September 10, 2018
When I first started running I had the luxury of not being tied down by anything.
Of course I didn’t realise it at the time, and absolutely took that luxury for granted most of the time.
I had been running for around 6 years when I ran my first marathon, and then I found out I was pregnant…a week after in fact.
I hardly ran at all during my pregnancy, because I was super busy at work and just preoccupied with other things.
I couldn’t wait to go back to it when my daughter arrived.
But oh my goodness…was it a different experience.
For a start my boobs were the size of zorbing balls, squirting milk out at will…so that took some getting used to, and also I had to negotiate my training around the needs of another human being (how did I miss that memo?)
I can remember being really frustrated in the first few months, not just being able to pop out of a run, or having to go at silly o’clock in the morning so I could be back for mummy duties.
But then I realise I would just have to get creative…parenting was going to feature in my life for at least the next 18 years so I’d better get used to it.
So I came up with a list of 100+ ways I could fit in exercise around having a child….and I wrote a book about it called “How to run with a baby”, it’s not my most popular book, it’s only sold a few hundred copies…but I tell you what? It has helped me out of a fix a good few times.
I’m training for the New York Marathon at the moment, and I am having to ramp up my creativity to get my workouts in.
- Reaching out for weekend childcare
- Running during the day now she is back at school
- Afterschool bike ride/speed sessions
- Taking her with me to CrossFit
- KettleBells in the front room when she’s asleep
- A meal delivery service to limit time having to food shop
All small things that help with the bigger picture.
And this is what we have to do…make it happen by any means necessary.
Yesterday, I was sent the image at the top of this page, which really made me think about how powerful we are as women to be able to juggle the number of things we do, and the roles we play through our lives.
The photo was taken by Alexis Berg on behalf of Strava and is of British ultra runner Sophie Power, at the 166km Ultra Trail Mont Blanc. She is seen breastfeeding during the event, which she completed in 43 hours and 33 minutes (not the breastfeeding obviously…the race).
The image captures a compelling moment with her 3-month-old baby Cormac in one hand, and a breast pump in the other; something which I guess is rarely seen at events like this…nor generally in the sporting world really.
Oh my god I was in agony! Cormac usually feeds every 3 hours and it took me 16 to get to Courmayeur where he could first meet me so I was hand expressing everywhere I could en route. I was so relieved he was hungry!
Can you imagine the determination of doing that?
I couldn’t raise my heart rate too much as my body isn’t primed to burn fat and I couldn’t fully run downhills to protect my pelvis. In a typical race I would get in and out of the aid stations as quickly as possible but here I had to focus on keeping down enough food for me and for Cormac, and resting.
Now I haven’t done anything as epic as a 166km race while breastfeeding, but I do as a single parent often find myself doing pretty intense things, which involve a whole heap of child-related logistics, and having to hobble along the road to take Rose to school the day after a big race can feel particularly cruel.
When training for a race it can often feel like things are an uphill struggle, and taking the day off because childcare is an issue, or one of your kids is being particularly difficult, can feel like the sensible thing to do….but what’s the alternative? Not run? Not take part in challenges? Not reach your potential? Wait until they are adults?
By any means necessary is what I think.
But there is one element of this story that you might not know about…and I thought what a perfect way to raise it. Did you know many of the big ultramarathon races do not let women defer places on the basis of pregnancy?
Surely that’s not fair right?
I have women in The Clubhouse who are in that difficult place of wanting to train for a big race, but also wanting to start or extend their family. Long distance races can be incredibly expensive, and surely this policy puts women at a disadvantage…possibly contributing to why there is a disproportionate ratio of men to women at such events.
Sophie said on Instagram
This wasn’t about making a point about the rule. This was about spending 2 days with myself in the mountains focussed on putting one foot in front of the other.
That time alone.
Independent of being a Mum is so important.
It sometimes feels like the only way to stay sane in the early months.
I hope that my daughter Rose will look back on our slightly unconventional lifestyle and be pleased that we do so much active stuff together, and that this work keeps her mum not only healthy, but of sound mind.
So next time you are finding hard to motivate yourself, think about your fellow women who are juggling things just like you, ask for help, be creative and remember the phrase
By any means necessary