Confessions of Marathon Training

When I sat down to write this I thought it could go one of two ways: a helpful little essay, maybe even humorous, on the truths of training for a marathon after a baby or a painfully honest state-of-Sarah, a personal account of how things really are right now. At the risk of sounding like I'm complaining I opted for the second. Because, right now, I just need to be honest. In case Instagram makes it look easy, I'm here to tell you that it's not. Training for a marathon is hard, there's no doubt about it. When Stonyfield asked me this fall to run the Boston Marathon I said "yes," knowing full well that it would be a challenge: not just the training, but juggling our 'newly' minted family of five. When I gave them my answer, in the back of my mind I had these thoughts, which I wrote two years ago:

"In fact I don’t plan on going anywhere near a marathon until at least a year after I give birth. I know that to perform in a marathon at the level I would like, my body has to be back 100%, and I don’t feel 100% myself until I’m on longer breast feeding and if history repeats itself that will be around 12 to 13 months postpartum. Not to mention the amount of sleep required to stay healthy and survive a demanding marathon training schedule. And if history repeats itself in that department it will take a good 3-6 months before baby #3 is sleeping through the night." -Nov. 2014

I hadn't planned on running a spring marathon, I was thinking a fall 2016 marathon would work better with everything that happens in the 12 months after you have a baby. But when Stonyfield contacted me and asked me to run Boston, Liam was six months old and was sleeping through the night about 80% of the time. And while I knew it would be a challenge (as any marathon training cycle is) I felt confident that I could start to tackle marathon training, in light of the fact that Liam would be 10 and 11 months during the hardest part of training. So I said "yes," and I don't regret that decision at all. I am beyond excited to toe the line in Hopkinson in 6 weeks and represent a company I believe in.

But often things don't go as planned, and there couldn't be anything truer of trying to train for a marathon in the year after having a baby. Here's the truth of what it's been like:

I am tired. So tired. With just 6 weeks left to Boston I'm in the peak of the hardest part of training. Liam's nighttime sleeping habits have been sporadic. At almost 10 months old he's had stretches where he's slept through the night and then a few teeth crop up and he's back to waking 2-3 times a night. And it seems that even when he does sleep through the night one of the other kids is up, because they had a bad dream or they have to pee or their water bottle fell off the bedside table. Or like most recently, they are sick and wake up coughing. Couple the nightly wakings with getting up at 5 am to run, because that's one of the few times I can get it in, and I am beat. I was banking on Liam sleeping through the night by now. But if there's anything true about being a parent is that you can't really bank on anything.

I can't shake being sick. I'm sure due to the lack of sleep I've been sick frequently. I don't usually get sick, but lately it seems that every few weeks I'm fighting off a little cold. Fatigue, a wee sore throat and just a general feeling of being run down. It seems like every time the kids are in a public play area/museum/play date/library they pick up some sort of germ, something that would normally not make me sick but it does.

I don't want to breastfeed anymore. There, I said it. The unutterable confession. Liam is 10 months old. He has top and bottom teeth. He is learning to chew. And for the last month breastfeeding has not been enjoyable. I'm ready to be done. It feels like one more demand on my body. Although it's pretty convenient at 3:27am when I want to get him back to sleep. I feel guilty about not wanting to nurse anymore. I nursed the older two until about 13 months when they seemed to wean themselves. I have no intention of weaning Liam now, but I'm hoping he takes the same track as the others.

The training has been demanding. I'm not the kind of person who does things "just to finish." I go all out and give it my best. While my race day philosophy is to have fun, relax and have no pressure on the outcome, my training philosophy is very different. I want to push in training, choose the hilly route, push my body just a little faster on those intervals and generally give it my all. Training has been demanding and I've seen a PR in the 5K in training and have been hitting paces that I didn't think I would this soon. I want to train hard so that I can run well and finish strong in Boston. Training would be demanding if I wasn't 10 months postpartum, but it feels pretty demanding right now in light of the lack of sleep.

It just feels harder. The last time I trained for a marathon it felt easier, not the actual training, but the juggling "real life" and training.  There were only two kids and they were four and two. I wasn't homeschooling, didn't have a child potty training (yes, this is the never ending year of potty training) or a breastfeeding baby or all of the other responsibilities I've assumed since the last time I ran a marathon.

So there it is. The unfiltered reality of this marathon training cycle. When I run that race on April 18th it won't be one big accomplishment, it will be the culmination of small victories over being tired, over feeling sick, over feeling overwhelmed, over feeling frustrated, and most of all over wanting to quit.


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