Two years ago I ran the Women’s Fitness Festival 5K. My husband and I were preparing to start a family, (which is really just a polite way of saying that I went off birth control that week). As I ran through the crowds of women from various walks of life, I was overcome with the realization that this may be my last race for a while, that the next time I would run this race I would be pregnant, and quite possibly even a mother. The prospect of that was astounding. I set a personal record that day by finishing the race in 22:06. I knew that it would be a long time before I was running that fast again.
I got pregnant two weeks later.
When Zen was 6 weeks old I ordered a B.O.B. jog stroller. The day after it arrived I signed up for the Women’s Fitness Festival. Zen wasn’t sleeping through the night, and I had to strap down my milk jugs with two sports bras layered on top of each other just to walk/run for the few minutes she would let me between feedings. Needless to say, I was determined to return to running. During this period I needed that release more than ever. By the time the race rolled around Zen was just shy of 3 months old and I had been run-walking a whopping 2 weeks. It felt so good to run again, I ended up being the fastest jog stroller in the race, completing the 3.1 miles in a respectable 27:01.
Fast forward to Sunday. I had been training hard—I was not only determined to run, but Zen’s stranger anxiety was making it nearly impossible to leave her at the gym daycare for even one one-hour kickboxing class. So running was it—it was pretty much my only outlet. I did two half marathons in two months and tied my personal record of completing the race in 1:45. Boosted by the confidence of doing 13.1 miles at just over 8 minutes per mile, I confidently set my sights on the fastest jog stroller title for a second year in a row. At the starting line I gathered with my mother and nearly a dozen friends—and approximately 4,000 fellow runners, walkers, and strollers. I was inspired and humbled to be surrounded by loved ones and the sea of strong women doing something healthy.
But I had no time for mushiness—I had my eye on the prize. I had my fluorescent yellow jersey, matching running skirt, and nearly-new yellow running shoes. I was here to kick ass and look kinda cute doing it. When then gun sounded I took off, dodging through the crowd with my bright yellow stroller. (Do you see a theme yet?) Finally I pulled into a gap in the runners. Just as I was settling into my pace I saw something disturbing--another jog stroller in the distance AHEAD OF ME! Not to be outdone, I sprinted past dozens of runners to catch up to this anomaly. Then I noticed that she had a sort of entourage—two female cyclists were clearing a way for her in the crowd. When I was only a few paces behind her, one of the cyclists broke off and joined me. She grinned, cheered me on, and then forged a path through the sea of bodies, yelling, “Clear the way! Mama and Baby coming through! Move to the right! Let’s hear it for this Mama!” I sprinted through a crowd that cheered me on as I ran past pairs of best friends, mothers with their grown daughters, and small children running in intervals until they became distracted by flowers at the Capitol Park or spectators with cow bells.
The finish line approached, and try as I might I could not catch up to the fellow stroller mom. I closed the distance and finished nine seconds behind her. But I set a personal record that day: 21:55.
This event has become much more than just a race for me. It has truly become a celebration of women. I love seeing fast, fit women zoom past at a 5-minute-mile clip. I love seeing middle-aged BFFs in their matching shirts and smiles that speak of decades of shared secrets. I love the super-fast mommy pushed me to go faster than I ever could before—and WITH a stroller! I love that every year I have more friends joining in on the festivities, and that we celebrate each other’s triumphs. I love that my mom came with me for the first time this year.
I am also inspired by myself. It was really, really hard to make the multitude of changes to my life that motherhood required. But I’m driven and tenacious in everything I do, and I was determined to find a way to keep running to preserve my mental and physical health. Zen likes brushing herself with my makeup brushes and taking cards out of my wallet. It’s a daily reminder that she watches everything I do, big and small, good and bad. I hope that she will want to follow my lead to become a healthy, happy woman someday.
One last note: I ran past a little girl who was no more than 8 years old, and she was running alongside her mother. Yes, she was RUNNING. I called to them, saying, “You two are my idols!” The mother hollered back, “That’s how I started off. I know how hard it is to run with that stroller. Go on, Fast Mama!”