Badass Mum of 2 Fay Shares her Half Marathon Journey
I ran a half marathon today, as you do on a blustery Sunday in February. It wasn’t my first half marathon, but it was my first one since the girls were born. I last ran one five years ago when I was training for the Paris marathon, which I was then unable to participate in due to shin splints. I was heartbroken to have put in all the training and then be unable to compete. We’d booked flights and accommodation for Paris so we went and supported my friend Kim who’d I convinced to run it with me. I watched from the side lines and cheered her on and then we celebrated with red wine and steak. It was très bon!
A few weeks later, early one Saturday morning, I took a pregnancy test. We had friends coming to stay for the night and I’d been feeling a bit ropey during the week; aching boobs, nausea on the London Underground (and not just the normal gagging at some people’s BO), exhausted, just generally a bit meh. I’d bought one of the digital tests that spell out for you whether you’re pregnant or not and when it flashed up “Pregnant 2-4 weeks” I was shocked. We had only stopped using contraception in Paris. We weren’t even officially “trying” and yet here we were. Pregnant on month one.
I went through to the bedroom, woke up my partner and showed him the test. We lay on the bed in stunned silence for a while before I announced, “anyway, I’m off to Parkrun, see you later.”
SO I GUESS YOU COULD SAY THAT RUNNING AND BEING A MUM HAVE GONE HAND IN HAND SINCE DAY 1 FOR ME. I DON’T KNOW HOW OTHER WOMEN FELT ON THEIR FIRST RUN AFTER THEY’D FOUND OUT THEY WERE PREGNANT BUT I WAS IN A HAZE. THERE I WAS, WITH 400ISH FELLOW PARK RUNNERS, DOING THE SAME ROUTE, WITH THE SAME FACES, JUST LIKE ANY OTHER SATURDAY. EXCEPT OF COURSE IT WASN’T.
Whilst my feet were on automatic covering the course, my mind was in overdrive. Should I even be running today? Was I putting the baby at risk? What if I fell over? What if I got tangled up in the lead of one of the dogs running with us and went flying? What if the normally placid cows on the common decided to turn on us runners and we were suddenly in Berkshire’s answer to the Pamplona Running of the Bulls? What if what if what if?
I was thinking about that first run as a mum a lot today. This morning’s pre race proceedings weren’t life changing but they were a clear illustration of a changed life. Long gone are the good night’s sleep, the relaxed breakfast and leisurely arrival at the start line feeling fresh and ready to smash it!
My youngest was up multiple times last night, screaming the house down for mummy when daddy tried to comfort her, so I was tired before I even got my kit on. I had to shovel breakfast down me whilst packing multiple bags – race bag for me, changing bag for her, swimming bag for her sister. I almost forgot my trainers in the chaos. I then took H to her odd parents (yes odd, not God, whole other blog) and as I grabbed my race bag from the car the zip split sending my post race snacks, bib and recovery shakes tumbling to the ground. I hurriedly stuffed everything back in, got inside, settled her down to play with their children (shall we call them her odd cousins?) and headed off.
When I got to the bag drop I discovered, to my horror, that my earphones weren’t in my bag. I tipped everything out and they were nowhere to be seen. A cold chill came over me with the realisation that they must’ve fallen out when my zip broke.
Now, I know a lot of people run without music or podcasts or audio books. I also know that a lot of races don’t allow earphones. But I have never run so much as a 5km without something to distract me. Talk about a baptism of fire! I had even saved the latest episodes of my two favourite podcasts (Shagged, Married, Annoyed with Chris & Rosie Ramsey and Off Menu with Ed Gamble and James Acaster, thank you for asking) to keep me laughing and entertained for 2 hours.
With no time to nip to the shop for some more I faced the cold hard truth: For the next few hours it was just me and my thoughts on the road. Urgh. This was going to be hideous.
So what did I think about whilst running? Loads of things. Turns out I have a really busy mind when it’s not being entertained. I thought about . . .
The booming population as I ran passed new housing estates that have popped up in Wokingham since I last ran the half there.
I thought about climate change and the weather I’ve battled during training as the wind swept across the fields and whipped my face.
I thought about the vilification of women and gender roles as I briefly stripped down to my bra to remove my base layer & hoped no-one was going to comment on my muffin top and semi nudity (they didn’t).
Whilst running behind two men from (I think) South Africa, I thought about immigration and Priti Patel’s claims that the shortfall in the workforce her new policy will leave can be made up by “economically inactive” people, like me.
I thought about the preschool I was running to raise funds for; the children, the staff, the upcoming Easter event, the garden fence which needs repairing, the committee meeting I need to organise and the child care crisis facing the UK.
I thought about all of these things and how they’d impact my girls’ future. Somewhere around the 8 mile marker it all felt a bit too much to think about if I’m honest. My legs were hurting, I’d definitely set off too fast and now I was regretting it. I slowed down but tried to keep plodding on. I looked at my watch and tried to calculate how much longer I had to run. And then I walked. I got out my jelly tots and tried to get my head back in the game for the remaining 5 miles.
Lovely supportive runners came passed me and told me I’d done a great job and to keep going. I passed a few spectators who offered me a drink and one Marshall who asked if I was in need of a foil blanket. I took some deep breathes and started running again. I broke the rest of the race down into sections and focused on getting to the end of the next 5 minutes. . . To the next marker. . . The last drinks station. . . The roundabout. . . The bridge over the motorway.
I must confess that I had two more walking breaks, limiting them each to two minutes of ‘recovery’ before forcing myself to start running again. Over the last 5 miles I was annoyed at myself for giving up and walking, for missing out on my sub 2 hour target and for letting myself, my girls and the preschool down.
And then I thought how like running motherhood can be. You do your preparation, be it training or NCT classes, you formulate a plan, tell yourself not to panic about the task ahead, and try to imagine how you’ll cope with obstacles and tough times as they come up. But planning will only get you so far and in both cases, I find, until you’re living it, you just don’t know for sure how you’re going to react.
Every time I stopped running, I thought about what I needed to do to get myself going again and told myself it wasn’t the end of the world. No-one was judging me except me. I do the same every time I feel I’ve had a mum fail – when I’ve snapped or shouted at the girls, left a lunch box at home, forgotten about promises for after school activities etc. I feel awful about myself but then try to look for what I can learn for next time. If I break it down what strategies are there to make it to bedtime/snack time/ through the next episode of Peppa without wanting to cook her up into a bacon sandwich?