When I started running my son AB was attending a neighborhood playschool two mornings a week. After many weeks I noticed another mom always wearing running clothes as well. One day I approached her and asked if she would like to run together sometime. Little did I know the gift that awaited me.
We ran together as schedules allowed, which still allowed me to enjoy occasional solo runs. We talked about motherhood and California and food and life. Sometimes conversation came naturally but even when it didn't, we fell into the easy rhythm of running side by side; me always on the right, her to my left. After some time she invited me to join her already formed running group on Saturday mornings. I felt intimidated and nervous as I had never run with a group before. My fears were quickly alleviated as it was an easy-going group and conversation flowed as the miles passed. I gained so much insight from these women and I soon began to look forward to the Saturday run. They were smart and funny, wise, honest and real. Through the miles it became a safe place to lay it all out; our fears, our hopes, our disappointments. Several times when my husband was out of town I would strap AB into the jogger stroller and bring him along, with extra hands to help with the pushing. We'd arrange routes around who had to be home first. We'd start an extra fifteen minutes early if soccer duties threatened to get in the way. We cheered and encouraged each other to PR's, to half marathon and marathon finish lines, to pushing each other farther than we'd push ourselves. My Saturday morning run became sacred and my husband soon realized it wasn't worth asking if he could go out for a bike ride instead. He understands it is about more than just a run. It is time to strengthen and nurture my village.
In addition to running with my BRF's (Best Running Friends) I also became involved in local mother runner communities. I love hearing the stories of these women - who are just starting out, or returning to running after a hiatus. We commiserate about injuries and how much we pay a babysitter just to go for a run. Regardless of pace, distance, size, history, we are connected through our running. There is an common thread between us, strong and sturdy.
This past week the running community I am a part of hosted a yoga fundraiser on my behalf. We spent an hour sweating through the hot yoga class then sipped on rose', nibbled snacks and indulged in yummy sweet treats. Most of the women were my friends, but others, while I recognized names, the faces were new to me. We laughed and talked running, race paces, and training. It was a delightful evening that raised over $200 toward my goal of $3500. It was once again this community spirit that embraced me, encouraged me and believed in me.
It has been motherhood and running that has brought me together with this fantastic group of women - women who encourage me to be brave, to let go of unrealistic expectations, to embrace the beauty and joy of my live out loud son. They are the ones who tell me I can run faster, farther, stronger before I can even think it for myself.
In high school I did not play sports; I was never an athlete, never a basketball player (much to my dismay!), never a cross country star. Now though, I finally connect with the term runner, and beyond that, mother runner. It just goes together. I run to be a better mother. I run to be a better woman. I run so that my son can see me as a strong woman, setting goals and accomplishing them. I know AB will remember this about me - he will remember going for a run with me, riding his bike while I ran alongside; he'll remember the finish lines and going with me to pick up bibs. When we drive past a female runner he will often ask, is she one of your running friends Mama? It is so much a part of who I am.
I reflect on that simple question, want to go for a run sometime? and how it has changed the trajectory of my running journey. I am not sure that I would be as strong as I am without the blessing of the mother runners in my life.
I stood before the small group of women, bodies still shining after the hot yoga session, sharing statistics from Every Mother Counts - 1 woman dies every 2 minutes from complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and 98% of those deaths are preventable. That's 289,000 women each year. As I thanked them for coming, for supporting me and my marathon training I truly felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude - for my own healthy birth, for the birth of my son, for the births of all the children that belong to the mothers smiling around me. I am so proud to be a mother, to be a runner, a mother runner and be amongst the community I am, doing the work I am doing for mothers everywhere.