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.
I love connecting with readers! You can find me here:
Email: RunFarGirl [at] gmail [dot] com
Daily Mile: dailymile.com/people/scanney
Carly @ Fine Fit Day says
I feel you so much with this post, Sarah. I’m way earlier in my training cycle than you, but the sleep issue is also getting to me. Even if it’s just once a week that Baby T has a ridiculous night, that’s enough to throw off my whole week of training. Being a mother runner is more than just finding time to run and having someone to be there for the kids while we’re out - when you factor in breastfeeding and sleep schedules it gets crazy. You are doing amazing, though!
Cheryl K says
I love the honesty here. My kids are no longer little (3 teens, 16, 15 and 13) and I have said, “what was I thinking !!” during this training cycle daily. We have moved (before we sold our house), sold a house-whew!!! (SO STRESSFUL), all while my hubby travels out of the country…participated in driver’s ed, 2 varsity and 1 jv sport, and have been helping a parent with cancer…
I am also not a person who does a race to finish, but I find that is kind of where I am.
You are doing AMAZING. Hang in there, just a few more weeks. I keep thinking this spring-like stretch will help everyone get better from this never ending cold season, and coupled with DST, it will greatly improve my energy level!!
Kristen L says
Totally feel you on this one Sarah. I’m training for Boston too. At almost 6 months postpartum, I definitely don’t have it in me to have a PR race, but I’m trying to do my best. The lack of sleep, the breastfeeding, the slow return to running is tough. But I’m finally starting to feel strong again - thankfully just in time for peak training. Good luck to you in these last few weeks. Hope to see you in Boston!
Katie @ adultingdaily says
The honesty is SO appreciated. Sometimes, it seems like running and training come so easily to people and readers rarely get to see the behind the scene struggles. Hopefully you shake being sick and the next few weeks go smoothly. Good luck!
I’m also 10 months pp and have struggled with training. I am back in love with running- but I’m working, running, breastfeeding- and we are not sleeping through the night frequently. Like you, though - I am hitting paces I didn’t think would be possible yet. I am leaving marathons on the back burner until fall, I think. Working on shorter distances and hopefully some new PRs.
Kim @ Healthy Strides says
I am not training for a full (a half), and I am so there. And, like, 1500 percent on the BF note. I only made it to 6 months with M, so I’m in uncharted territory now. The pumping and tether to Si is draining. Oh, and the teeth. It pains me to think of it and turns my stomach into knots.
As you said, though, the opportunity is awesome and I’m glad you are making the most of it. It might be the hardest cycle thus far but that medal and finish will be oh so sweet! Can’t wait to cheer for you next month.
I’m so glad you wrote this in complete honesty and I really hope you feel better just for getting it out! I seriously haven’t a clue how you are marathon training with three kids, one of whom is an infant. Good luck getting though the toughest part and hopefully, as the weekly miles reduce, so will your stress level! xoxoxo
You’re pretty inspirational! I can’t imagine doing such vigorous training while trying to raise 3 young kids and getting irregular sleep. I often find it exhausting just trying to deal with work and training. Keep it up! I can’t wait to hear about your race day!
You are awesome! It is a lot of juggling and you are doing it all! I am thankful that my kids go to school during the day so I can get my runs in then. The lack of proper sleep is so hard when you are NOT training for a marathon and I am sure that this is bogging down your immune system a bit. It is definitely hard not to go all out with training when we are as competitive with ourselves as we all are. Feeling this way now is definitely normal too. I hit a wall with my feelings about running last week too, the bigger mileage and the fast paced runs are juts killer. I am struggling with feeling my age more now and twinges of old injury. We must be gentle with ourselves and forgiving. You will forge onward and continue to inspire. I am proud to be running the marathon with you this spring and look forward to the Eastern States race!
Thank you for your honesty! I think you’re doing great and you are definitely not alone. I only have one Baby and am wondering if I am getting in over my head training for the NY marathon (she’ll be 13months) later this year!
You’re in the home stretch and like others have said, that medal will be something to be even more proud of!
Amanda N says
Love your honesty in everything you post. Part of what drew me to your blog in the first place! You’re doing an amazing job training and coming back PP. Excited to see what you can accomplish on Marathon Monday!
P.S. I am so ready to be done nursing too. And pumping. Even pumping only a few days of week is not fun. My first self weaned at 14 months and I think my little will be around then if not sooner. Can’t believe she turns ONE next month - Liam will be one soon too! Time flies
I too am glad that you shared this Sarah. I have no clue how you are managing marathon training with homeschooling and three kids. I know it’s not easy and sometimes we need to hear (and tell others) that its not easy. But I am so inspired by all the hard work you’ve put in and I can’t wait for you to run Boston!
Lisa @ TechChick Adventures says
Boston is coming so soon now! All of my friends are comparing their bib numbers and such. I’m sad to not be joining the party this year, but excited to be cheering all of you on! Always such great inspiration for me to try harder to BQ again. My list of marathon confessions would be that I have 5 gnarly looking toenails that will probably never grow back normal again - if they even had a chance to grow back! My toenails are all begging me to stop running, but I’m not listening to them
Keep it up, you are doing great!!!