A tribute to running!

Me Headlands Trails
Happy…because I have long sleeves

(AKA….why running is so good for Stay-At-Home-Mums).

As you read this, we are in Maui and it’s gorgeous!! But I wanted to press publish on a post I’ve been working on for a while, about how my relationship with running has changed over the past few months and, in particular, how important it has been to me during the most recent phase of my life. This has been something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, I hope I manage to put it into words properly.

In November 2009, I left my mid-management job in a big company to have the Dude. We moved to California and since then, I’ve been a stay-at-home-mum (SAHM from now on).  I have LOVED being a SAHM. I had precisely two days when the Husband got home and I thrust him the baby and had to get away. Two grim days and 5 whole years of happiness. It helps that my little man was a pretty easy baby and has grown into a chilled, happy, sunny little boy. It also helps that I only had one child – two or three kids under 5 and I think it would be incredibly difficult. So I’m saying I had it easy. I loved being the one to take the Dude places, to teach him words, to explain the world to him, to snuggle up on the sofa and cuddle him when he was sick. It has been the best thing that ever happened to me.

Me Dude Baby Newborn
Slightly jaundiced from blood loss. One of my best looks.


However, it does change a girl and change her self-image as well.  Initially,it’s kind of weird. There are the obvious changes – sweatpants instead of pencil skirts. Clearing up poo and shoving your boob into someone’s mouth instead of writing presentations and managing budgets. Life being both a perpetual weekend and NEVER being a weekend again, all at the same time. However, as time when on, I started to feel thick. Stupid. I forgot the big, clever words I used to use daily at work. And although I firmly believe that bringing up a child to be a kind, compassionate, well-adjusted young person is the most important thing you can ever do, I have to admit that it knocked my confidence a little.

All of a sudden, I was financially dependent on the Husband. All of a sudden, when people asked me what I did, I mumbled about being a SAHM. When the Husband would get home at night, my conversation would be about what the Dude did, rather than anything I’d done. And bit by bit, my confidence ebbed away. In fact, when I started looking for a job a few months ago, I honestly found that I could not imagine ANYONE giving me a job and I was TERRIFIED to get back into a work environment again.

As you know if you read here, I’m 8 weeks into studying Early Childhood Education to be a preschool teacher. And in those 8 weeks, all those feelings of inadequacy that I talk about above have faded away. My brain has slowly cranked back into gear. My evening conversations with the Husband are about genetics and brain development and the California State Budget. My confidence has soared. And, somehow, I also feel like I’m a better parent.

me dude race end world hunger

At the same time, running has taken a back seat. Mainly because of time pressures and because I purposefully haven’t got a goal race lined up until my courses are finished in June, but also because what running gave me during those five years is suddenly less important. But I wanted to note it all down and almost pay tribute to running because it has been really meaningful for me since the Dude’s birth.

Running made me ME again.

Particularly in that difficult first year of parenthood, running was the only thing that made me feel like me again. When you have a child, your whole identity changes. It’s weird. But when I was out running, whether for hours on the trails with friends or a quick half-hour in town, I just always felt like the girl I was before I became a mother. I wasn’t someone’s wife or someone’s mother. I was just me. It made me feel free and young again.

Marin Trails Me

Running gave me time to myself

One of the shocks of motherhood (particularly as an only child) is that you are NEVER alone. Now it’s pretty magical to look down and see your baby, it really is, and particularly at first, my arms physically ached to hold him if he wasn’t around. But I love time alone and, to some degree, I need it. So being out running gave me that space and it was really precious.

Running gave me a sense of achievement

Clearly my biggest achievement since 2009 is bringing up a really nice child that I adore – and that’s mainly due to genetics and finding a fabulous dad for him. But running definitely gave me a sense of achievement that has been really important for me. Every PR, every long run, every new trail explored all brought me a quiet sense of pride. I might not be launching any projects, I might not be getting promoted or a pay-rise…but I was still achieving things. I don’t think I can overestimate how important it is for people to feel like they are achieving something, it’s so crucial for self-confidence. And running gave me that!

Running brought me friends

You know you are. And I am so grateful for you.

Love these girls!
Just three of those amazing friends running brought me.

Running gave me a sense of identity

Running is part of who I am. One of my friends told me that she puts me in that ‘Super-sporty’ category of FB friends. Now I am not super-sporty but I do know that running has become part of who I am. If you asked me who I am, I’d say I was a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, a Christian and very definitely a runner! Angela wrote a fantastic post a while ago about what being a ‘runner’ implies, and I’d strongly advise you to read it. This was the bit that resonated most with me.

