Just Keep Running

“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” You know you’re a parent of little kids, when you start quoting Disney movies. But really, I do feel like I’m always telling myself, “just keep going, just one more day, don’t stop you’re almost there.” I’m running a race with no finish line, there’s always more to do, meals that need to be cooked, laundry that needs to be washed, bills that need to be paid, a house that’s never clean, a job that’s waiting for me that I’m habitually late to, activities my kids need to be at, there’s never enough time in the day, how can we ever get ahead when we can barely keep up?

It’s hard, I’ve made a lot of excuses why I haven’t been able to complete certain tasks or achieve certain goals, the reality is, if I really want it I will figure out a way. Also, I’ve got to give myself some grace, something has got to give. Maybe the dishes won’t get done before I head out to work, instead I’ll get in a run that my body has been craving.

On this past Tuesday, the sun was out, it was a beautiful morning, I had already dropped my son off at school and my girls at preschool, I had about an hour and a half before I needed to get ready for work and head out to my job. Normally, I spend my time before work, when my kids aren’t home, cleaning up around my house, folding laundry, or doing any type of work for my husband’s business that he needs me to take care of while he’s out on job sites, typically I handle all of the invoicing of customers and payroll, there’s always something that needs to be done. But this past Tuesday I made the decision, this would be the day that I would officially start training for the upcoming half marathon that I’ve mentally committed to running this year. The Orange Country marathon will be held on Sunday May 3rd 2020 this year, I have a little over 2 months to kick my booty into shape, and figured no better time to start than today. This marathon is on my list of todos in 2020, something I want to accomplish for myself.

I’ve always loved running, it’s a time of reflection for me, I do a lot of thinking on my long runs. I listen to music that I love, and am alone with my thoughts. I enjoy competing against myself, and pushing myself each run to go harder and longer. I first started running years ago when I was in high school because I wanted to lose weight, like so many other women, I’ve never been happy with my body, running helped me to keep unwanted weight off, after awhile running for me became less about slimming down and more about my mental health. I always felt so much better mentally after a long run, I still feel this way, I don’t know why I don’t make more time for running, well I do know why, but I’m changing those bad habits, remember? This is the year of change.

It felt so good to get a long run in on Tuesday, I ran 3 miles with an average pace of 10:17, ideally I’d like to be around an 8 minute mile when race day comes, baby steps. I use the Runkeeper app on my phone, it helps me to track my distance and pace, and I can save previous runs then see my progress. I looked to see when I had last ran, it was back on January 21st, I started to get mad at myself that this was only my 2nd run of the new year, but then “I let it go”, as Elsa would say (ok no more Disney quotes) on ward and upward, I’m going to be ready for this race in May, no more broken goals and promises to myself. What’s tough, I know for me is that I feel that I should always be spending my time on things that my family can benefit from, I feel selfish when I do things that are just for me, this comes from my mom, she’s the most selfless person I know. I do realize that my family does benefit from having a clear headed, mentally healthy, physically fit mom, still that guilt is always there.

This will be my 3rd marathon to run in since becoming a mom, 5th marathon total. The first race I ever ran was a few months before my 30th birthday. I’d been running for years and had always wanted to push myself in an actual marathon. I decided to run the Pier to Peak marathon in Santa Barbara on September 9, 2010. It was a half marathon, 13.1 miles starting at Sterns Wharf down by the pier then running up Main Street to the top of La Cumbra Peak 4,000 feet above sea level. A little ambitious for someone who was attempting her first marathon. It’s often referred to as “the world’s toughest marathon” I was up for the challenge. Let’s just say, I finished. I refused to quit, it was really, really hard! Spectators can drive up the mountain and meet you at the finish line, my then boyfriend now husband, drove past me with our doggie in the car and told me to hop in I didn’t have to finish he said, he knew it was hard and I was struggling. I told him no, I was going to finish. I did finally make it to the top, there were so many people there at the finish line, cheering for me as I ran across, the running community is full of so many great people. The view from the top was beautiful, it felt so good to have completed my first ever half marathon!

My second half marathon was in Venice Beach, Ca. January 2011, this race wasn’t going to have any hills, I was relieved. The race started down by the ocean, the course took us inland, then circled around and finished back at the ocean, my mom was with me for this race, she was there at the finish line, I remember I was sweating so much the sweat was burning my eyes. Again I was so happy to have finished another race, and with a pretty good time, I don’t remember exactly, I want to say I finished the race in an hour and a half. My sweet mom took some pictures of her 30 year old unmarried baby down by the beach with her medal around her neck. I wasn’t married and didn’t have any kids, running was something I could pour my energy into. All of that would change within a couple of weeks.

