In Her Shoes: Going 26.2 Four Days after Becoming a Mother

Melanie and her boys, who are all smiles after a 5K.
Melanie and her boys, who are all smiles after a 5K.

One section Tales From Another Mother Runner is called In Her Shoes, which is first-person accounts of different running situations and tales. We love running stories as much as—or maybe more than?—running itself, but we had a surplus of In Her Shoes stories...if we put them all in the book, it would've been bigger than a dictionary. So we're going to run these every other Friday for a while.

Melanie took on motherhood and a marathon (and a trans-Pacific flight) within days of each other. 

My husband and I had just flown home from Vietnam to Oregon from picking up Benjamin, our first son. Not only was I a first-time mom, I was also terribly jet-lagged and was sick from some kind of food-borne something or other I picked up overseas. My son was on a Vietnam time schedule, so he was up at night and asleep during the day. I was just exhausted and nauseated. My legs were dead. Nothing felt right.

Still, I thought I could make it through the Portland Marathon. I really wanted to run it because it was the first marathon my sister and I planned to do together. I didn’t want to let her down. Like most new parents, I didn’t realize how exhausting those first few weeks can be. Fundamentally, I thought I was okay.

During the first 13 miles, my sister and I had a great time chatting and laughing, but we went out too fast. Then I started getting nauseous and tired. My sister went ahead. I walked quite a bit and tried not to throw up for the last 13 miles, which is a long time in a marathon.

I chastised myself the whole time. I kept thinking of my son, who was back home with my husband, and how stupid and selfish it was to leave them. When you’re a new mom, you’re kind of eager to be with your baby; I was really, really longing to be home with him.

I didn’t think many happy thoughts during the last part of the race, except that I soon would get to go be with my baby—and that we’d probably be up all night again. I also knew the next morning I’d have to get up and go teach classes at the university. All that stuff was weighing on me. But I didn’t want to quit.

I barely managed to hold it together until the finish line, when I started crying right away. The tears were partly the emotions of being a new mom and being totally messed up in terms of sleep, but they were were also a sign of just how miserable I felt.

—Melanie (Has since run thirty-six more marathons and three ultras—and adopted one more son.)

Have you ever run a race that you knew wasn't the best idea from the very first step? How did you deal? 

2 responses to “In Her Shoes: Going 26.2 Four Days after Becoming a Mother

  1. I have absolutely done that! I knew at the expo the day before the race, I should not run it. I’d been down with a fever for 2 days and was so weak, my husband had to half-carry me through the expo. I just wanted the free hat & jacket – or so I told him. But I felt the race excitement, and got all dolled up for the 15K the next morning. My fever was the lowest it had been, that means I’m ready, right? As my corral launched I kept telling myself “Just turn around & walk it back in”. With every step I’d think about turning around. Then I was out far enough that it would take me just as long to walk it back to the start as it would to run until the finish. Amazingly, I kept myself together until I crossed the finish line, then I fell to pieces! Gasping for breath, fuzzy vision, a strong desire to lay down. My husband got me out of the finish line hoopla & I laid down on the pavement. He really wanted me to go to medical. Eventually, I caught my breath & was able to get off the ground. I was worthless all week. I like to bully through & dig deep, but this was an obvious example of when to listen to your body and choose rest. Lesson learned. Probably…

  2. Wow! I don’t know why sometimes as women we are so hard on ourselves. Why when we know we have taken on too much we don’t take a step back. Why we don’t give ourselves the permission to start something and not finish it? Maybe we would start and try more things, if we gave ourselves permission to stop if it became too much at some point.

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