On Running.

At one point in my life, I considered myself “a runner.”

Not a hardcore runner, or a marathoner — in fact, marathons have never been for me, a startling discovery I made in my mid-20s whose logic continues to elude me given that I am highly competitive and that my father has run marathons his entire life and that I am drawn to most things my Dad likes, his even-fleeting interest sparking my own, transforming — Midas-like — the formerly mundane into the fascinating.

But not marathons, though I can still recall my reverence and loose, mildly confused concern after finding him sprawled out on the sun-dappled floor of the sunroom of my childhood home, a tarp-like wrap beside him, eyes closed and a look of happy exhaustion on his face after running the Marine Corps Marathon when I was maybe eight. He has run dozens of marathons and thousands upon thousands of miles over the course of his life, usually at around 8 a.m. in the morning, and always punctuated by an entry in his runner’s journal, the sole entrant in his Christmas stocking every year for the past couple decades thanks to his ever-doting Mrs. Claus. As with everything in his life, he has always approached running with unyielding discipline that eventually gives way to non-flashy, unadorned prowess. On a family trip to Aspen four years ago, he led the way up to Independence Lake, a moderate hike at high altitude that we chose to tackle on our first day in town, before we’d fully acclimated to the elevation. My siblings and I were huffing and puffing, pausing intermittently to catch our breath, occasionally masquerading our exhaustion by pointing out some feature of the landscape: “Is that…um…the Roaring…Fork?” Meanwhile, my father — who had risen early to “get his six [miles] in,” barreled ahead, easily taking the summit while barely breaking a sweat. He was 70. We were in our early 30s. With his typical shrugging humility, he didn’t say anything about it, but I remember thinking: “Note to self: run every day for the rest of my life and have the body of a 30-year-old at 70.”

The experience reignited an interest in running — one I have pocketed and dropped with intermittence, usually alongside my sister Christina, since I was maybe 16 or 17. Sometimes, during the longer phases of commitment, I slowly begin to see myself as a runner. My legs take on a different sort of muscle tone. I catch a glimpse of myself running in the reflection of a storefront and I think: “Not a bad stride.” I buy things like running belts. I carve out routes I love and identify stretches I hate — whether because of incline, or too much foot traffic, or an unpleasant view, or the awareness that I am only halfway through my run at that particular milestone and I am always already tired. I push myself to run further, or faster, and I do it.

Since getting pregnant with Emory a few years ago, I have been woefully remiss in my commitment to any exercise regimen, let alone running. I have made peace with this, to be honest. I have long believed that I can only simultaneously juggle three things in my life with any kind of grace or success. For the near-term, exercise has necessarily fallen by the wayside as I focus on family, writing, and this vague but hefty category I’ll call “household administration.” Baby wipes need ordering, clothes need ironing, nursery floors need tidying, diaper pails need emptying, winter clothes need sorting to make way for spring: small activities so slender and second-nature they barely qualify as countable but that consume the vast majority of my day, when I am not nursing bumped elbows, filling snack cups, and soothing my boy back to sleep. If you were to watch a time-lapse video of me in my apartment on any given day, it would not surprise me in the least to discover that I spend a good half of the day in an inverted u shape, washing suds out of little heads in the bath, scooping up duplos off the living room floor, scrubbing stray stripes of yogurt off the mat beneath the high chair.

And so: exercise of the formal variety has fallen by the wayside.

Last week, though, a thought fluttered through my mind: maybe I would start running again, with the return of warm weather. Maybe — maybe my goal would be to be able to regularly run three or four miles every other day, as I did for many years in my 20s. Maybe — with the infancy days behind me, with more of a routine at home in place — maybe I would start, at some point in the future.

I walked around with this pleasant notion for a few hours and then thought of my Dad, who — if Benjamin Franklin hadn’t beaten him to it — would probably have coined the phrase: “Never put off until tomorrow what can be done today.”

So I did. I went running. And have been running every other day since. It’s been an ungainly start: I am slow, and sore, and unable to hit my stride, and the mask-wearing thing makes me feel as though I’m suffocating. But it has also felt gorgeous to get outside by myself, to listen to music, to be alone with my thoughts, to challenge myself.

Mainly, it has felt good to do something entirely by myself, for myself.

So maybe it’s not running for you. Maybe it’s needlepointing, or baking, or painting, or woodworking, or gardening, or cycling. But I have been astounded by how grounded and peaceful I have felt after these solitary excursions, reclaiming a little bit of myself.

Post-Scripts.

+In light of picking up running again, I had to revisit this post on my body image after giving birth to Emory. Still moves me to reread it.

