We all have ways of decompressing. Shopping, girls’ nights out, girls’ weekends, reading, gardening, drinking wine, and combinations thereof. I swim and I run. I’ve been doing both off and on for over twenty years and I love both equally, but when I really need to work things out, I run. I’ve run in ninety degree weather, the rain and in the snow. I’ve run alone and with friends. I’ve run on the road and on trails. Recently, I bought my first headlamp for running in the dark, early morning. It all works for me.
Over the past two years I’ve really learned how important running is to me. I spent the second half of 2009 and the first half of 2010 feeling like crap. I had regular heartburn for the first time in my life and was two years into carrying the extra weight that comes with having been pregnant twice. I was tired. The two c-sections I had had left me with a belly I was disgusted by. Then I started running again. At first I wasn’t making it very far or very often, but gradually I got back to a regular routine. When we spent our regular week at the beach mid-July I was running three or four miles every day, but it was hell on my knees. I was frustrated. I felt so good, but I felt like my knees where letting me down. By September I was back in the pool three days a week, just to give my knees a rest. The combination of running and swimming on alternate days got me back on track. I wasn’t running every day, but I was running better and feeling better. I started running some 5k’s.
A year later I needed something more. My oldest and closest friend suggested I try a half marathon. I thought she was crazy, but I gave it a try and finished my first half marathon in November 2011 right at two hours. Respectable, I thought, but I thought I’d take the winter off and never run that far again. I told people I was going to be busy “putting my winter weight back on.” Instead I took a couple of weeks off and started up again. I couldn’t not run anymore. I picked another half marathon and got right back to training, this time knowing Lil’ Sis would be there to kick my butt. Two weeks before the race she dragged me through the course, telling me the whole time that I was going under two hours THAT day, while I kept telling her to take her skinny a$$ and run on without me. I’d find my way back to the car. It was rainy, cold, hell and she wouldn’t leave me alone. But, two weeks later we ran the half and I went under my two hours (but not nearly as fast as Lil’ Sis), even after rolling my ankle at the 9 mile marker and dropping my pace way back for the next four miles.
After that race I had a couple of setbacks. A hip injury that required PT. A dog bite that required stitches. But my goal was always to get back out on to the road. I need to run. Big Man will tell you, I am not myself when I don’t run. Heck, after the dog bite, people other than my husband were noticing the difference in my personality. There’s something to be said for being out on the road for five miles. Stress physically dissipates from my body. I don’t have enough energy to run AND to hold on to any stress, so I have to drop the stress. There is no choice. Swimming has a very similar effect, but it’s not quite the same. I challenge anyone who is having an absolutely crappy day to go out for a run and to try to hang onto his or her stress. If you’re still holding on to that stress after you’re done, you didn’t go far enough.
Besides the stress relief, there’s just being out in nature. A couple of days ago I was telling someone just how much I love my ten mile loop. It’s mostly on winding country roads, filled with rolling hills, farms, and open fields. It’s beautiful. Once, Big Man biked the ten mile loop with me while I ran. He seems to only remember the hills.
Recently, a swimming friend invite me to go trail running with her. The memories of high school cross country came flooding back in. It’s a beautiful time of year to be running around the woods in New England. I’m totally hooked. It’s quiet. The scenery is constantly changing. We’re completely surrounded by nature. It’s easier on my body than hitting the roads. My knees that complained all through high school never squawk any more. My hip that hurts just walking sometimes, is happy in the woods. It’s a completely different experience, one that I had been missing. I just hadn’t realized how much. We run the trails Mondays and Wednesdays, my friend and I, and we’ve gotten a couple of other friends to join us on Wednesdays. Running with friends is stress relief and a workout in itself. No matter how serious the conversation may start off, there is always a complete breakdown in the conversation at some point on Wednesdays. A good belly laugh is always good for the psyche and for the abs.
Now, I get that running isn’t for everyone, and trail running isn’t for every runner. Running is hard on the body and trails can be tricky to navigate. Besides being careful to avoid injuries, it’s hunting season now. Safety orange is a must if you are going to run in the woods during hunting season. Know where the hunters are and are not allowed to hunt. Follow clearly marked trails during hunting season, and be alert to your surroundings, so you don’t get off the trails. Taking loud, funny friends into the woods with you if you’re going to run trails during hunting season is always a good idea. You’ll get a few good laughs in and scare all the game away (and thus the hunters too). Trails aren’t always easy to find. If you’re looking into giving it a try, ask running friends if they know any good trails, or use an App to find trails. I have AllTrails on my phone. It doesn’t have every trail near me, but it’s a good place to get started. But every Mama needs something to keep Mostly Sane. Find your something and love it, because at the end of the day parenting, marriage, and life in general has its hard moments. But we all need a way to shift our focus back to the good stuff.