conceive, carry, and birth a baby at ages 40-41. I am grateful that it could run every single day through that pregnancy. I’ll take things easy for the next month or so. But then it will be time to zoom and — running toward possibility — see what I am capable of.

In other news: The baby had his first non-medical/non-carpool outing this weekend. It was 65 degrees on Saturday so we went to the zoo. He stayed in the Ergo carrier, zonked out, the entire time.

*I am aware that the general guidelines say to wait on exercise until 6 weeks, but a lot depends on your personal fitness level, ease of delivery, etc. I’m definitely still taking it easy — slow, not going far, which I will for a while.

9 thoughts on “Running toward possibility

  1. It is always interesting to me to see the variation on recovery time. I know after my first, a run at 12 weeks was horrible and it took me awhile to get my nerve up. Then after #2 (a MUCH easier delivery), I was happily exercising at 3 weeks. Congrats on both the baby and getting back into running!

  2. I remember being so excited to get back into running after all three of my kids were born! I wish you the best of luck, but I sort of feel like maybe…training for a marathon at less than 1-year PP is setting yourself up for injury. Particularly since your streak running is so different from marathon training (all the speed work, the many super long runs). But I suppose you can always go for it and re-assess later once you do a couple 20-milers :).

    I ran 1/2s when all of mine were about a year old (including my standing 1/2 PR from when kiddo 1 was about 11 months), but only did one marathon with a one-year-old (kid #2 – I did another marathon when he was 2 and two weeks ago my 6th marathon now that kid #3 is 2). My experience (and again maybe this because I had C-sections) is that it really took that whole extra year to be strong enough to tolerate the training and finish in a decent (for me) time (about 4 hours, I’m not fast).

    I’m not trying to be negative, but I’ve seen people get totally derailed and have to take long breaks because of injuries from doing too much too soon. Good luck to you!

    1. @Chelsea – thanks for your concern, I appreciate it. My time will likely be in the high 4-hours so a lot slower than you! I ran Big Sur marathon at 7 months postpartum with kid #2 and it was fine. I ran a half at 5 months postpartum with kid #4 (so more recently) and then two more within the first year. Everyone’s experience is different and yes, we shall see how those 20-milers feel when I start them late summer/early fall!

  3. Congratulations on your beautiful baby! I love the photos on Insta and just came across your blog here. I am an avid listener of Before Breakfast and have begun to track my time as a result. You are such an inspiration! Although, being a slow reader–I am fascinated by how you manage to read so much with your family and work responsibilities. I too am a big time reader (in my estimation!) but can barely fit in two books a month (and my kids are grown ups!). This month, my book club crew and I are reading your Juliet’s School of Possibilities. We are meeting this Saturday for brekkie and time management talk. I’ll try and send pics of our group with your book after Saturday. If you have any questions for me to ask them or shout outs to them, please share. Keep up the great work you are doing! And, enjoy those precious, fleeting ‘baby and me’ moments. –Sandra

  4. Thanks for sharing!! I love hearing about women being active during pregnancy and after. It is so inspirational to see how you have managed to prioritize your health! All the best with your marathon and the PR

  5. I am grateful that you have had another successful pregnancy and a good recovery! Philadelphia is one of my favorite marathons and I also hope to do it next fall with some friends. It is a good mix of things without the overwhelming crowds and tough logistics of other large city marathons. Keep inspiring us, Laura!

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