As I made the snap decision to lace up my shoes and head for the trails, I figured I’d either end up getting sick—definitely a poor prospect a few days out from a four-day work trip to Chicago—OR I’d revive my bone-tired body and jumbled mind. I was really hoping for the latter.
When the window of running time presents itself, as it did Wednesday about an hour before my kids got off the bus, you take it. Even, it seems, when a lack of sleep in recent days and ever-so-slight sniffling (is it allergies or a cold coming on?) leaves you wondering if maybe, just maybe you should just forget it and try again the next day.
It’s true that I could have snagged a quick afternoon siesta, or made one more work call, or folded the mounds of clean laundry overtaking our living room. But instead I ran. It seems to have to worked in my favor given that—fingers and toes crossed, knock on wood—I’ve kept any fall cold and flu symptoms at bay. I definitely attribute this to that nice-and-easy three-miler in the woods … and that night’s stellar deep sleep. More of that, please.
But as I ran and marveled at the unseasonably warm October weather, savoring the streaks of sunlight darting through tree branches and pooling onto the path ahead, a thought snaked its way into my reverie: Cramming a run into a jam-packed day, as necessary as it is to my soul, can just feel so inconvenient sometimes. And this is just a short run today!
Coming off my half-marathon earlier two weeks ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s next—do I want to spend the busy holiday season enjoying lower-key races like our local turkey trot and jingle bell run with friends and family? Or do I dive into training for a spring marathon? Or both? I’d also like to map out other races for 2013, like a destination one, maybe 26.2 in Chicago, and a summer trail race near Lake Superior … and, oh, there’s that autumn run-through-the-vineyards race I’ve long wanted to run with girlfriends. Maybe make it a weekend winery getaway...
With these swirling thoughts, however, comes the reality of a pretty demanding teaching job (see lack of sleep above), writing work, and parenting duties that some days feels more intense than ever (to all those more experienced moms who told me caring for older children was challenging in different ways: you were right). Some days I feel like I can do it all—run, raise kids, work, be happy. Other days, I wonder: who are you kidding exactly?
As driven as I can be in life, work and running, I’ve begun to recognize my need to draw boundaries. To prioritize. To pick and choose. To let go. To wait. To dream while also relishing where I'm at. So maybe now isn’t the time I’ll run oodles of races every season. I may only select one very important race for the year, with a couple of smaller races sprinkled here and there. Family-races, particularly those that could be tied to a weekend trip not far from home, also are on my radar. I like having the mixture of just-for-me races and events that get my husband, me, and our three kids out running together.
I've asked running friends how they plan their race schedules, especially with kids, and I realize just how individual it is. One friend of young kids desperately wants to run a marathon someday soon but fears the commitment it'll take to train well. Pulling the trigger and signing on for 26.2 just doesn't feel right when she's needed so much at home, she says. Another friend, wanting her husband to "have a turn" at racing, is dialing back her schedule and shouldering more with their kids so that he can focus on training. A third friend shares that, though she once had hopes of qualifying for Boston, taking a breather from training hard feels good at this point in her running life (she's since become pregnant and is expecting a baby this spring, and she's thrilled to be taking it easy).
No matter what my 2013 race schedule ends up looking like, I know for sure I want to do what I can to maintain my current fitness level as much as possible. This means feeling strong enough to head out for a 10-mile run on the weekends, even if I'm not training for a half-marathon or greater distance. But I also want to temper my commitment to running plenty and racing some with quiet moments with my family, my friends, myself. I'm convinced it's that balance--however it may look for each of us--is what keeps us ready for the runs and races ahead, whatever and wherever they may be.