Runner Mama

 Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

During my first pregnancy, my life looked so much different than it does now. I was a teacher, and four or five mile runs after school were the norm. Not much slowed me down, and if I was tired, well, I had time to fit in a nap over summer break. In fact, I ran six or seven days a week all the way through my 36th week of pregnancy. On my due date, I ran a mile out of desperation to get my little one to come meet me, but all it succeeded in doing was making my knees sore. This time around? I'm taking it one day at a time, and a four mile run feels plenty long. This most recent little one has taught me to slow down and enjoy this nine month stretch of nurturing new life, but it took running a ten mile race to really have the lesson sink in.

I'm a very competitive person. Years of racing throughout middle school, high school, and college will have that effect on a person. And so my heart sank as I read the tagline of the email: "Congratulations on being selected to run the Twin Cities 10 Mile!" Normally, I would be ecstatic to run in such a prestigious and exciting race. I'd have a training plan all set to go and a pr(personal record) time in mind to hit. But, when that email came into my inbox, I was about ten weeks pregnant, and  I'd woken up that morning  feeling as if a train had hit me. Not ideal racing shape, to say the least. I'd entered the lottery for the race on a whim, weeks and weeks earlier, figuring that with my kind of luck, I wouldn't get selected. I guess pregnant me has all the luck So, how do you train for a ten mile race while pregnant? The answer is actually pretty simple: run what you can, enjoy the experience, and listen to your body carefully. Convincing myself that racing without a pr in mind was even worthwhile was another task completely. 

In the months leading up to the race, I managed to fit in a few seven or eight mile runs, but I definitely did none of the normal speed-work that would normally have accompanied real racing training.  So, when the day of the race arrived, I had no clue what was in store. The race began just before sunrise, and I was just one of 10,000 people to cross the start line. We were off under a murky sky, down the empty streets, heading towards the great Mississippi. I was just shy of 19 weeks pregnant, and I told myself that as long as I took water breaks and was breathing calmly, I'd get through it just fine. The sun rose around mile two, and the trees and bridges lining the race course took distinct shape. I took a look around me, and for the first time, I saw the other runners as more than just competitors to be beat. The older woman just in front of me looked kind and strong. I wondered how long she'd been a runner. The elderly gentleman I passed as I charged a hill was smiling happily, clearly just enjoying the day. And I smiled, too. "So, this is what it's like to race without the sharp edge of competition urging me on," I thought to myself.

And throughout those next eight miles, I was able to really notice  and enjoy the beauty of the course, the hilarious signs of onlookers, and even chat with fellow runners while we traversed from downtown Minneapolis to the foot of the state capitol in Saint Paul. My legs were strong and steady, the baby inside my belly stayed happy and still, and I reached the end of the race, not wheezing for air or hurting, but simply grateful for the gift of the run. I'm not sure that I would have been able to enjoy the race as I did if I didn't have my little one with me, urging me silently to stay in the moment and notice the now, rather than grasping for a specific mile pace.

That race was two months ago, and each day that I am able to get out and run is a gift. The closer I get to delivering this baby, the more grateful I am that she is there to slow me down and make me contemplate the bigger picture. I don't enjoy growing heavier and heavier each week or watching my times slow dramatically. But I recognize that it's not the achievement that matters right now. I am still as worthy of love and affection, and still just as loved by my family and our God, whether I run one mile or five. Right now, in this season of life, I am called to take care of this baby and bring her into the world, healthy and happy. So far, she's happily along for the ride with her crazy, runner mama. Let's keep it that way.

Colleen Beatty is a wife and mama, as well as a lifelong runner and Catholic She grew up in the hills of Southwestern Wisconsin, just across the road from her beloved red brick Catholic church, and wore out her running shoes on gravel roads before moving south to attend the University of Dallas. Under the hot Texan sun, she ran four years of track and field, as well as cross country, and she received her bachelor of English there in 2015. She now lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, teaches fitness classes, and coaches track and cross country, all while chasing after her very active little boy.