On September 26, I joined fourteen friends and neighbors in a small unofficial half marathon through our local area in Northern Westchester. Before I began my training journey in July, I had only run a 10K (6.2 miles). Over the last few months, I learned many things about running, training, parenting, and life.
1. You are capable of more than you may think.
After a handful of outdoor runs to clear my head during the first few months of COVID-19, my husband bought me a book about half marathon training. I know what you’re thinking, and no, it wasn’t like the controversial Peloton commercial. I am a fitness junkie but have shied away from long-distance running.
He was looking to inspire me, and it worked. As I read about the training program, I realized the first seven of twelve weeks didn’t look all that different than what I was already doing, more or less. With the right plan and gradual mileage increase, it seemed like something I was capable of.
Spoiler alert: I was right.
2. You discover a lot from a change in perspective.
As I sought out new running routes to achieve my mileage goals, my perspective shifted. Roads that never seemed hilly when I drove them were suddenly significant challenges. The changes in season, weather, and smells were much more noticeable on my long runs than in my typical day-to-day. I became even more connected with my surroundings and grateful for the beautiful setting in which I live.
My perspective as a parent is continuously shifting and evolving. For example, my daughter is a sensitive child. This is often a cause of stress for me as a parent. Is she resilient enough? How can I help her to self-regulate and develop better coping mechanisms? Then one day, I had a realization. Her sensitivity is also one of her best qualities. She is open and loving.
3. You must prioritize flexibility.
If ever there was a time to acknowledge the importance of flexibility, it’s 2020. This year everything has been disrupted, and we’ve found new ways to celebrate life. A couple of weeks into training, I was facing calf pain. I didn’t run for a week and focused instead of stretching and yoga. When I resumed running, the discomfort was less significant. With ongoing stretching and the magic of compression socks, I got through it.
I also had to exercise flexibility when it came to how, where, and when I trained based on weather and our family’s schedule. Parenting requires a lot of flexibility because children are unpredictable, and parents’ needs rarely come first. But with some adaptability, you can find ways to fit in time for yourself, and as parents, we all deserve a little of that.
4. It takes a village.
In parenthood, we already know we need to lean on friends and family. My training was no different. My husband managed many of our family’s weekday mornings and weekends. My mom watched my kids outdoors in masks so I could get in a long run. Friends checked in on my training progress and shared tips from footwear to fuel. Race day, I had friends running with me and cheering me on from the sidelines. Even the outpouring of love on my social media posts after the event reminded me of the importance of friends and family support.
5. There’s joy in the process.
Throughout my training, I had a number in my head: two hours. I desperately wanted to finish the race in two hours, which was faster than my training pace. A week before the race, my priority shifted. I wanted to enjoy the half marathon. I planned to high-five my kids. I wanted to finish feeling like I achieved something incredible. I did not want to set myself up for disappointment.
Thinking too far ahead or focusing on the past is not productive and doesn’t allow you to enjoy the process or current moment.