Getting back into running postpartum hasn’t been the easy ride I expected. I ran until I was 35 weeks pregnant and needed a wheelbarrow to push my belly in. I figured by 6 weeks postpartum, I’d start slowly with a few miles and work my way up to the local half marathon by 4 ½ months. It didn’t sound altogether unrealistic.
Now, at 3 ½ months postpartum, the true words from that plan are slowly, few and work. Arg.
A few days ago, on a trip to a neighbouring province, as I laced up my runners and thought about the upcoming race that I wanted to run, I realized I had three options:
1. don’t run at all
2. run a distance I’m not sure I can do
3. swallow my pride and sign up for something short
I didn’t like any of them.
I let myself out the gate of the rental house and pressed play on my iPod. A mellow, instrumental number came on. I was about to skip to the next song when I sensed, “don’t skip it.” So I started to run, surrounded by strains of flute and piano. My spirit settled down and I started to pray.
Usually my thought pattern is shallow when I run. I think about how slow time goes, about how much traffic there is or how much longer I have left. I want to pray and I try to pray but my spirit feels distracted.
On this road, flat and quiet, with the rising sun behind me and my shadow, long and tapering, prayer came like a gift. With each song was a theme that fueled my prayers, a desire to serve, to see this nation transformed, to see hurts healed.
The second day I got up early again. Maybe it wouldn’t just be another run. A few minutes into running, there was someone beside me. “Jesus?” I asked even though I knew it was Him. He always seems to wear sandals when he’s out running.
“How are you?” I half turned to look at him and saw his expression. “Why are you sad?” I asked. He told me about a friend’s dad, recently widowed. I watched the farmer’s hands, roughened and calloused from years of work, slowly doing their chores. I watched as Jesus cupped his hands around the farmer’s hands and helped him with his work. “Yes,” I smiled, “yes.”
And we ran this way, talking in words and in pictures and songs and I realized it is a lot easier to carry on a conversation when you don’t have to worry about running out of breath.
Then, all of a sudden, about the point when my legs felt like blocks of concrete, he hitched up his robe and darted ahead. “Chase you to the sign!” he called. When I got there, he had already disappeared, up ahead. I wanted to stop and clutch my knees but I ran faster, trying to see him. It wasn’t about running to a sign but about chasing him, faster, harder, even when I’m tired.
He jogged back slowly into view and fell in step beside me.
The wind picked up as we were listening to the old school song “Sweet River Roll” from the band Waterdeep.
Sweet Jesus roll,
All over me.
Sweet Jesus roll,
Roll all over me.
And I put my head down and ran forward into the strong wind. Sweet Spirit blow over me.
And in the wind, his form beside me disappeared.
I neared the end of my run. I turned the corner past the rental house and saw a wide stretch of open road. I ran faster. And faster. Out of my peripheral vision I saw people stepping out of their doorways onto the porch to watch me. I didn’t care. I ran faster and harder until I was full out sprinting down the open, broken highway. When I finally stopped and turned to walk back, I was breathing heavily and felt fully alive.
Sliding the gate latch open, I smiled. Forget the race, I thought. That was a real run.
Note: I wrote this back in early November but didn’t get a chance to post until now. The long and the short of it is that I chose to run the race, settling for an option 2 and 3 hybrid: run something short that I’m wasn’t too sure I could do well. I completed the 10K. It probably would have been easier had I been able to find a gas station that could put air in the stroller tires. Oops. A fun experience nonetheless.