We are highlighting #motherrunner journeys over the next 2 weeks. In sharing these beautiful and challenging stories, we are reminded to move forward with compassion. Everyone’s experience with motherhood (and LIFE) is different… compassion for all mothers, mothers to be, mothers who have lost babies, and those trying to conceive. There is far more than meets the eye when it comes to judging another person. We hope reading the stories over the next two weeks moves your heart, inspires you to keep lacing up, motivates you to make time for yourself so you can be the best for others, and help another mother out whenever possible. We are stronger and better together.
My name is Mary and I have three kids (5 months, 3 years old, and 5 years old) and a stepson (18 years old) and a pretty awesome husband. I work in education as my day job and also co-founded and coach Arete Women’s Running Club currently based in Santa Cruz. Running is my passion, my outlet and my connection to the community for the past 20 years. Runners are a special type of person, and I feel so grateful to have such a deep connection to our running community. Running is also is a tool I use to cross-over into other aspects of my life; it reminds me out to set goals, be resilient, be fierce, dream and have fun.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us! Let’s chat:
She.is.beautiful: When did you start running?
Mary: I was an active and athletic kid and prided myself in racing and beating the boys in elementary school. I didn’t start running in a structured way until freshman year cross country where I met some of my current best friends and set myself up for a lifelong love of running.
SIB: If you ran before having kids, how has your relationship with running changed since becoming a mother?
Mary: I did pretty well competitively in high school and was fortunate to run in college. However, I wasn’t mature enough to have great perspective and I didn’t know how to balance the expectations of racing for a division one college along with the demands of school, working, and social life. After college, I didn’t run at all for five years until my first daughter was born. I had a very traumatic birth experience, and had a hard time healing from that. I rediscovered running in a healthy way. At that point I wasn’t interested in racing or even running fast. I just needed 30 minutes out the door to clear my mind and remind myself how strong and capable I was.
Today, three kids later, I crave running and I do everything I can to carve out the time. I also am more confident in my racing and goal-setting abilities than ever before. It’s probably because I realize there’s absolutely no pressure and at the end of the day, no one cares whether I make it to the Olympic Trials. I also enjoy the challenge of finding the time when sometimes I feel like there aren’t enough hours in my day to brush my hair, let alone run a mile. At the end of the day, my kids just want to run down the block with me in matching running shoes. If we can do that, I’d say our whole household has a pretty good relationship with running. Chasing goals is something I do for fun and to remind me to pursue my talents.
SIB: What has been or is your biggest challenge with running since having children?
Mary: Time. Like probably all moms, I struggle to find the time to run while balancing the other aspects of my life. I also have a tiny bit of running guilt, although not nearly as strong as I used to. Sometimes I ask myself, “Mary do you really need to go do a workout when it’s pushing the kids bedtime back?” The answer is generally no, I don’t need to do any of the running I do, but I know for certain that I always come home refreshed and feeling capable to balance the demands of a household. I also believe it’s good for kids to see their parents pursue passions and explore personal roles outside of parenthood. I know kids learn a lot from observing their parents, and although my kids might not be runners, hopefully as they get older they appreciate my commitment to self-growth.
SIB: How has having children changed your relationship with your body?
Mary: As a young competitive collegiate runner, I used to think of my body only as a tool to run fast, so I often felt pressure to get really thin. That’s neither healthy nor sustainable. Living and thinking about food constantly–whether it’s diets, restrictive eating, obsessing over pictures of your food or your next meal is just not fun.
Since having children, I honestly don’t think of my body much. I think of it in terms of needing to keep it strong and well-fed to cross over from work to the track to walking up and down stairs at bedtime. So naturally, I want to fuel it with good healthy food.
But I rarely think of my body composition, and I’m so grateful I don’t have that focus anymore. In our household we eat healthy, balanced foods, but we also eat sugar. My goal is for my kids to know what healthy food is, enjoy it, and also enjoy having treats occasionally without any guilt associated. I’m all about moderation and listening to your body, and hopefully that’s something I can pass on.
SIB: What do you admire most about other moms? Who is your #MOMGOALS?
Mary: I love how much moms can juggle and still keep going. Like when you have a sick kid up all night and a morning conference call, moms can throw their hair back, drink a little extra coffee, wipe up the spit up, and keep rolling. It’s a universal testament to mom strength and just doing what you need to do and not dwelling on it. Motherhood is a labor of love.
I don’t have any real #momgoals because I think there are many ways to be a good mom, but I admire any mom who is doing the best she can and not trying to be perfect or raise perfect kids, because that’s just not reality and not fun to be around.
From a total runner girl crush standpoint, I love the runner moms who have gone on to achieve big goals postpartum such as Kara Goucher, Lauren Fleshman, Sarah “Mac” Robinson, and Steph Rothstein Bruce. They remind me how much strength we carry after having children, and if we wish, we can run faster than ever.
SIB: How has your child/children inspired you (in running or in life)?
Mary: In so many ways. Like I mentioned previously, if it weren’t for the birth of my first daughter and subsequent postpartum anxiety, I’m not sure I would have been inspired to return to running or love it the way I do.
On a daily basis, my kids remind me to dream. Their worlds are so imaginative and pure, and it’s fun to approach life in a childlike way like anything is possible. I’ve tried to do more of that in the last few years which really fueled the start of Arete. They also have inspired me to turn from a perfectionist to a recovering perfectionist; I want my kids to know that it’s actually great to make mistakes, learn and move forward. It’s how some of the greatest breakthroughs happen. They’ve inspired me to see that life is about progress, not perfection.
SIB: What is something you are proud of in your running and something you are proud of as a mom?
Mary: I am proud that after three kids I am running and chasing big goals. I made a goal in 2015 to run my first real marathon and do it under three hours while juggling motherhood and working. Since I was able to do that while staying healthy and having fun, I have refined those goals and look forward to more racing in the next few years and targeting the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying time.
I am really proud that my kids are their own people with very distinct interests that they feel supported in pursuing. I’m also really proud that my kids are kind. That to me is huge as they move through life and discover the people they want in their inner circle. I’m also extremely proud that they don’t feel any pressure to be anything other than themselves. If my kids can learn to work hard, be resilient, pursue their interests, and be kind, I will feel like I did my job as a mom. If they run a few miles here and there, that would be a cherry on top 😉
SIB: What is the best advice you have for other runner moms or runner moms-to-be?
Mary: Think of your children as your greatest asset to running rather than a hindrance. True, you cannot run out the door whenever you want like you used to. However, if you change your mindset by reminding yourself that you get to run and that by making the sacrifice and doing something healthy and challenging for yourself, you’ll be even more inspired to rock motherhood.
SIB: Fill in the sentence “I mom so hard I_________________.”
I mom so hard I am not sure if the spot that’s been on my boots for the past couple months is spit-up or yogurt…and I don’t even bother wiping it off!
Follow Mary on Instagram @Train_with_Mary and for those of you who will be participating in She.is.beautiful Santa Barbara stayed tuned as you will be receiving her 5k training plan for all levels!