What I didn
July 01, 2015
Posted By: Shaunescy
Shortly before my 40th birthday I read the book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I’m not a runner but I had heard it was a good book and for some reason every time I came across it, at a bookstore or someone’s house, I thought, “I need to read that”. It seemed to talk about every aspect of running… the history behind it, the science behind it, the pain behind it, the magic behind it.
Mostly I walked away from that book inspired and thinking, “People are made to run. I should try doing that more…”
I’m a Beachbody coach, I use their fitness programs, drink their shakes, I am on top of my nutrition and I do various exercise videos to stay in shape and clear my head.
But it’s beautiful where I live and I love to be outside when the weather is nice. I was feeling strong and my 40th birthday was looming and I thought it would be a great goal to complete a trail race the year I turned 40. (Born to Run was still fresh in my head…)
I have never been a runner but I did realize the year before that I love running down the mountains once I hike up, so I wanted to try a trail race specifically. Something about being up in the mountains…it smells so earthy and clean and you hear birds instead of cars. It’s therapeutic. There are rocks and uneven spots and you actually have to pay attention to what you’re doing when you run on trails. It’s much more inspiring to me than running along the road.
So I mentioned all of this to a couple of friends who are actually runners. (Like they run 15-20 miles on a given day. Regularly.)
One of them thought the Wulfman’s CDT 14K Trail Race would be perfect for me. Eight and a half miles on a trail on the Continental Divide that was basically half up and half down. Nothing technical. They both thought it was a realistic goal so I signed up, which I had to do 4 months prior to the race because they cap it at around 250 runners and it fills up fast. (I’m pretty sure I signed up on a whim, at night after my kids had gone to bed, after a glass or two of wine…)
As soon as I registered I realized I had never run more than 3 miles on a trail and I usually hiked on the uphill, and ran down. So I had basically never run more than 1.5 miles… That’s the first time I thought, ”What was I thinking?!”
So my friend who used to be a running coach sat down with me and came up with my own personal training schedule. It detailed how much I would run on certain days every week before the race to get ready for it. Seemed doable when we were looking at 4 months of empty calendar space. Again, I feel like wine might have been involved when she was writing everything down and I was saying “Yeah! Cool! I’m excited!”
The next week when I was supposed to start my new running regime, it quickly dawned on me that I have 3 kids and there was no way I was keeping up with that schedule. Four days a week for runs of various lengths just wasn’t going to happen. I felt like that training schedule hanging in my kitchen was mocking me. That was the second time I thought, “What was I thinking?!”
Eventually, I did start trying to run a little more when I could and my two friends would often offer to go with me, which was something I had never done before; run with other people. It was kind of nice although I was too out of breath to talk; I just listened while they chatted me up like it was no big deal we were running UP a hill!
I did take a little comfort in the fact that one of my running friends was going to do the race too, so even though I knew she would smoke me on the trail, at least I’d have a buddy there before and after the race.
Fast forward a few months and I was going on runs of about 4-5 miles when I could, yet I still mostly hiked fast on the uphill and ran fast on the downhill. But I was feeling good about it. However, as the race approached my friend who made up my training schedule told me I had to start running farther distances before the race, like 6-7 miles. I knew she was right but that was a long distance for me and for a non-runner like myself, that takes at least a couple of hours when you factor in time to drive to the trail head. I’m a mom; two hours of time to myself to exercise is a stretch. “What was I thinking?!” kind of became my new mantra.
I made myself run 6-7 miles twice before the race. (There was a little bit of walking involved, but mostly running.) I was slow but I did it and I felt like it wouldn’t kill me to go a couple of extra miles so I knew I could at least finish the race.
Then my buddy who was going to do the race hurt her knee (on one of their crazy 20 mile runs) and she was out. I was going by myself to my first race, which was being held over an hour from where I live. I wasn’t running very fast or far and the race was coming up. I had given a predicted finish time when I registered and I wanted to finish in that time frame. The trail is so narrow they start people in waves based on their predicted time for finishing the race. The closer the race got the more nervous I became.
But there was one thing that kept coming back to me from another book I had recently read about running called Eat and Run. It’s written by Scott Jurek, a legendary (vegan) ultra-marathoner and he wrote about his mother having MS. She was in a wheelchair most of his life and he talked about how sometimes he felt like he was running for her, in a sense. Because he could. Because she couldn’t.
And that made me want to do the race more than anything else.
Because I am able to. Because I am lucky enough to have my health and get outside in these beautiful places in the mountains that some people will never get to see. Because I have seen people in my family deteriorate physically and I am so grateful that I feel fit and strong. Because I feel like my dad would love to get on a trail in the mountains but he can’t because he can hardly walk anymore. Because we shouldn’t take for granted what we can do just because it’s difficult or we’re busy or we’re tired. Because one day we might not be able to do all of these amazing things we take for granted.
As I drove to the race that morning at 6am and saw the sun coming up over the mountains and listened to some music my teenager gave me to inspire me on race day, I felt emotional and nervous and excited. But mostly nervous. I didn’t know any of the 250 people there. I didn’t know what the trail would be like. I didn’t know if I could finish in my predicted time and while I knew that really didn’t matter, I still had it as a goal in my head.
Luckily, it was a beautiful day, perfect weather. Everyone was so nice, the other runners I talked to, the people who organized the whole thing, everyone. I felt pretty good at the start and the trail was about what I had expected it to be. Actually it wasn’t as steep as I was expecting, which was a relief.
What I didn't anticipate was how emotional the race turned out to be for me.
