Trails, Trials, and Toddlers: Running as a New Parent

by nomeatbarefeet

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Wanted to first say that we just surpassed 80,000 views. Having not blogged since last year that still makes me happy that people find value in what we have posted. Thanks for reading!

So ends the first 14 months of being a parent and so sets in the realization that, in its current iteration, my running-life cannot be what it was before Hattie was born. This is not a negative, it is just a fact. Some new parents try desperately to cling to their former life, and with it their former pre-parent exercise lives. Naivety? Nostalgia? Sadness? We know that things have changed, that our lives will never be the same; yet we cling to a sliver of illogical hope that tells us perhaps we will just be able to make things work.

When Hattie was super-tinky I could still get in a reasonably steady schedule of runs. There was only so much I could do for Hattie’s needs, and she couldn’t really move more than rocking back and forth and eventually scooting around. That meant I could maintain a level running base–“the hay was in the barn,” as they say–which resulted in my placing the best in a number of races last year (despite not running a whole lot).

Currently, though, there seems to be an inverse relationship between Hattie’s ability to walk and my ability to run. The more she moves the less I do. Ok, that’s not entirely accurate but a new parent quickly realizes the need to sacrifice their own mobility for that of their child’s. I love playing with Hattie—sharing our mornings together is some of most special and meaningful time. But the result of that is less, if not zero, time to run. I can cross-train, getting in strength, core, and plyometric workouts. But nothing takes the place of lacing my shoes and heading out on a run.

I am a trail runner. In truth I hate running on roads. “Despise” might be too soft of a word to describe the loathing I have developed the past few years. But as a new parent one quickly realizes that the options for working out (re: running) are few and far between, and the quickest, most easiest option for running is to run the roads. You step out your door, bang out a few miles of pavement, and you are done in no time. But I love trails. Stepping onto packed dirt and grass, hearing the snap of a branch under foot, listening to the birds, squirrels, the babbling of a stream, the tap tap tap of rain on the tree canopy–these are just a few reasons why I would rather stay away from pavement. Pavement, with its swerving cars; trash strewn roadsides; undulating, cracked sidewalks; the monotonous slow passing of house after house after house numbing you into a state of dissociation.

Perhaps more importantly, I have come to find that running on roads causes numerous injury issues: my IT, my knees, my calves. On trails I only have had to worry about the occasional rolled ankle or fall, but pavement just seems needle at my legs, quietly leaving me in a state of slow impending pain.

But how can I avoid running roads? I work two jobs, one has me returning at 10:30 at night and the other tends to eat up my free time with lecture -prep, grading, and lots of reading. And, as I said earlier, I want to spend time with my family. While the logical answer is to take Hattie in the jogging stroller or run with Katie, neither is a viable answer. Both can involve running roads (so see my entire earlier rant) but Katie has had an ongoing knee and hip issue.

So recently I began training for a Marathon relay in May. I ran as much as I could, which has only translated into my longest run being 6 miles. Then I, rather foolishly, jumped into the Rollin’ Irish 1/2 a few weeks ago. Just a “long training run” I told myself. Right. I ran it WORSE than I ran my first every half marathon. I ran it almost as bad as I ran my second every half marathon while injured. Yikes. What does this show me? My time off has resulted in the hay that was in the barn from last year having been chucked out and replaced with manure. Or, possibly, the barn has burned and a strip mall has been put in. Basically, I need to start building a better base before I think of doing longer stuff. 

Being a dad is the most amazing thing I’ve done in my life. Everyday, seeing Hattie, melts my heart and makes me a better person. But I also love trail running. It is a part of me. Now, I just need to integrate it into my life as a parent. It will come. Patience. Wonder what might help me learn that skill?

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