My mother is a retired Army Colonel. She is a kick-ass woman who raised my sister and I single-handedly while climbing through the ranks of the U.S. Army. As a soldier in the Army, for her physical fitness was not an option. I remember raising with her before dawn. She was clad in her gray, simple PT uniform. She would bring extra blankets for me so that I could sit in the bleachers as she passed -- and maxed out -- her PT test every single year. I would cheer her on as she finished her run. In addition to her PT, my mom also ran (and still does) local road races. When I was a kid, she was amazingly quick, earning herself a peck on the cheek from President Carter at a road race that she won near his hometown. A few years later, she started entering me in those road races. Most of the time I enjoyed running with her and sometimes racing my friends. I have a great picture of my long hair blowing straight back off of my head as I raced my best friend in second grade to the finish line. That was a good year. The next year, well, I have that one coming back to me in spades as a parent.
My mom entered us in the same road race that she had won a few years earlier. Running with me, she had no plans of being the first to the finish line, but I do believe she had planned that we would actually make it to the finish line. It was a warm, humid Georgia morning on an out and back course. The beginning of the race was fun enough, but about half way through the race, I decided that I had had quite enough of this whole running thing, thank you very much. I told my mom that I didn't want to run anymore. She said that we could walk for a few but that she knew I could finish the run. I promptly decided that I was not only finished running but that I had no intention of taking one additional step. I sat down on the side of the road, at least a mile out into a Georgia peanut farm. I refused to run. I refused to walk. I would not be moved from my spot on the side of the road. I remember my mom's look of frustration. I knew that I was being obstinate, but I didn't care. I was not going to move. As the number of runners passing us grew fewer and fewer, the sun grew warmer and warmer. Nope, not moving. Finally, she sat down next to me for a while. She convinced me to get back on my feet. We finished the race.
Although I was recruited to run track and cross country at every high school I attended (three), I refused. I would run to get in shape for soccer, but other than that running held little interest for me. I'm not sure when running changed from a means to get in shape to my way of escaping the world and having time to myself. College, probably. Through college, law school and the bar, running was something I did when I wanted, for however long it felt good. It wasn't until I started working and my husband took up running that it became a MUST for me. Through my days at the law firm, running was my sanctuary. I knew that even if I worked 14 or 16 hours of the day, I had taken some time just for me, to take care of myself both physically and mentally.
The need to take care of myself, even for thirty minutes, resonates with me even more now that I am a mother. It is rarely easy to find time to get out and go for a run. Now that I am working a reasonable schedule, I run over my lunch hour three or four days per week. I find that I can squeeze in a decent run if I change quickly and forgo the shower at the end (a little gross, yes, but my standards for my own cleanliness have plummeted since becoming a mother). On the weekends, I load the little man into the jogging stroller and we head out for a run. He is a great motivator: every time I stop to walk or stretch, I hear from the stroller, "mama, run."
Running is my time. It is my time to listen to my music or just enjoy the silence of running on a trail or through town. There are many days where I drag my feet getting out the door, but the vast majority of the days that I actually get out the door, I don't regret it. When I return home or to the office, I feel calmer. Running is my reset button for whatever has been annoying me or weighing on my mind. It reminds me of who I am and who I was before I became attorney, wife and mother. Running is my lifeline. I embrace attachment-parenting whole-heartedly, including the need for balance and to do what works for the family. Taking that short period of time a couple times a week lets me be a better parent, wife, and a better person in general.