Registration is open! My social media channels are saturated with pictures of entry confirmations or excited tweets about signing up. And up until basically the last minute (ie the day before), I was pretty convinced I’d be forking over $175 to add my name to the list. I had some hesitations about it, of course, and I carefully read and thought about each and every piece of criticism/advice about why running Boston 4 months postpartum may not be the smartest decision (honestly — the comments on the post are way more interesting than anything I ramble about. If you’re thinking about training for any race postpartum, I highly recommend reading through them!). But I still remained convinced.
Evan was supportive, as was my mom — a woman who had 4 children of her own and has been an athlete all her life. One of my biggest role models when it comes to working hard to achieve your dreams while also balancing a family told me that she thought it was great to have a goal for myself, and she was truly on board if I felt like I could handle it. Even my OB said that she was confident I could run Boston and that I’d have no problem finishing.
So then, if I was so passionate about wanting to run the race and convinced that I could physically and mentally handle it, why not sign up?
Because ultimately I realized I couldn’t just ask, “Can I do it?” and let that answer guide my decision. I had to follow that question up with an even more important one, “At what cost?”
Now, this question is a lot more complicated. And it got me really thinking about postpartum exercise: How soon? How much? And how important is it? I realized that a lot of the comments on my last post really pertained to that larger discussion. It’s not just about Boston. It’s about how we push our bodies as runners and how that changes once we go through labor/delivery. It’s about the goals and values we have for ourselves, our families…our lives outside of raising children. And I find it all really fascinating. Because it goes well beyond what we can (or should be able to) handle physically.
I don’t want to get into that whole discussion in this post. Partially because I’m not on that other side yet. As a pregnant woman who is still only dreaming about getting back into shape post-baby, my opinions come with a strong measure of naiveté. I can tell you what I hope/want to be able to do, but we all know that my life is going to change forever in a little over 3 months.
Framing it in terms of Boston, however, most of the concerns with postpartum exercise that I heard/read fell into 3 categories:
1.) Time away from the baby
2.) Toll that training takes on your body
3.) Logistics of the marathon
To be perfectly honest with you, #1 was my lowest concern. Maybe that makes me sound like an awful mother…maybe that just convinces you that I’m even more naive about motherhood than I thought. Yes, I’m planning on working and yes, the baby will be in daycare during the day. So obviously I am going to want to see her as much as I can on the weekends, evenings, etc. But, I’m really not nervous about training taking away from that time. First, because our daycare is literally right down the hall from my office. I may not be with her all day, but I can stop in and see/feed her at least a couple of times during work, and she’ll never feel too far away. Second, I have a husband who is really really excited about this baby. When I asked him if it was selfish that I wanted to spend time away from the baby to train his response was: “What about MY time with the baby? What if I want time alone with her?” Yes, I know my relationship with Cheese Baby will be different from my husband’s. I know she’s going to be a lot more dependent on me than him in those first months of life. But I also really value his relationship with our future child, and I’m excited that he wants to take such an active role in her life.
And finally — I don’t want to get completely caught up in that post-baby haze. Okay, so maybe I do a little. I know the newborn stage goes by quickly and you never get those first few months back. So I’m sure that I’ll be 100% content to have my life revolve completely around her at the start . But it’s going to be winter in Vermont. Cold, dark, lonely. I need something that motivates me to get out of the house now and then. I need something that makes me feel like myself — something beyond just being a mother. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with just embracing being a mom for a while and putting other goals to the side. I know many women who do it and are completely happy. But I also know that’s not for me.
This gave me a bit more pause…not just because I have no idea what my labor/delivery/recovery will be like. I hope to breastfeed. I want to use cloth diapers. I’m going to be sleep deprived. Balancing a newborn and work. My life is going to be turned upside down (in the best possible way) and I will need to figure out how to manage it all. I want to train for something, but a marathon within 4 months might be a little too much to handle. I could face issues with my supply, or do further damage to my body down the line if I’m not careful.
That being said, I don’t really feel like this is insurmountable. I still believe that if I was really careful and put in the bare minimum number of miles to train, I could definitely finish the marathon. It wouldn’t be easy and I’d probably be exhausted, but I could do it.
Personally, this was the tipping point. Even if Cheese Baby arrives right on time and I have a perfect labor/delivery…even if training goes well and I feel strong…even if everything fell into place in those months leading up to Boston, there’s still the issue of race day. A huge race that requires lots of sitting around beforehand. And after last year’s tragedy, it will have even tighter security measures. BAA has already stated that runners need to expect stricter baggage claim policies, and has warned that that may not be able to check a bag at all. Running a marathon while breastfeeding would require me to pump right before the race. If I can’t check a bag, I definitely can’t pump. And if I can’t pump…I honestly have no idea how I’d make it through the day.
So could I do Boston 4 months postpartum? Yes. And I am so thankful for all the encouragement I got from many of you and other people in my life.
But at what cost? Between trying to fit in the training with a newborn while keeping myself (and her!) healthy and trying to figure out race day logistics, it became clear that the cost might be too much. I debated signing up anyway and just seeing what happens. That would spare me from the regret I feel right now about not registering, and the regret I’d feel on race day if everything was going well and I felt capable of running. But I ultimately decided I might regret it more later if things don’t work out. Not only because I could use that registration money for things that might actually benefit Cheese Baby (like nursery furniture and baby products!), but also because in the end, I’m not sure if I can handle another failed marathon attempt. In 2012, I wasn’t able to run either marathon I trained for (Boston due to injury; NYCM due to cancellation). 2013 started with another marathon DNS due to pregnancy. Do I really want to continue this trend for yet another year? Or do I want to pick a race, train my heart out for it, and cross the finish line breaking my 3:18 streak once and for all?
For now my plan is to come to Boston in 2014 as a spectator once again. I wish I could be one of the runners on the course, but at least I’ll be able to celebrate from the sidelines. Meanwhile, I’m going to find another race to train for. I won’t plan a marathon only 4 months out, but I need a goal to work toward. Whether that’s a few spring half marathons and a fall full or something else, I don’t really know.
All I know is that I am a runner. Running has been with me through all of life’s major changes. It’s more to me than just a form of exercise – it’s a constant in my life and an integral part of my identity. I don’t see how having a baby should change that.
Crazy to think this was almost a year ago now
So I may not be running Boston. But when 2014 comes around, I plan to be running.