As we lined up at the starting line, we agreed to meet in front of the ice cream store after the race. I had already told Chris and our friend that I’m slow. Last year I had my personal best- I ran the annual five mile road race at my 5-k time. This year, I was back to some of the goals I had set when I rant he race for the very first time.
A few years ago I took up running, out of laziness. The extra five minute drive to the gyms sometimes killed my motivation. Running was simpler: I could do it anytime, anyplace. So I made a goal, I trained for an annual five-mile race in a nearby town, a distance I had never run before. So several times a week, I went out and slowly upped my mileage. Three months later I was ready.
I had three goals for the race: finish without stopping, finish in under an hour and beat Chris. Chris decided to run the race too, but had only been running twice in the months beforehand. I had been training several days a week for the past three months and I felt I deserved to be faster! Race time came and I completed all three goals. I ran the race a few more times in the following years. Chris did too, but he became a lot faster. Last year I ran my personal best- a 9:30mile.
This year, I haven’t been running so much. I ran regularly while pregnant up to 25 weeks and then became quite uncomfortable. I ran once more at 28 weeks and again at 31 weeks, but couldn’t do it anymore, partly for physical reasons and partly for emotional reasons. I resumed “running” at 4 weeks postpartum- intervals of jogging and walking, eventually working myself up to my normal three-mile route. But I was slow. Some days I was as slow as I was at 31 weeks pregnant. I’ve been doing more bootcamp than running, which plays a big role. And my pelvis still isn’t the same. It still hurts when I run.
So I ran the race at much slower pace than last year. And even as I huffed and puffed, surrounded by good people-watching, bands playing on the sidelines and pretty scenery, I could not escape my daily obsession: my baby is dead. Every step of the way, I was reminded that I was slow because I had been pregnant… but I have no baby. I tried to push those thoughts aside and focus on running, but I was either constantly passing or being passed by women and men pushing strollers. I should have been pushing a stroller during this race…. but my baby died. I thought back to the last race I ran- a turkey trot on Thanksgiving. I was pregnant then… what do I have to show for it now? As I took each step I tried to remember what it felt like to run while pregnant. And then I remembered- a burning pain in my symphasis and an uncomfortable pressure on my tailbone remind me. Though not as strong as in pregnancy, I still had the similar pelvic pain brought on by running. My body won’t forget the baby it grew, held and pushed out. My mind and my body just won’t let go of the memory of Mabel, even for a minute. I became frustrated at myself – can’t I get through just one thing, without being reminded of what I have lost?
After the race, Chris and I found a tall shady tree to lie under, staring up at the leaves. I asked Chris what he was thinking about. “Trees are weird. They grow green leaves, they fall off and grow back again.” And then he asked me what I was thinking about “pregnancy,” I responded. “I asked you because I forget what normal people think about.”
I forget what normal people think about.