In Spring 2007, I received the good news that I won the lottery--I got into the New York City Marathon. At that point, I'd run four or five marathons before and knew a) what I was getting myself into and b) this race would be different from the others. Why? Because when I received my entry confirmation, I was still pregnant with my first child, who was due in early May.
I was a first time mom, so there were few things I knew for certain at that point. But I was certain that I would not be pregnant forever. I was naive enough to be certain that I would be able to start training for the November race about a month after giving birth, although now I'm wise enough to know that I was lucky not to have complications to prevent this plan from happening.
But that is, indeed, what happened. I gave birth to daughter Lorelei the second week of May, and started to count down the days until marathon training. When I got the go-ahead from my doctor, I began the humbling journey back to fitness by way of marathon training, which is always taxing. But in addition to marathon training, I was also adjusting to sleepless nights, nursing a child, and being responsible for this little being. I did fine on both accounts, but my marathon training was hardly rigorous. Because of the hot Virginia summers and my crazy-first-mom habit of never leaving my child, I did a whole lot of runs--including long runs!--on our treadmill.
The New York City Marathon fell almost exactly six months after her birth. And so, a few days before the race, Lorelei, my husband, and I hopped a train from Washington, D.C., to New York City. We attended the race expo, saw a few sights, and tucked ourselves in early in the city that never sleeps. The start of this marathon was miles and miles from downtown--I couldn't tell you exactly where because I'm not a New Yorker and I don't know New York well, facts that come into play a little later. Because of that, we runners had to take buses to the start. We arrived at this staging area, on average, two hours before the actual start of the race.
Did I mention I was nursing Lorelei? As she was my first, I was following all the baby books verbatim and hadn't introduced any solids to her yet. I figured I'd get to that as soon as we got home from this little trip. Did I mention that because I stayed home with her, I never pumped and gave her a bottle? Letting her latch on and eat was a million times easier and faster.
But on this morning, I had provided breast milk in bottles for my husband and wished him luck. Later, I would see the pictures of a very unhappy and very hungry Lorelei sitting, crying on the bed. Those bottles I left him never got touched.
And, worse news for little Lorelei: this was not my fastest marathon. My lack of serious training, the hills of the race made those 26.2 miles horribly longer than the other marathons I'd run up to that point. I couldn't figure out what borough I was in, but I didn't really care. I probably should have stopped, especially when I passed my husband and baby on the course around mile 18. But I didn't stop. I continued, trudged onward with that shuffles most marathoners know well.
And I shuffled and shuffled until the finish line finally was in front of me. I was completely exhausted, but I suddenly found myself with two more challenges: First, I had to find my husband and child in the meet-up area. They were not where I expected them to be, though later we realized we were waiting just yards away from each other and kept moving to find each other. Second, my breasts suddenly realized that they hadn't nursed in nearly 12 hours and were growing harder and more painful by the second. Who knew that my body could find more ways to hurt?
Finally, we linked up. I staggered to them, and my husband tried to explain that he'd had just as hard a day as I had. I did not answer him. I pulled up my sweaty jog bra to get some relief myself and to provide some for Lorelei, right in the middle of the street. I pushed my marathon finisher's medal to my back so it wouldn't hit her and we walked towards the train station. She went from left breast to right and back again for the next hour as we walked through the streets, got in a taxi, and boarded the train towards home. Sometime along that train ride I responded to my husband's ludicrous assertion that his day had been as hard as mine.
After the birth of my other two children, I waited a while longer to run a marathon. For their sake, and for mine!