The Groundhog Day Blizzard/Snowpacolypse of 2011 has given me almost 2.5 whole snow days- that’s right, 2.5 whole work-less and class-less days! What adult ever gets that?!
While the days haven’t been helpful in terms of getting in my desired mileage, because we all know that I don’t enjoy running on treadmills, the snow days have been good for getting around to things that I’ve neglected of late… like putting up a blog post 🙂
This post is a little different, though, and I’ll explain why. One of my WRD (writing, rhetoric, and discourse) grad classes this quarter is on The Essay; no joke, that’s the actual title of the class. We read essays, we read essays about essays, and we write our own, too. I’m posting below my first essay I submitted for the class, as the relationship to running is quite visible and thus, more than appropriate for the context of this blog. At the conclusion of the essay, I’ll also post my “objective statement” for what I wanted to accomplish by writing this text, so ultimately, you’ll be able to decide if I was successful.
title: Yoda and the (P)PR
Walking from my hotel in Chinatown to the Embarcadero in the pre-dawn hours, I stop to reflect on the surrealism of it all.
I’m in San Francisco, alone, on a random morning in late July, about to run my fifteenth marathon.
I’m on a quest to run a marathon in all fifty states, and not long after the sun rises this morning, I’ll be able to say that I’ve checked off twelve states in four years.
Throngs of runners, men and women, young and old, conspicuously large or unnervingly lanky, congregate at the Embarcadero, nervously milling about, performing silly pre-race rituals that they hope will help them run a personal best this morning. A tall-ish, muscular cop from Cleveland and I bond over our native Ohio status, and he grills me for advice in the final moments before he runs his first marathon. He is terrifically overdressed for the weather, but I don’t have the heart to tell him. I smile, tell him to relax, to enjoy the experience.
I’m pining to shave about three minutes off my marathon time, and I’m planning to do it at this fall’s Chicago marathon, a race I have consistently done poorly the two other times I’ve run it. The other marathons I’ve done this year, in Boston, South Bend, and San Francisco, have all gone well, and my weekly long runs and speedwork of late indicate that my fitness levels are right where they should be, right where I need them to be, in order to run a marathon in just over three-and-a-half hours. My body has not had any menacing flirtation with injury—a common malady for many endurance athletes—and I seem to be perfectly straddling the line of training “too much” versus “too little.” Like Goldilocks, whatever I’ve been doing, I’ve been doing just right. Everything—my training, my sleep, my nutrition—needs to be just right in order to make that 3:35 marathon finish time happen in October.
I am determined.
“Congratulations, you two,” Ariel says to Connor and me, not long after my San Francisco marathon, a smile beaming across her face as she takes off her latex gloves and rubs the excess gel onto her starchy white lab coat. Her manner is matter-of-fact, like she does this every day for a living—because she does—but she seems genuinely happy for us. “You’ve definitely got a little monkey in there. About seven weeks, as much as I can tell right now. We’ll give you an actual due date when you come back in four weeks.” She pauses, gathers her thoughts. “Since you’ve missed your period for a couple cycles, it’s tough to know for sure how far along you are. Don’t worry about it, though; we’ll figure it out in a month.”
Connor squeezes my hand and pulls my shirt down over my navel, still wet from the ultrasound goo. I look at him, and I bite down on my bottom lip, my nerves repressing my smile. Ariel exits the room and leaves us alone. The New Age music, like what you’d hear at a spa, reverberates softly in the background.
“Oh, my god… we’re pregnant,” I say. A tear rolls down my cheek, and that flat-line smile morphs into a Cheshire cat grin. “This is awesome.”
The notion of pregnancy and childbirth has always been something of a mystery to me. Very few people in my life to whom I am exceptionally close have been pregnant. Because of this, I have only heard horror stories from friends-of-friends-of-friends who tried to get pregnant for years before finally conceiving or of women who had to resort to IVF treatments.
