Annamarie is a military mother runner whose story is particularly poignant on Memorial Day. We’re honored to share it with the Tribe.
I started taking running more seriously when my then-best friend (now husband) went off to basic training for the Army. We ran our first marathon together a week before my college graduation, which was a month before we got married, and about 7 weeks before moving to Germany. Through the years, i got more and more invested in running and started taking on longer distances. By the time we moved back to the States in 2013, I was running ultras and loving it. I ran 4 during my husband's second year-long deployment. It was my way to focus through how harrowing this experience was for both of us. It was a dangerous few months.
Upon his homecoming, we decided we wanted children. After a while, it was apparent something was wrong. Rates of infertility are significantly higher among military families, something that the Army, the public, and the VA don't love to acknowledge. Seeking fertility help was one of the most humbling, sad, and empowering things we've ever done. I ran through giving myself shots every day, through being poked, prodded, and puffed full of hormones. My husband was a phenomenal support -- but was actually not even in the same state as me the day we did our successful IVF transfer.
We found out we were pregnant with twins the day we left for our next assignment in El Paso, Texas. It was the start of a challenging 9 months but running (with my boys on board) kept me feeling sane. My husband was away for the first half of the pregnancy, which consisted mostly of me vomiting constantly and slogging on the treadmill while trying to set up our new home, work, and nursery.
Delivery was both wonderful and terrible. Both our boys were healthy for a twin birth but I suffered from severe tearing and hemorrhaging. Learning to breastfeed twins made me think that my M.Ed. was not a high enough level of education to make it happen. To top it off, my husband would deploy again in about 6 weeks.
Three weeks after the boys’ birth, I ran 1.5 miles. It was as hard as my 100K and made me just as proud. I felt like me again. However, I didn't know or refused to see, that I was suffering from severe postpartum anxiety. With 6-week old twins, I flew across the country to stay with family while my husband flew back to the Middle East. I ran and ran and never slept and cried A LOT. Several months went by, and, one day, while walking with the boys I randomly turned on an AMR podcast for the first time. It was an episode about running, PPD, and PPA. In all of my million doctor's visits, I had never heard someone describe PPA the way that it was in the podcast.
I was walking with a mammoth double stroller, not having slept more than 2 hours at a time in almost 6 months, and I bawled my eyes out while listening. That day, my journey to embracing both being a mother and being a runner began. During my 4 a.m. 10-milers, I learned that I can be both a runner and a good mom and that this is what makes me a BAMR.
Ten long months later, my husband came home to two healthy, happy baby boys and a wife who was finally finding herself. Now I am on week 9 of the Own It marathon plan, training for San Francisco in July, running both harder and faster than I ever have.
Military mother runners -- both the amazing women in uniform who have to prove themselves everyday in a man's world and the women married to Soldiers who sacrifice their careers, time with family, personal goals, sleep, fertility -- are a breed of mother runners who face unique challenges and have unique strengths. We run because running is a way to make yourself feel at "home" every time you have to uproot yourself AGAIN. We run because we have to drive ourselves an hour and a half to a fertility clinic for the third time this week while our husband is, yet again, out in the field training with the unit. We run because we haven't heard anything for a few days and "no news is good news" is something people say but no one believes. We run because we are too worried to hear CNN say one more thing about a roadside bomb in Afghanistan and if we stay in the room one second longer they might name a province and God forbid you recognize it.
We also run because sometimes it is the least we can do. During the deployment of 2013-2014, several Soldiers in my husband's unit were killed. When I raced after each of these, I would wear the name of these young men on my bib. Ultrarunners are amazing people and would run and talk with me about these young men. They would always know what to say, which isn't "I'm sorry for your loss" but rather "I'll think about Kerry and all he gave during the big hills today." I gave these memorial bibs, along with a letter, to the parents of these men at their memorial services. The least we can do for these parents is tell them that, somewhere, a runner is slogging up a hard hill and remembering that story about a young Soldier who died in combat and how he was such a funny, hardworking guy.
And that's why Military Mother Runners run. For sanity, for solace, for love, and for remembering. And, of course, for many happy miles.