Parenthood and Why I Am Determined to Continue to Run Ultras

At Run Like a Girl we meet amazing, inspiring, bad-ass women all the time. This woman in particular inspires us like crazy. This ultra-running mama ran an ultra-marathon… and not just any… an 12o miler… less than a year before her son was one. Have a read of her ultra-inspiring story, which has inspired me both to run really far…. and want to be a mother.

I wrote this to be part of another article. It was the part that was the most meaningful to me. I’m truly grateful to Run Like a Girl for offering to share this part of my story. My life is consumed by my little guy, Reed and it has changed everything for me. Being a runner and part of the ultrarunning community remains incredibly important and both my husband Gary (Gary Robins is an ultra-accomplished Canadian ultra-runner) and I want it to be an important part of Reed’s upbringing. I’ve taken what I originally wrote and expanded upon it, as well as updated it to reflect some of my more recent thoughts:

Parenthood. It is the most difficult thing I have ever done and nothing else seems to compare. 100 milers? Whatever. My kid is amazing. He’s so damn adorable I can’t walk down the street without people stopping me to talk to him. His huge, blue eyes capture people’s attention and then he flashes his huge smile and does something silly and you melt. But he’s still just a little kid who does little kid things. I spend my days chasing and cleaning up after him. I’m singing silly songs, tossing him into the air, pulling rocks out of his mouth, taking him away from Roxy’s water dish and prying fur out of his grasp. I’m chopping food into tiny bites while shoving food into my mouth then wiping his entire body, chair and floor underneath him down in a rushed and half-assed attempt at keeping things clean I’m laughing at his goofy face and weird noises and toddling walk and love of rocks and tubes of anything. I’m fascinated with his toddler logic and ability to manipulate me already. It’s wonderful and chaotic and gross and amazing. It’s exhausting and exasperating and completely humbling and I love it so much. Every single time I go for a run on my own, I think, “Gah! I cannot wait to get out of the house!” Then every single time, I very quickly think, “Aw, I miss my little guy. I cannot wait to get home.”

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Photo credit to Deborah Armistead

So I absolutely get why people think that Gary and I would have or should have given up running ultras. Being parents is freaking exhausting and our lives have completely changed. Finding time to run is complicated. It would be easy to skip it. But truly, parents are just plain kick ass. It seems perfectly reasonable that parents would make excellent ultra runners. We deal with everything a kid can throw at us (sometimes literally), often on very little sleep and we somehow manage to function. We’re basically living an ultra every single day. But there’s so much more to it than that.

Being married to an ultra runner means we know running and adventures are key to our well-being and souls’ happiness. We love being in the mountains together, although we rarely train together. Our skill levels are vastly disparate. Regardless, we are still immensely proud of each other and are each other’s biggest fans. I understand why Gary targets a race and I know what keeps him motivated. When he needs to go out for a 12 hour training run, I don’t question why. When I said I wanted to run a 100 miler before Reed would be a year old, he didn’t miss a beat: “You should run Fat Dog 120.”

Both Gary and I agreed that we would do our best to maintain our lifestyle after Reed was born. Gary remains an internationally competitive runner and I ran a 120 mile race this last August. It is not easy to do everything. It’s a ton of forethought and planning. It’s a lot of frustration and hurt feelings and apologies and hugs and a shit ton of compromise. It’s especially difficult now that I’m back to work after maternity leave as now I have to squeeze it all in between my two part-time jobs. We do have help from daycare and my wonderful mother who found an apartment nearby. Gary and I keep working at it. We’re not always good at it, but we think it’s worth it. We’re maintaining our senses of self and not giving up a huge part of ourselves and what we love. At the same time, Reed has an amazing little life already and will continue to get to see the world and he’ll grow up thinking that it’s normal to camp half the summer away and that everyone spends all of their time in the mountains.

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Photo credit: Gary Robbins

As I am raising my son, I feel grateful that his village is filled with such warm-hearted, bad asses. He’s met people who have done unthinkable physical feats, including his own father. He’ll grow up seeing people work hard for difficult goals and hopefully absorb our love of nature and animals. I hope it brings him inspiration and allows him to dream big and know that he can go after those dreams like we do.

He’ll also see me as an individual with my own dreams and drive. His mommy won’t just be his mommy. I’ll be a person separate from him who gets out there and appreciates nature and being strong. He’ll see me set and achieve goals, and sometimes fail, but he’ll see me continue to strive. I’ll disappear for a day or two and come back with adventure stories to share with him and we’ll adventure together. My hope is that it will bring him a level of respect for me as a human being beyond motherhood, which I hope will help him have a higher baseline of respect for all women than general society does. And I also hope my example instills in him his own sense of drive and determination.
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Photo Credit: Gary Robbins

Trail running has helped me bring myself back to me physically and emotionally. Being pregnant for 40 weeks and six days meant my body was warped and taken over by an adorable parasite for a very long time. I’ve also been breastfeeding Reed, which I did exclusively for his first six months and now I do to maintain the benefits of nursing. My body has not been my own for over two years now including pregnancy. My time is definitely not my own. I juggle Reed with every task. There is no privacy. Ever. I’m an introvert who needs alone time to recharge and I get very little of that now. Each day, I love being with my kiddo, watching him grow and learn and show his goofy personally. Still, I end my days feeling exhausted and depleted. I’m giving him so much of me.I stroller run or backpack hike with Reed four or five times per week. Not only is that valuable time for us to be together and for Reed to experience the outdoors, it’s something physical and cleansing For me. It’s also almost the best nap Reed will get any given day. But each time I go out with him, I feel better for it. My body is coming back to me and I’m not talking about losing the baby weight or toning my tummy. I’m talking about finding almost a spiritual strength in feeling my muscles move and my lungs breathe. When I get to run solo and hear nothing but my own heartbeat and breathing, that feeling is even deeper. It’s my body, my mind and I’m me again.

Running and being outside is what I love. And I love my son. I won’t give up the things I love. Instead, I will continue, along with Gary, to intertwine them together so that they will always be a part of each other, inseparable and just as they should be. That’s our life.

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Photo credit: Jennifer Mullaly

Cover photo credit: Bryan McCurdy

Comments

  1. I so love and appreciate both of you’re passions and the little Reed

  2. I know that in maintaining your independence and being a hard working mum and having your own hobbies and sports, you will bring up a balanced little human being who really appreciates you… We did, and we have two incredibly, awesome adults, now 31 and 33 and we are so grateful for the way we have run our lives…. Keep it up and love every second.

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