A huge thanks to Ann for writing our first Race Report. You can follow Ann on twitter as @annbransom and check out her blog here.
Three months ago, I gave birth to my second (and LAST) baby girl. My oldest daughter is two years old, so I’ve basically been pregnant for the last three years. The first two weeks home with my new little bundle was full of many emotions, but the most prevailing one was one I did not expect. Fear. I had let myself get so out of shape under the cliche excuses of “resting while I can” and “eating for two” that just trying to carry one of the thousand loads of laundry I would now be doing was enough to leave me huffing and puffing on the couch. Except now, I had two sets of big brown eyes looking up at me pleading, “Please get up and play with me.”
I was too out of shape to play with my children.
I was always a skinny, athletic kid. My dad was a former UK football player, so he happily encouraged basketball, gymnastics, and running. He even coached my teams. Competition, perseverance, and giving 110% are just a few of the things that he taught me, whether we were shooting hoops in the driveway or riding bikes to Commonwealth Stadium and back. I always envisioned sharing these moments with my girls too.
Now, here I was, unable to enjoy a leisurely walk with my kids, much less a bike ride or a game of horse.
In hindsight, I probably could have given myself a little break. After all, I had just given birth two weeks prior. But fourteen days after getting home from the hospital I declared full on war with my health. I started walking and counting calories. Then two weeks after that I started Couch to 5k. I am a person that needs a goal, though. So at the suggestion of some fellow runners on Twitter, I registered for the Komen Race for the Cure 5k. I figured I might at least be able to run part of it and walk the rest.
Coincidentally, I finished Couch to 5k the week before the race. Couch to 5k is kind of a misnomer, though, because it’s really just Couch to 30 minutes of straight running. For someone running a 14 minute mile like me, that is NOT 3.1 miles. So I ran 3.1 miles twice the week before the race, just to make sure I could do it. Amazingly, not only could I do it, but I felt GREAT. If you had told me in those dark moments two weeks after getting home from the hospital, feeling trapped inside a body that didn’t feel like it was mine, that I would not only be running a 5k race, but would be running it CONFIDENTLY, I would have said you were crazy.
However, October 15th as my best friend Heather and I lined up at Centre Pointe in the freezing, windy morning air, I knew I was going to be able to run the whole race, but more importantly, that I was going to be able to push myself and feel awesome afterwards.
That morning, I didn’t want to eat anything before the race but my teammate Heather forced me. I’m glad she did, if for no other reason than having a full stomach helped with the cold. The chip timed runners took off at 8am. I probably could have done the competitive 5K, but I felt too insecure about it. I had this weird notion that it would be somehow disrespectful to “real runners” for my newbie self to run alongside them. We lined up at 9am, in our Team Ravenclaw shirts (“Smart girls do self-exams”). When the race started I realized we were way too far back. I was ready to take off, but, again, out of some weird insecurity I didn’t want to start up at the front with the “real runners”. So I lost a little bit of time trying to maneuver around the walkers. Heather was going to power walk it, so I waved goodbye to my teammate.
During the run itself, I felt exhilarated and self conscious at the same time. There were all types of runners and walkers. Hard bodied sorority girls, seasoned older runners, wheelchair users, walkers, etc. The one thing that really stuck with me was how supportive everyone was being of each other. The competitive runners were lined up along the course cheering all of us non-competitors on. Those images of “real runners” rolling their eyes at me and shooting me dirty looks to get out of their way that had kept me up all night were complete figments of my imagination. As I rounded the mile marker, I got a surprise. There was my mom holding my two year old Hannah Jane. When she saw her mommy she gave me a big smile and waved. That’s all I needed. I belted out the last two miles with a smile on my face.
I crossed the finish line in 38:15. By no means a fast run, but I finished and that was my only goal. However, running this race was more than just a fitness goal for me. It taught me so much about life and myself. One, I AM a “real runner”. There is no reason that I should set myself apart from the other “real runners”. I claim that title now. Two, athletic people don’t just “seem” happy. They are. I used to roll my eyes at doctors, friends, family who would tell me to exercise to cope with the inordinate amount of stress I put myself under. I used to think, “Right. Getting out and hacking up a lung and being reminded how out of shape I am is really going to help with stress.” Now that I am past the initial cardiovascular rehab I needed in the beginning of my fitness journey, I truly am seeing the effects of exercise on my mood and general outlook on life.
I love being outside. I love feeling sweat pouring down my face. I can’t just sit on the couch anymore. And best of all, I LOVE playing with my kids.
Finally, I have truly connected with the fact that life is short. The cause we were running for really drove that home for me. This is the only body I’m ever going to have. My grandmother is a breast cancer survivor. My teammate’s mom is a breast cancer survivor and was my age when she was diagnosed. My mom has had a couple of scares, having just had a biopsy a few weeks ago. You just never know what battles your body is going to have to fight. That’s why you have to make your body a warrior.
When I crossed the finished line, my babies were there waiting on me. Hannah jumped into my arms and as I squeezed her I made a commitment to her and myself. It’s only up from here. No falling off the band wagon. No going back. I’m 42 lbs lighter than I was 3 months. My babies are watching. I am going to be an example to them that you don’t have to succumb to our culture of being sedentary. You can take baby sets. You can set small goals and relish accomplishing them one at a time. You can run a race and finish with a big smile on your face. You just have to find what motivates you and keep that image in your head whenever the battle gets tough. For me, it’s Hannah Jane and Emma Lynn shooting hoops with me in the driveway someday.
What is it for you?