It’s not that Connor and I were nervous about not getting pregnant; we just figured we wouldn’t know how long it would take until we tried. And in only about four weeks of somewhat-trying, we conceived.
In the heat and dripping humidity of a Chicago August, my 3:35 marathon pursuit continues, though I know that the likelihood of my achieving this “A-list” goal is compromised, now that I have a “plus-one” status. Right now, however, I feel fine. No different. Not yet.
I read, and re-read, pregnancy books and sites that assure me I can keep up my active lifestyle as long as I feel well and still want to. A running friend, Erin, mentioned to me that East German female track athletes were actually encouraged by their coaches to get pregnant because they performed better in competition, something about an increase in oxygen production due to the fetus’ development.
Not that I at all am aspiring to be of the caliber of an East German Olympic athlete; I’m just itching to set a new marathon time personal record, a PR.
I can’t help but laugh when I read in one book that pregnancy “is not the time to run a marathon!,” exclamation point included, yet I’m doing just that—and soon. Ariel, our midwife, merely responded “more power to you” when I asked her last week if it was okay for me to run Chicago, when I would be about ten or eleven weeks pregnant; she just reminded me to heed my body’s signals and to hydrate appropriately.
Around mile two on my last twenty mile run before the marathon, I tell my three running girlfriends that I’m pregnant, about eight weeks in. Chris, Erin, and Stacey squeal with delight—they know that Connor and I wanted to start our family—and shoot eighteen miles’ worth of questions and congratulatory remarks at me.
Have you been sick at all?
Do you feel any different yet?
Do you want to keep running, and ohmygosh! do you still want to run Chicago?
Are you still going to shoot for a 3:35? And you know it’s OK if you don’t get it, right?
You’re freakin’ pregnant! That’s amazing that you even want to do a marathon still!
That training run, our last twenty-miler together, becomes one of our strongest and fastest runs of the entire summer.
I think: If I can run like this in training, maybe that 3:35 isn’t so far out of reach, after all.
The running gods are scheming against me, again.
That has to be the only explanation.
How is it that each year I have run the Chicago marathon, it just so happens that that particular October day hits daytime temperatures in the upwards of eighty degrees?
I’m dressed appropriately for the hot weather, my body is ready to run a 3:35 marathon, but the thought of doing it in eighty degree weather, which will feel closer to one hundred while I’m running, is not appealing. It’s not worth the risks of dehydration, let alone heat stroke or any other number of ailments that could damage my fetus, whom Connor and I have affectionately named Yoda, or me, to shoot for that time I have been coveting all summer long.
It’s a combination of the heat and the unfavorable risks-benefits analysis I mentally completed over today’s twenty-six-point-two mile jaunt that relegates me to finishing the race in 4:09, thirty-four minutes slower than my goal.
The disappointment saturates my body and leaves me chilled.
I’ve trained for this race for months now, some of those months while pregnant, and the one thing that I can’t control—the stupid weather—failed to work in my favor this morning.
Not realizing my goal this morning is unpleasant, to be sure, but I’ve got bigger things to worry about these days.
I remind myself: There’s always next year. There are always other marathons.
And most importantly: you’re pregnant.
By now, my secret is out, and people think I’m crazy.
Is it safe to run while you’re pregnant?, they ask, eyebrows raised. Their judging glances try to pierce me, but I don’t let them. They’re not runners, so they just don’t know, I assure myself.
Yes, it’s safe to run while you’re pregnant, provided you ran regularly before you conceived and your obstetrician or midwife gives you his or her blessing. Do they really think that I would knowingly do something that would harm Yoda?
Does your doctor know that you ran a marathon a couple weeks ago? Is he OK with that? Their definitions of “physical activity” don’t go much beyond the government’s paltry recommendation of thirty minute sessions, four-to-five times a week, so the thought of my having just willingly “exercised” for over four hours a couple weeks ago couldn’t be more outlandish to them.
Yes, my midwife knows I ran a marathon a couple weeks ago. In fact, according to our due date, I’ve actually run not one but two marathons—San Francisco and Chicago—since I’ve been pregnant, in addition to several hundred miles this summer. Not to mention a handful of other distance races, most of which I actually placed in the top ten percent for my age group. While pregnant.
And my favorite: How long are you going to keep running? Doesn’t it feel kinda weird, what, with the baby bouncing around and everything? They don’t understand that running has become a central part of my identity, that it’s as natural to me as eating or sleeping, that it’s not really something I think about discontinuing.
And no, it doesn’t feel weird when I run, and no, I don’t feel Yoda bouncing around, since s/he is pretty well cushioned in there. Just think of running as me “abdominally rocking” the little one to sleep while I work up a sweat.
I’d say Yoda has the sweet end of the deal.
I’ll keep running as long as my body permits it, which, if all goes well, should be right up until my delivery. As I’ve put on weight, running has become more challenging, since my legs fatigue more quickly, but I still find it immensely enjoyable and invigorating: even if my miles are a bit more slow-going.
Despite that, I have yet to regret going out for a run while pregnant.
For kicks, I registered for a few races, including a half-marathon and an 8k, set to occur in the final six weeks of my pregnancy. Regardless of my performance at these races or on any of my training runs, I don’t compare my pregnancy running to that of my non-pregnant self. My body is changing to accommodate my burgeoning Yoda, and holding myself to the same standards that I have for my non-pregnant self would not only be unwise, it’d be nonsensical.
There’s a reason why pregnant women do not hold any world records for speed.
Anything that I do while pregnant is an accomplishment, a PPR—a “pregnancy personal record,” if you will.
Ultimately, my goal for the thirty-six to forty weeks that I’m growing Yoda is to do everything in my power to ensure that s/he enters this world as healthy as possible. To that extent, numerous studies point to the array of benefits of being physically active during pregnancy, like having a decreased risk for gestational diabetes; a higher likelihood of having an easier delivery; and a better likelihood of giving birth to a healthier baby. Not to mention all the side benefits to the mother, like having a controlled, steady weight gain; sleeping well at night; or simply all the “good” physiological benefits that naturally come about because of exercise, pregnant or not.
Running while pregnant assures me that I’m doing all I can to bring Yoda into this world as healthy as s/he can be. That I can reap some of these benefits is just, well, fantastic.
The 3:35 pursuit will begin again this year, though realistically, not until after April 28.
Philadelphia in late November will most likely be the stage.
And, barring a Hades-like heat wave, I ought to be able to finally realize this goal that has become more than a year in the making.
As I envision setting a new marathon PR, I imagine that the best thing about it, about finally achieving this goal, will be seeing Yoda at the finish line and knowing that s/he had a part in it, that I have her or him to thank for helping me get there.
That it took the two of us to make that PR happen.
That it was a team effort.
Objective Statement (or, what I wanted this essay to accomplish… it’s more helpful to read this after you’ve read the essay, IMHO, because otherwise my goals may unduly color your interpretation of my text)
Quite possibly two of the most significant things to have happened in my life are my becoming a marathon runner and, most recently, my pregnancy. Though my husband and I wanted to “try” to begin our family last summer, in the summer of 2010, my life—and my marathon training—went along as it normally would because never in a million years did I anticipate that we would become pregnant as easily, and as quickly, as we did.
Throughout my first trimester, I was at my peak of my marathon training for the Chicago 2010 marathon, and because I felt well, I was determined to try to go after my goal of completing the marathon in just over three-and-a-half hours. Ultimately, I came short of my goal, which was disappointing, but I still reveled in the PPR—the Pregnancy Personal Record—that I accomplished.
My Essay 1 shows the progression of the juxtaposition that my marathon training initially had with my pregnancy to something that became more synergistic.
From my writing, I hope to educate my readers and encourage a discussion amongst them regarding the benefits of staying active while pregnant. I aim to show my readers that pregnancy has not equated to paralysis—at least not for me.