As I was listening to a song from my daughter and running in the woods on this gorgeous day I was so overwhelmed with gratitude that I just burst into tears while I was running. Watching people at the race that day, it was amazing. There were people of every age, teenagers to grandparents. There were people every size imaginable. And it’s cool everyone comes together to do this thing. This thing that is difficult but also rewarding and positive and healthy. Everyone is doing it but we’re all just running our own race. For our own reasons. At our own pace. It was a beautiful thing.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how ridiculously hard it can be to step outside the grind of our normal lives for a bit and be somewhere kind of wild, doing something really good for ourselves. When I was running that day I kept thinking. “I’m doing it! I’m doing it!”
We’re all pulled in so many different directions with jobs, kids, family, etc. Everyone is busy and the older we get the more our lives seem to be filled with obligations.
And because I have been a mom for 13 years, because being a mom to my three kids is certainly the thing that most defines me, I have to address this next paragraph to moms specifically… We often (unwittingly) do ourselves a disservice. We put ourselves on the back burner constantly because that’s what you have to do as a parent a lot of the time. But it becomes a habit. And we begin to feel guilty if we take the time to do anything else because we want to be there for our children as much as we can, all the time even, despite the fact that we know that’s unrealistic. Once you have children, your life really isn’t about you anymore, not in the same way it used to be. And that’s ok; it’s worth it in a million ways everyday. It really is a gift, not a burden, to learn how to put other people before yourself. It’s still hard though.
Parenting is supposed to be a job for two people. Even then it’s challenging. But some of us are single moms. Some of us are married but have spouses who are not in the game at home and we end up over compensating for them and picking up their slack. Because someone has to. Things have to get done. Kids are needy and they’re always hungry and they constantly need to be driven places. And they don’t pick up after themselves. And your house gets cluttered with crappy, plastic toys. And the laundry… what the hell is the deal with the laundry?
Motherhood, while rewarding in ways big and small, is often a thankless job. It kind of swallows you whole.
One of my running buddies, who also has 3 kids, said it’s such a shame that when we get busy as moms and wives it’s often our own exercise that’s the first to go when really that should be the LAST thing to go. We need to prioritize that for both the mental and physical strength it gives us. We should show our children that their mom is making an effort to be healthy and strong.
I couldn’t agree more.
Kids or no kids, there are so many things in life we can’t control, so many things that get thrown at us that we didn’t expect that we suddenly have to figure out how to deal with.
When you have kids, not only do you have to deal with it all but deal with it in the knowledge that your children are watching you. They think we have all the answers. But I so do NOT have all the answers.
It’s very humbling.
I’ve talked to my running friends before about crying while you’re running. Apparently that’s a thing. Since it’s often a time you’re alone with your thoughts, it’s obviously a time to process things going on in your life. I’ve read about people, kind of, metaphorically running off their problems. Or trying to anyway. After my divorce there were many times I just wanted to get outside, and many times, I cried on hikes and runs.
But at the race, I wasn’t crying because I was sad. I was crying because for the first time in as long as I can remember I was doing something that was just for me, something I had put a lot of time and effort into and had nothing to do with anyone else. I honestly couldn’t think of the last time I felt proud that I had accomplished something like that for myself.
Getting my college degree was an accomplishment but there was an aspect of that which was kind of for my parents and my grandmother as well. It’s been useful for sure but it wasn’t just for me.
Paying off my student loan 17 years later was an accomplishment but I was legally obligated to do that.
Birthing 3 babies felt like an accomplishment at the time but once they’re in there, they have to come out somehow. That’s more like nature’s accomplishment.
I have cried many times while I was beaming with pride over something one of my kids has accomplished. It’s an incredible thing to watch them become their own people and do things they have never done before. But that’s about them. I’m their mom, I help them along, but I don’t have much to do with what they are pulling off sometimes…
While I was running that race and nearing the end and I looked at my watch and realized I was going to finish within the predicted time I had set for myself, I was completely overwhelmed by the whole experience. I am so grateful for the enormous network of support in my life. My friends and family are made up of the most amazing group of people who are always there to support and encourage me. I am so lucky to have them.
I’m grateful for the fact that I am able to run and that I get to live in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I’m grateful for getting out of an unhealthy, unhappy relationship even though suddenly not knowing what the future will look like is it’s own kind of terror…but still, I feel like it will be ok.
The race was empowering. And I would say “empowered” is not a feeling I have felt very often over the last few years. I wonder how people feel empowered without a tribe of support behind them. It really does take a village…we should be here to help each other. To raise each other up. To support and encourage one another. This shit is hard. Life, kids, relationships, careers, illnesses, money…
It’s all part of why I ended up as a Beachbody coach in the first place. Because I see this community of women (and men) who want to help each other be the best versions of themselves both physically and mentally. We need more of that.
I think it would be almost impossible to get there all by yourself. I love being a coach but I also love having my own coaches. It has been the key to me staying consistent with my diet and exercise. And had I not been consistent with the programs I have been doing, I wouldn’t have felt strong enough or confident enough to sign up for that race in the first place. Running or being in a race was never a goal I had set for myself until a few months ago. The whole experience was incredible, something I will always remember and I am grateful to the Beachbody programs because they ultimately paved the way for me to be there.
I want other moms to get some sense of themselves back again. “Balance” is great and all but I’m not sure you ever fully achieve that as a parent of young children and if you do, I doubt you get there without some help. It’s a constant battle. So get some support. Get your health and your confidence back. Everyone has to start somewhere. If you want to try any of the diet and exercise programs they offer, let me be your coach. If you want to be a coach yourself, be on my team. I think it would be so cool to get a group of coaches and clients together next year to do a race as a group. I want other people to feel the way I did that day.
I want to not only reach my own potential but help other people reach theirs as well. That’s what we’re all here for anyway, right?
Adrienne Schroeder is a mom of 3, photographer and Beachbody coach. You can find her on Facebook or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .