By Amanda Bond.
Toronto August 3rd 2016.
I didn’t run last week.
I’m in week 8 of my fall marathon training and I didn’t even run once. I went swimming, and I went to yoga, and I went on lots of walks, but I didn’t run. I’m not injured, but I did spend lots of time in bed having naps.
Here’s the thing: I have a baby who just cut his first tooth, and the appearance of the second one is imminent. He’s sad and he needs cuddles and kisses and soothing. He needs to be held close. He only wants to sleep on me. During swimming he’s pretty much attached to me as it’s a mom and baby class, and at yoga it’s the same. I wear him when we go walking. But when we run he’s stuck in our jogging stroller, and last week that was something he couldn’t really deal with, so we didn’t do it. Could I have gone very early in the morning or late at night? Probably. But sleep is a loose term for us these days with his teething, so I prioritized taking naps whenever I could get them and running didn’t happen. He only gets his first teeth once.
Running runs in our family, so to speak. My dad is a marathoner and I ran my first one with him. A couple of years back, I wrote about that. Since then, we’ve registered for a few races together, and one of those turned out to coincide with the first trimester of my pregnancy with Knox. As I was under doctor’s orders to refrain from strenuous physical activity due to a recent miscarriage, I dropped down to a shorter distance and walked the event with my sister and my dog Sam. My dad caught up to us just before the end, and we celebrate the photo above as my son’s first finish line photo.
It was a big deal. Knox has had a couple more finish lines since – once while I was about 6 months pregnant and I ran/walked a 5K, and once on the outside at the end of his first jogging stroller race, the Waterfront 10 in June (you can read a recap of that one here if you’re interested).
These are really special to me. I have been able to take something that has meant a lot to me my whole life – something that I’ve shared with my Dad since I was a kid – and share it with my own child. And while I won’t be running many more stroller races, Knox is helping me train for my fourth marathon, which will take place about a month before his first birthday.
Marathon training with a baby has its pros and cons. On one hand, gone are the days of just putting on running shoes and going. Every run needs planning and packing. We don’t leave the house without Knox’s bag of things: diapers and wipes, soother and strap, easy stroller snacks, a sun shade, hat, sunscreen, a change pad and blanket, some stroller toys, a sippy cup and water, a change of clothes, a sling in case he needs to come out of the stroller. These are the basics.
I try to leave as he’s getting sleepy so that he’ll nap on the go. He’s come along for distances up to 16K and he’s a really good sport about it. When we stop at red lights, we take water and snack breaks, get some face to face time, and chat a little. If he’s awake while I’m running, we sing and I point out things to him that he may find interesting. I try to narrate what we see. I listen for signs that he needs a break. When he sleeps, I try to find that groove as much as possible, despite the fact that my arms aren’t swinging and my stride is different and I’m pushing a beast of a stroller with a baby in it around the city. Stroller running is a good workout, but it doesn’t allow me to run quickly. My legs aren’t used to running fast and during this cycle, they won’t be.
These are the realities: the missed runs, the forethought, the slow pace, the fact that any time I set out to run a certain distance, Knox’s needs come first and while I can maximize the chances that I’ll get the whole run in, I can in no way totally predict or account for the changing mood of a little person with a big personality and his needs. I used to run to relieve anxiety. Stroller running doesn’t exactly promote that kind of mental mood.
But running with Knox has changed me in some big positive ways. I used to focus on very different things. I was a runner with a lot of technology – GPS watch and music and my phone. I used to check my pace constantly and this was a factor in my quitting road running in favour of trails for a while before I became pregnant – I would obsess over it and it wasn’t fun. If I was having a bad day, I would feel utterly defeated. This kind of thing was terrible for my mental health in general. Now that I run with a stroller, I don’t bother with things like pace because it’s irrelevant. I pre-plan my routes so that I know my distance and I leave my watch at home. I don’t run with music anymore because I listen to and talk with Knox. I feel much more present in my runs now. Stroller running has freed me from the numbers and the distractions that were such a big part of it for me before. And I mean, what run isn’t made better by seeing this little face?
As he grows, I’m so excited to learn what interests Knox; who he’ll be. He may or may not be into athletic pursuits at all, or running specifically; even if he is, maybe races won’t be his thing. And that’s great. Really, this training cycle is the only one I’m guaranteed to be able to share with him, because he kind of has to come along for the ride. And whatever he’s into, I look forward to telling him about the time marathon training was so easy for him that he did the majority of it in his sleep. There are photos to prove it.
About Amanda Bond: I’m Mandy and I’m a new mom. My son was born in November of 2015. After some significant time off of running due to a miscarriage, my subsequent pregnancy, and the birth of my son, I’m spending this year building back strength and endurance so that I can complete my fourth marathon. I’m also navigating my shifting priorities and how that has affected my relationship with running. As someone with a history of anxiety, depression, and anorexia, as well as active postpartum depression, I run mostly for mental health reasons. Though these days you can generally find me pushing a jogging stroller around the city, trail running is one of my true loves and I hope to run my second ultramarathon next spring. Connect with Amanda on Twitter and Instagram.