  • I like the idea of being a runner because I associate runners with lots of qualities I value: strength, toughness, stamina, health, discipline, etc. I’m very proud of being a runner and I like the idea that knowing I’m a runner makes people associate those qualities with me (at least in my mind).
  • I like what I’ve learned & continue to learn from running (patience, staying calm under pressure, mental toughness, appreciation for how amazing your body is in all its imperfections, etc.).
  • I like way I feel physically after a run (looser muscles, the feeling of having worked hard, lower stress levels).
  • I like the way I feel mentally after a run (refreshed, accomplished, hard-working & disciplined).
  • I like the way I feel long-term because of the fact that I run regularly (relaxed, healthy, fit, strong).
  • I even find little pockets of pleasure sometimes during a run (the smell of freshly cut grass or the air after a rainstorm, a cool breeze, nice weather, interesting people watching).

I could not have said this any better.

As I said, since I’ve started studying, I’m finding a new sense of achievement and identity.  The old me (that competitive, academic me) again has surfaced again and I LOVE it. But now running serves new purposes. It is brilliant at helping me relax and de-stress. I’ll often start runs thinking I should be studying or revising or working on our group presentation but by the time I get back, I’m so much more chilled and happy and calm about it all. I wonder if I’ve even got running back into proportion again. Instead of it being the Be All And End All, it’s now just something that I really love. That’s probably healthier.

I’m so excited about the future at the moment – studying, starting teaching and all the running adventures ahead of me. Running is a wonderful sport, I’m so grateful I’ve been a runner for the past five years!! How lucky we are to be runners.


26 Comments Add yours

  1. Susie M says:

    Lovely post! Running has been different things to me at different times. At the start it was a way to get over a bad breakup and find something productive to focus on that made me feel good about myself. Then I fell in love with the simplicity of it, the freedom and the fresh air – a great escape from air-conditioned office life! I used to always run alone, but as time has gone on running has become a more sociable experience for me – running marathons with friends in Berlin and Amsterdam, and joining a club to make new local friends when I moved house. Right now I’m moving into a different life phase – I’m 15 weeks pregnant and feeling thankful that I have been well enough to keep running so far, though intensity, distance and frequency has dropped a lot as I’ve only gone out when I feel like it and not because a training plan says so. (Though I would love to do a 5k or 10k at some point in the next month or two so I can say I did a race with baby on board!) The aim is to keep going as long as I feel good. I am hoping that running with be as precious to me post-pregnancy as it obviously has been to you – it’s a little bit of my identity I am hoping to hang onto even when the rest of my life changes dramatically. I have been inspired by lots of other women who are mothers and also runners – including you! Here’s to mummy runners 🙂

    1. Cathryn says:

      Susie, that’s amazing news, I am SO happy for you guys!! You should check out Erin’s blog (runningruminations.com) – she’s a local blogger and she’s FAST and is pregnant with her second child and she’s written some great stuff about running whilst pregnant. I’m SO flipping excited for you and really glad you found this post useful! Thanks for all the lovely comments. x

      1. Susie M says:

        Thank you so much! I will check our Erin’s blog! x

  2. Amy says:

    Such a sweet post! Isn’t it amazing how many benefits running can have beyond “staying skinny?” And since I’m a bad internet friend, I didn’t know that you were going back to school. How exciting! Good luck with your classes!

    1. Cathryn says:

      You’re not a bad internet friend, you’re just busy. Everyone is crazy busy 🙂 And yes, running has SO many benefits!

  3. Jen says:

    Fantastic post, Cat! I know many SAHM who have gone through the same emotions, and I’m so glad that you’ve found a new challenge that satisfies you. As a childless person, I can also relate to the purpose that running (and racing) brings — I wrote about this very same thing 3 years ago on my food blog, and it was how I started blogging about running actually! Anyway, you’re awesome and I’m so glad I met you through this hobby of ours. xo

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks, lovely girl. xx

  4. Naomi says:

    i love this post! It made me feel so happy for you! It it reminded me all the reasons I love running (because sometimes we need reminders).

    1. Cathryn says:

      It never hurts to be reminded, does it. Sometimes we get so bogged down in meeting our mileage goals or speed goals etc that we forget what’s wonderful about just running.

