I fell in love with running in college, or rather I fell in love with someone who was a runner, and laced up my shoes to follow him.
When he ran off with someone else, I kept running, and have continued pretty consistently for over 25 years now. Why? It’s free. No equipment or special setting is required. While nice to do with others, it doesn’t require another person in order to do it. All factors which are conducive to a working or stay-at-home mother of young children.
I remember a long time ago reading an interview with photographer Sally Mann. She was a mother of young children at the time and she was asked, somewhat disdainfully, why she focused her lens on her children. She replied, “I’m working within my constraints. My life right now is about taking care of my kids. They’re my most readily available subjects.”
I have similar constraints, as do most of my close friends, and so while I would love to religiously follow the well-known Hal Higdon training plan for the half marathon I intend to run on April 14, I simply can’t. I must be flexible.
I do my best to get the miles in each week, but sometimes it’s not in the neat packages Hal recommends. Sometimes it’s beside my daughters as they bicycle to a park “the long way” or ask me to play tag with them (which is, by the way, great interval training because they are much faster than me).
Sometimes it’s seizing an unplanned run with my neighbor Kara, between projects and while the kids are in school. She always pushes me much, much further than I would go alone. (I could use her help in other areas of my life). Sometimes it’s running the loop around the gym at the local Y while one of my children practices basketball.
What I have learned about myself, especially as a working artist and writer, is that I love the tangible achievements running gives me. While I might have a lousy day (or two or three) of writing or editing an essay or audio piece, tossing much of my efforts into the trash, running gives me these concrete successes. Hooray — three miles. Five miles. Eight miles. At the end of the week or month or year, the miles add up to just about what Hal recommends, and sometimes even more.
I heard a talk not long ago by New York Times writer Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” on how certain habits are “gateway habits,” and can positively affect other behaviors. He cites exercise as one
I’ve found that to be true with running. I know when I’m running, I sleep better, eat better and am “nice mommy” more often. When I’m not, watch out!
Liisa Ogburn teaches documentary to undergraduates, graduate students and physician residents at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University as a way to reconnect with the human side of medicine. She is also completing a book on how motherhood changes us. To view more of her work, visit Wired For Stories.
This is the latest post in our Runner Moms series.