This past week has been a rough week for me. It’s STILL winter. The snow is still piling up. There are still subzero temperatures and even more frigid windchills in the forecast. It’s almost midterm time, a busy time of the semester for me. We’ve missed several class days due to snow and cold…that means everyone is behind and swamped. Yet – I always feel like I have to stay on top of things and keep it all together – especially for my family and my coworkers. But…I could feel myself unraveling at every exposed edge earlier this week.
Fortunately, I have a tribe of mother runners in my support network to turn to – people who get the demands of juggling parenting, working, and training…and how sometimes all those balls just can’t stay in the air at the same time. Some of these people are my friend and neighbors, some are my Moms on the Run peeps, and others are in my Another Mother Runner tribe as part of the Train Like a Mother Club or my fellow BAMRbassadors. I had to reach out to that support network this week, and the gratitude I have for the empathy, kindness, understanding, encouragement, and love I get from these people (many of whom I have never met in person!) just blows my mind away, and I had to share.
As I sat in my car at the end of my street gazing at the path that I have run up and down thousands of times – so you’d think I’d be tired of it – I was so discouraged about the miles of piles of snow and ice that was restricting my runs to the treadmill in my basement. This is what that path looked like earlier this week:
That night I admitted to my husband that I was unraveling. There were tears at the dinner table. Although I’m sure he would love and support me through anything, he’s usually the last person I want to admit defeat to. He doesn’t understand my passion for many of the things that bring me joy, and I can’t help but thinking he’d rather I give a few of those things up. I also turned to my tribe, who I knew would understand where I was coming from, and why I had to keep on keeping on, despite things being just plain hard right now. This is what I posted to my support network of #motherrunners:
“You guys, I need to be real and honest for a bit. I’m training for Boston, which is fulfilling a long term goal and dream for me. It took me 5 years and 3 solid attempts (and aging into a new age group) to qualify, and then it took some luck and grit to secure a spot on a charity team when my qualifying time turned out to not be quite good enough for the cutoff this year. I am so grateful for and excited about running Boston. But here’s the thing: I am absolutely hating the training right now. I live in MN, and we’re having a doosey of a winter. That is a picture of the path out of my neighborhood. They have given up plowing paths and sidewalks. There’s so much snow that the streets keep getting narrower as the piles on the roadsides get taller. It’s been cold, but even on the days when it’s *not* too cold, there’s no safe place to run where I won’t slip and fall (one of my BRFs destroyed her ankle and needed surgery a few weeks ago when exactly that happened) or get run over by a car who can’t see me over the huge snowbanks. I’ve run exactly one time outside in the last 6 weeks (when I traveled to CA for a conference!). I’ve never marathon trained during the school year before. I teach at a community college. I’ve got 19.5 credits in my teaching load (overloaded, full time is 15 credits). I have 3 kids, and I feel like I have a part time job as an Uber driver for them. I’m fundraising for a charity team and have a huge goal – and that’s hard work, even though the cause is near and dear to my heart. I’m doing ALL of my runs on the treadmill, and we’re at a rough spot in our relationship. We need to go on a break. The thought of doing another run on the treadmill makes me want to vomit, but I know I’ll have to do EVERY run on it for the foreseeable future. I’m nursing hamstrings tendinopathy and piriformis syndrome (going to PT weekly – today it was ultrasound and Graston). How in the world am I going to make it through the next 7 weeks so I can get across both the start and finish lines from Hopkinton to Boston?! What sort of suggestions, motivation, inspiration, sympathy, and humor can you all offer up for me? I had a complete meltdown last night…”
I felt a little better after I hit “post” just because it felt like I was able to get a weight off my chest. Out of the blue, and completely unrelated to that post (and she didn’t have a clue and hadn’t seen it), another dear friend texted me this:
Coincidence?! How do my people know?! It’s amazing to feel love and support when you need it most. And in response to my post, there were a total of 33 comments! Here are a few of my favorites that I keep going back and rereading over and over again when I need to:
“That is a LOT of snow and a lot on your plate!!! Maybe you can sneak in a massage or some kind of self-care moment this week just to treat yourself for keeping at it despite crappy conditions!”
“💕 I don’t have many suggestions except that I wish I could come and do gym dates and keep you company on the treadmill.”
“No advice. Just love and empathy. And a wide open guest room here in the south”
“I say you come back out to California so we can run together!! 😂 Sorry, not helpful but sending a virtual hug. Thank you for sharing yourself. You’ve come this far…keep plowing forward. Bad pun? 😆 I wish I had something helpful to say but I am so excited for you to go to Boston! You will make it through and you have so many BAMRS behind you!”
“when I read this I just thought to myself, holy crap, she has so much pressure on herself right now… Here’s the deal. Just as suggested – if any of us can donate even a small amount to Kristen, we could do something tangible to alleviate at least a bit of that pressure. GALS, WE CAN DO SOMETHING! And please, please, please – no pressure on anyone else (because who needs that?!) but if you do have the means and can give a little something, Kristen is only $1,650 away from her fundraising goal.”
“I wish I could just give you a big hug! This winter has been rough, and I’ve also been on the treadmill a ton. I just keep reminding myself that we’re almost there. There’s only a handful of hard weeks. And then it’s over. And I don’t have to train for a spring marathon EVER AGAIN. I’m also intentionally stepping back for fall, and I feel like that helps. Just know we’ve got you!”
“I have no thrilling words. You’re living my dream too. I feel like this is exactly how these things usually go- being hard will make the end that much sweeter. 💞 praying for strength and perseverance for you”
This one made me cry – and it still makes me cry every time I reread it:
“you are under a huge amount of stress! I’m so sorry. Can you give yourself a day or two off? Just take time off from a couple runs. It won’t derail your training in anyway. Just getting into Boston was an emotional roller coaster for you, I remember from the 26.2 groups. Instead of the run, get some coffee, take a nap, go shopping, get a manicure, read a book…whatever is something that gives you joy. I will also add this, Boston will be worth all of this. It will be worth the up and down of qualifying and then getting that charity bib. It will be worth the incredible fundraising efforts you’ve put forth. It will be worth the never ending hours on the treadmill. When you get to the city and feel the energy all around you. When the captain on your plane welcomes all the Boston athletes, when you walk into the expo and get that bib, when you’re sitting in athlete’s village sharing stories with others about how you got there, when you cross the start line to cheers of locals who came out just for you, when you thank the police officers along the course, when you kiss the girls at Wellesley, when you summit Heartbreak Hill, when you see the Citgo sign, when you have the medal around your neck and when you put on your Boston jacket – it will all be worth it!!!”
So here’s the thing –
There are a lot of people who can’t comprehend why I’d want to do all the things I do that bring me joy – but when so many things (all things that normally I love) are happening at the same time, it causes a lot of stress. It feels so good to have people who are willing to reach out and lift me up in so many ways. The donations to my charity team rolled in from this support network – and now I’m even closer to my goal! (If you want, you can check out my Fundraising page!)
So after I allowed myself to pout and sulk and feel discouraged and defeated for a little while, including turning off my alarm and NOT getting up early to get my miles in on my treadmill the next morning – because I just couldn’t – it was time to chase away the dark clouds of self doubt and start looking for the unicorns and rainbows again. It happened to be a sunny day in the 20s with not much wind – heavenly weather to run in! I don’t have much for plowed paths and sidewalks in my neighborhood, but I did have a plowed street without much in the way of traffic, so I could run up and down my little street for awhile and feel the snow crunch under my feet and the sun on my cheeks. And I could do some thinking and reflecting, and some resolving and recommitting.
And then I could post an update to my support network:
“Today’s a new day. I slept in instead of getting on the treadmill (couldn’t make myself do it). I took some time for myself – and my husband – and since I had to be downtown for work anyway at noon, I picked him up and we went out to lunch at our favorite Italian place. The sun was out and the windchill was above zero, so I got in a few slow and easy miles OUTSIDE. The new BAMRbassador hat helped too. And although I will most likely never train through the winter for a spring Marathon again, I will not let this beat me, so I signed up for Twin Cities Marathon this morning too. You have no idea how much your words and positive energy and love have lifted me up!! ❤️”
I had my headphones on, and I was listening to my go-to running playlist that I hadn’t listened to for AGES. Some of the songs that came up were exactly the right things I needed to hear to power my strides remind me why I’m doing this, and why I love this. The song that was playing in my ears as I crossed the finish line at Grandma’s Marathon with my Boston Qualifier time came on (Titanium by David Guetta and Sia), and a few more with words and rhythm that really moved me: Try Everything by Shakira, Keep Your Head Up by Andy Grammer, and Be Good to Yourself by Journey. It was as if someone had programmed these songs for me, but all I’d done was hit “shuffle”.
I’m going to miss a few runs in the training plan. I’ve been traveling a lot (and I’m out of town this weekend AGAIN – this time in Wisconsin for a volleyball tournament), and I am nursing that chronic hamstrings/piriformis injury. This is not turning out to be the training cycle I had imagined and dreamed about. This is not a “Boston Worthy” training cycle. Sigh. But you know what else? It’s going to be ok. I’m going to keep doing the best I can with the time and weather I have. I’m going to get to the starting line, AND I’ll run across the finish line. It won’t be my fastest marathon by any stretch of the imagination – but that just means I’ll have more time to enjoy and soak up the Boston experience, right?
Just keep running. It’ll happen. Turns out there are unicorns at the end of this story after all