Sometimes it does happen. We stop running.
Maybe it is an injury, maybe it is something else. On August 21, 2021, after a 32 kilometers' run in Sa Coma, Spain, I realized that I had to quit. I was drenched in sweat, out of breath and feeling sick. I hobbled the last few kilometers back to the hotel. My friend said that I still had more than a month before the Berlin marathon and I should not worry. I just had a bad run. "No, this is different," I said.
Indeed, this was different. As it turned out, I was pregnant. Nausea and fatigue became regular visitors, and - unlike what many running articles and blogs promised - my energy did not return during the next trimester. I picked up swimming and went for long walks. But I envied every runner I saw.
I had planned to return to running once my son was born, however, a perineal rupture put this idea to rest. As a single mother I had also truly underestimated the challenges of motherhood. My son was barely eight weeks old, when I returned to work full-time. Lack of sleep, multi-tasking to the limits, first times in everything - over the course of the next eight months I was too exhausted to even think about running.
The more time passed, the more intimidated I became to try on my running shoes and just go. At this point I had not been running for more than a year. I was anxious my legs would feel weak and wobbly, whether I could run at all, or be left gasping for air after a few meters into the run, I imagined collapsing on the sidewalk. I was worried what strangers would think when they saw me running, and I pictured them pitying me. After a while I was running out of excuses: my baby was taken care of, remote work freed up time in the mornings and late afternoons, and I met someone, who was at minimum as competitive as I was (if not more) and who very much enjoyed tempo runs. He helped me focus on my own journey back to running and to not compare myself to others. At first he would slow his pace to match mine, and as we were absorbed in conversation, he would start to pick up pace. I would find myself glancing down at my watch and thinking: There is no way I can hold that pace. I was running fast, but Robin did not slow down. I knew we still had three miles left, my legs were beginning to feel like lead, I had long stopped talking, and I worried I would crash. Yet, as the miles clicked by, and Robin held the pace smoothly and effortlessly, while I was reaching my maximum threshold, I discovered something else: the run.
Embracing the motion of the moment, with Robin slightly ahead of me, I focused on my breathing and the soaring strength of my body - a body that created, carried and brought a little new human into the world. The miles flew by, and on our last one third of a mile, I would turn to Robin and challenge him to a sprint. Running at the top-most speed of my body, red-faced, but flushed with endorphin, I felt gratitude. I love running, and I am so happy to be back!