  5. bt says:

    I agree with all the “great post” comments. I, too, have founding running to be different things to me at different points in my life and I’m so grateful for all the different roles it has played for me. As a woman without children approaching middle-age with a very time and thought-consuming job that essentially prohibits me from talking about work, one of the things I love about running is that it is something I can openly share with people in all walks of life, but in particular, many other women roughly my age whom I otherwise may not have met or thought I had much in common with — the female running friendships I’ve developed in the last few years are some of my most cherished benefits of running.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yes, you are SO right about all of that!

  6. Awesome. Well said. I was a SAHM for a long time and I totally understand the loss of self. Finding it again and knowing your family is much better off for the time you took off to spend with them is great. Running will continue to be a stress reliever for me and allow me to be a better mom and person. Good luck in your studies and can’t wait to watch how much more you grow as you get back into the work force too.

    1. Cathryn says:

      I’m glad it struck chords with you too and thanks for the lovely comments.

  7. ErinAMG says:

    From one SAHM to another…preach, sista. Preach that good runnin word.

    1. Cathryn says:

      🙂 I think running should be recommended to all SAHMs. So much cheaper than wine 🙂

      1. ErinAMG says:

        haha, and it prob travels more easily, too 😉

  8. Nic J says:

    I can really feel how much thought you put into that – a great piece (possibly your finest yet, second only to the interview with the Dude… 😉 )!! It’s quite something to look back and think what running has meant over the past few years, to (it seems) all of us who follow you. Certainly I can confirm I fell very much out of love with running as I was falling out of love with my old job – no wonder I felt so sapped by the end. After leaving I vowed to get my running back on track, and your blog really helped provide a good deal of inspiration to push me in the right direction! A couple of years later and I’m back with a great job for a great company, and in a great place with my running too (even if it might not have seemed it when I saw you last!!). I absolutely recognise all the reasons people have posted on here for why they run – I share pretty much all of them. I feel saggy and sluggish if I don’t run for a few days – my legs ache, and I feel incomplete. Even K, a total non-runner, boots me out the door at that point – I’m THAT annoying and whiney 🙂
    I’m glad your last picture was a shot of you at Red Rock – that was pretty much EVERY reason for running, just in one event. Great friends, an amazing challenge (bad back or not), amazing scenery, a combined sense of purpose with those around us, and an individual challenge, a healthy dose of “Let It Go”, a HUMUNGOUS medal (always a nice bonus), and “rehydrating the British way” just makes me laugh every time I think about it!
    And obviously if I had kids, I’d want YOU to teach them as you will be an awesome teacher!! #thisgirlcan

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment!!! You’re so right that if I don’t run for a while, I get moan-y and whiny too! I think it’s such a mental balancer! And yes, Red Rock pretty much summed up everything I love about running, thanks for picking such a great race to celebrate your birthday. Love you. x

  9. Grace says:

    I love this post. Funny how that’s an anxiety I have (and I know a lot of my friends have) around impending motherhood (why not fatherhood? I’m not sure, must ask husband and male friends) – that we’ll be so swept up by the caretaking role that we lose sight a little of who we are beyond that. I think running, at least at a sensible point postpartum, will really help me feel more like myself again. (Although, at this point? I miss running. It’s nice enough outside that I would go for a walk but then I’d just start resenting all the people who were out there running.)

    1. Cathryn says:

      I think you probably will lose sight of who you are for a while, and that’s good and normal. Surprisingly, you don’t notice or care for a while, the new baby is your entire world but then you surface from the fog (ie, you finally get some sleep) and then you want a little part of yourself back. At least that’s how it was for me. You’ll be awesome.

      1. Grace says:

        Oh, I think you’re absolutely right 🙂 for a few months the husband and I will be blearily smacking each other on the bum (‘tag, you’re it’) as we crawl in and out of bed, hopelessly sleep-deprived.
        And then there’s my friend who ran the LA Marathon four months postpartum…

  10. Bean says:

    Love! Just love this post!!! I am so excited for you and your new adventures to come with teaching! And I totally agree that the Dude is amazing and you and the husband have done an amazing job as parents!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you so much x

  11. Kristen says:

    Love this! Running, while slow, and much more sporadic, and often alone now, is different than it was before baby, it is that simple reminder that under my new role, life and body there is still a little piece of the old me and a place I can return to to regroup and recharge.

    I am so glad your studies are going well and you are enjoying it. You will make an excellent teacher – and your students will be lucky to have you.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you so much for the lovely words. I am so excited to start teaching (although blissfully naive, I know).

      You’re so right about running being a little piece of the old you. It may well be the only bit of the old you that you have for a while, but it’ll tide you over until your little one grows up a bit more and life returns to ‘normal’. Running kind of changes role, doesn’t it, when you become a mum.

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