Around the beginning of February, my then boyfriend now husband, Justin and I found out I was pregnant. I was pretty surprised, especially since I was on birth control. Looking back now, I was probably at least 2 maybe 3 weeks pregnant when I ran that second race in Venice Beach. In the beginning of my pregnancy I would still go on runs when I wasn’t completely exhausted, at the time of this pregnancy I was working as a substitute teacher during the day, and waitressing and bartending in the evenings. For the most part I felt pretty good throughout my first pregnancy, all my pregnancies were actually pretty easy, as well as my recovery. When I was able to start working out again after my son was born, I started jogging and it was tough, tougher than I had anticipated, it took me awhile to get back into the groove of running long distances again. I had a jogging stroller and would take my son with me on some of the runs, in the past I enjoyed the solitude of running alone, but now as a new mom I wanted my baby with me always.

When my son was 2, my cousin Tiffani, who is more like a sister to me, and an avid runner, invited me to come visit her and her family in Arkansas and run with her in the Hogeye marathon. First of all let me start by saying that Tiffani is the ultimate overachiever, everything she does she has to be the best at, and she is pretty amazing. She’s a dentist and orthodontist, she went to school to be an oral surgeon, she does cosmetic Botox, she’s a mom, business owner, she’s athletic, funny and smart, I’ve always looked up to her. I remember going to visit her when she first moved into the dorms at the University California of San Diego, she was an 18 year old freshman in college and I was only 10, I got to camp out on her dorm room floor for the night and thought it was so cool just being there with her. Tiffani had moved to Arkansas with her husband and 2 sons and bought a dental practice, she had been living there for serval years and I hadn’t had a chance to visit her yet. When she suggested this trip to me and the marathon I was all in, and this time I would be running a full marathon for the first time, 26.2 miles!! We both started training, Tiff would text me how far she had ran each day, she was running way more than I was. I trained but not as much as I should have for a full marathon. In April 2013, my mom, my 2 year old son and I all flew to Arkansas to see Tiff and run the Hogeye. The race was in Fayetteville where Tiff lived, it started at the University of Arkansas and pretty much went around the entire town of Fayetteville with a few unexpected hills, there were trail and road stretches, definitely scenic for an Arkansas first timer. Again I finished the race, but not a great time, I was just happy that I finished, 26.2 miles running is not something to consider lightly. Tiff the A+ student got 3rd in her age group, I’m always so proud of her she inspires me daily. One thing I learned from the Hogeye marathon, I knew I never wanted to run a full marathon again. I know, never say never, but for now that statement still rings true for me. Tiff still runs all the time, her and her family moved to Oregon and she now owns a practice in Oregon and still runs races and still wins. Like I said earlier, she’s the best, she’s a true inspiration.

After my third baby Lila was born my life was turned completely upside down. I had given birth to 3 kids in 4 years, I was 35 when Lila was born, she was born a fussy baby, she rarely slept, and cried A Lot! We even renamed her jokingly, “Cryla.” At the time of Lila’s birth my middle baby was 16 months and my son was 4, to say I had my hands full was an understatement. I was so sleep deprived, Lila didn’t start sleeping through the night until she was about 18 months, if I had some down time and had to choose between a nap or working out and running I always went with the nap. After Lila’s first birthday I decided that I wanted to run in another marathon, a half of course, no more full marathons for me. I decided I would sign up for the marathon in my hometown of Bakersfield, it had originated in 2015, this would be its 3rd year, the course sounded fun, running through the streets I’ve been driving around my entire life. Being a local marathon was also a perk, I was able to wake up in my own bed, drive over to the college, California State University Bakersfield, and start the race. I trained a lot for this race, I wanted to do well and work off all of that baby weight I’d been packing on over the past 4 years. On November 12, 2017 I ran my first marathon in 4 years. It felt great, my husband and 3 kids were waiting for me at the finish line. I finished in the top 10 for my age group. My kids were so excited to see me, it felt good.

Here were are another 3 years later and I’m back at in, in training mode. Why do I wait so long in between races when I love it so much? I don’t have a good answer, maybe I think it makes me a selfish person when I take that much time out of the day for something I enjoy, or I don’t feel like I have time for long runs when there’s always so much that needs to be done, even as I’m writing this now, I keep thinking about chores, work and kids stuff that I need to get to. I’ve always told myself, you’re kids are only little once, you’ll never get this time back with them, soak it up! And I do, I absolutely cherish every second with my 3 babies, I’ve literally put my old life on hold and poured all of my focus and energy into my kids. Gradually, I want to start doing things again that I used to do for myself, I need to come up with a way that I can combine the past with the present with the right amount of balance. Balance is key.

As a mom it’s easy to get wrapped up in raising our children, you start to only identify as a mom, you start to forget what you were like before you had kids, my mom tells me I’m a lot more serious now than I used to be. It bummed me out when she told me that, even though I can acknowledge shes right. My hope is that my runs will help get me centered, I can take care of my family and myself, I can be responsible and lighthearted, have fun with my kids and other adults. Balance is so important, I had lost my balance for awhile, I’m finally starting to feel steady again.

Venice Beach Marathon
Pier to Peak Marathon in Santa Barbara
After the Hogeye Marathon with Tiff
And my son
After the Bakersfield Marathon, note to self, do not run in gray spandex!!
My little family.

Published by Amber Hoover

I'm a wife and a mom, who's working on remembering who I was before I became a wife and a mom, holding on to who I truly am.

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