Here is a photo of me 7 years ago just weeks before my 4th baby was born. She was 9 lbs 7 oz and 22 inches long! Someone asked me today if I imagined back then that I’d ever run a 100 mile race. The answer is : “Not on your life!!” I would never have believed that I were capable of that (and all of that after I’d go through one more pregnancy two years later, where I topped the scales at nearly 200 lbs on my 5’3″ body!)
Seven years ago, I was an exhausted, overweight Mom of 4 – all ages 5 and under! My kids were 5, 4, 2 and a newborn! They were all too little to help around the house, so I did it all, often while nursing a baby, entertaining a toddler and homeschooling the older two. Back then I didn’t think it was possible to find time to exercise or eat healthy. I was tired all the time and just trying to juggle all of the responsibilities I had. My husband was going to college and working full time (often 60+ hour weeks) at his own business and I’d never left the kids with a sitter. Money was tight, so a gym wasn’t an option and since I was nursing, it felt too difficult to even think about scheduling any exercise around that.
I have so much admiration for young moms who are able to find the time to take care of their own health and sanity during the young baby years! If I could go back in time and speak to myself, I’d say, “It’s ok! You don’t have to try and do it all! You need a mental and physical break sometimes from the children and that doesn’t make you a bad Mom (I suffered from a severe case of Mommy Guilt if I even left the house, with my husband in charge to buy a gallon of milk!”) Back then, I also struggled with anxiety, depression and insomnia that would last sometimes for six months before I’d finally have a proper night’s sleep. I remember someone once asking me what my hobbies were at a party around this time. I just stared blankly at them. “I’m a Mom. I don’t have TIME for any hobbies.” was my reply! I also didn’t have any pals — no one to call up on the phone just to talk about my crazy day or to ask out for a lunch date on my birthday. It was a very busy, lonely time.
I never would have believed that just a few years later, I would make a decision that would change it all! In May of 2008, my fifth baby was a year old. I was no longer nursing. I was 35 years old, overweight and finally ready for a big change! I bought myself running shoes for my Mother’s Day present that year and printed out the Couch to 5k running program. I had one big dream – to run a marathon like my own Mom had done the year she was 40. I figured it would take me at least 5 years to get in good enough shape to handle that goal, so I began working towards it. I’d never stuck with an exercise routine for more than a few weeks, so I think my husband thought it was a phase of mine and I’d be back to square one pretty quick. Something magical happened to me, though. It turned out I really enjoyed running and walking and it turned out I DID have the time after all! I just hadn’t been open to the possibilities of pushing a double stroller, while wearing a baby sling and having my 5 year old walk with me or heading out alone to do laps around the block after dark when my husband was home to listen for the kids after I’d put them all to bed. I spent many nights staring at the moon and stars in those early months, walking and running in my neighborhood. They were very therapeutic for me (and free!)
Walking (and then running) gave me some time to myself that I dearly treasured to clear my head after a long day with the children. I’d talk to myself sometimes, just letting the tears roll down my cheeks, when I wondered if I was doing a good enough job as a wife and Mom. Being outdoors cleansed my soul. The fresh air, the moonlight, the chance to watch others out enjoying their day were all lovely distractions that settled my heart and mind and left me happily spent by the time I came back into the front door when it was all over – ready to again handle tantrums and potty training and teaching ABC’s. I came back restored for a time – better off than when I’d left.
Though the first time out, I could not even run a block without a side ache, I kept getting out there for half an hour three times a week. And, as the weeks passed, I got better at it. It hurt less. I started to meet other runners, who shared my new passion and we knocked off miles side-by-side as we shared stories about our kids, our lives, our dreams and our troubles. And, I started getting fitter. The weight just started melting off, pound by pound. I didn’t know it when I started, but not only would I lose every single pound that I’d gained through the five pregnancies — but I’d actually end up thinner in the end than I was before the first pregnancy! How surprising! All that without counting calories or giving up any foods I liked! It turned out, my own body would start craving healthier foods and smaller portions and the rest just happened on it’s own, though it took a couple of years.
I ran that first marathon in October of 2009 when I was 36 years old. It was one of the most amazing accomplishments of my life! And, from there, it just snowballed! I attempted my first 50k in the mountains in January of 2010. I didn’t finish, but it gave me a hunger that I still have today to reach further than I ever thought I could, to push my body harder, to challenge my mind with extreme distance running and with each and every race I finish, my confidence is bolstered!
I’m a very different woman than the one in that photo at the top, who’d never ran more than 5 miles in her life – and that while I was in my teens – and only ONCE! I sit here exactly two weeks before my first 100 mile ultra marathon — fit, confident, excited and ready to take on the world!!!
If this finds you at a stage in life, like I was at 7 years ago, don’t lose hope! If I can do these things, ANYONE can!!!!! I believe in YOU because I believe in ME!
Happy Birthday, Anneliese Rose!!!! I love you with all my heart! I hope I’m setting a good example for you and your sisters and brothers and that you know that I really do believe each and every one of you can do anything you dream of doing! I will be there to support you! To be your greatest cheerleader! To love you and hold you when things don’t go right! I will always be your #1 fan!!!! Happy Birthday, Baby!!!!