+Running may eat into my quiet hour, which is mildly devastating. Going to see if I can motivate myself to get up before the children to get my run in…

+Exercise gear I LOVE, starting with these chic leggings seen on Tory Burch herself above!:

DEVASTATED THESE HAVE SOLD OUT IN MY SIZE — ALSO LIKE THIS SIMILAR PAIR AND PEOPLE RAVE ABOUT THIS AMAZON BRAND

WEIRDLY CHIC WRIST WEIGHTS

OBSESSED WITH MY KLEAN CANTEEN WITH THE SPORTS NOZZLE

LOVE THESE FOR RUNNING — THE SOUND ISN’T AS GOOD AS APPLE AIRPODS BUT THEN YOU DON’T RUN THE RISK OF LOSING THEM (ALSO, THESE ARE BORDERLINE UNBREAKABLE)

I WEAR AN APPLE WATCH WHEN I RUN WITH ONE OF THESE INEXPENSIVE BANDS (I HAVE THE PALE PINK)

JUST ORDERED SOME NEW NO-SHOW RUNNING SOCKS — ARE THE BOMBAS WORTH IT? I AM PARTICULAR ABOUT SOCKS AND DON’T LIKE WHEN THEY SHOW MUCH ABOVE THE SNEAKER LINE…

FOR SHOES, I’M A NIKE GIRL — I LIKE THE FLYKNITS OR FREE RUNS

WHEN I’M GOING FOR A WALK/SLOW JOG, I LIKE MY APLS (ON SALE!) — I PREFER THEIR STYLE, BUT I DON’T THINK THEY ARE AS COMFORTABLE AS NIKE FOR LONGER RUNS

LOVE THE LOOK OF THIS SET AND THESE LEGGINGS BUT JUST ORDERED THESE AND WISH THESE WERE AVAILABLE IN MY SIZE IN THE FIGUE COLOR

BEST DETERGENT FOR SPORTSWEAR

I LIKE TO RUN IN A BLACK BALLCAP TO KEEP THE SUN OUT OF MY EYES AND PAPARAZZI AT BAY (LOL)

ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS RUNNING JACKET — THE POCKETS ARE HELPFUL FOR STOWING KEYS AND PHONE SO I DON’T NEED TO WEAR A POUCH — BUT GET THE LOOK FOR LESS WITH THIS (READ THE REVIEWS!!!)

I LIKE LULULEMON SPORTS BRAS, THOUGH THEY RUN REALLY SMALL

FOR INCLEMENT OR WINDY WEATHER, THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE BEST WINDBREAKER — OBSESSED WITH IT (ON SALE NOW!)

I PREFER LOOSE-FIT RUNNING TANKS

TURNING MY POST-RUN SHOWERS INTO A SPA EXPERIENCE

ORDERED THIS TO ADDRESS MY FEET…

+On a related note: loungewear I love.

+I guess I took a lot away from that hike in Aspen.

+…and Aspen in general.

+ALERT. My favorite puff-sleeved sweatshirt (was just restocked in the colorway I own and love!! This always sells out. (Also available in gray here.) Or, get the look for less with this.

+SWOON. The Matches sale is just too good.

20 Comments

  1. I completely resonate with the idea of running “by myself, for myself,” as you wrote. I’ve been a runner since high school, but I let my running routine get cast to the periphery a couple years ago when I moved to a new city and got engaged. I signed up for a half marathon that would happen a few months after our wedding, and I loved having a personal goal to work towards after the dust settled from the stressful months of wedding planning. Even though the wedding was about “us”, I really felt like I was planning the day not only for my new husband and I, but for our families and friends who had their own expectations and needs for me to accommodate. Anyway, what a relief and accomplishment to train for and run the half marathon just for me. Best of luck to you as you seek alone time and joy in running!

    1. Thank you, Jaime! I have loved all these messages of encouragement/runner solidarity (?? — ha)! Really encouraging as I sloooowly make my way back into a groove.

      xx

  2. I went back to the city last night for the first time in seven weeks. It was a strange 8 hours, full of spasms of guilt around leaving our apartment for so long, our dead houseplants, scattered testaments of a life interrupted. I didn’t, couldn’t sleep, and got up at four and went for a run. The first mile was strange, and then most of the strangeness fell away ( though I hear you on the ungainliness of mask running!). For a while, it was just another run.
    Anyways, I feel very lucky that running is some sort of mental health remedy for me these days, and I’m glad it is for you as well! For what it’s worth apparel-wise, I live and die by tracksmith, especially their session windbreaker and harrier tees.

    1. I am sure the return was eerie and emotional. I am emotional walking around my neighborhood and I’ve been here the whole time — things have just changed. The city feels different. Glad to have you back 🙂

      Thanks for the rec!!!

      xx

  3. I just told my husband that I wanted to get back to running (desperate for alone time from my 3 littles, needing to move my body postpartum, and wanting the endorphins to cope with the state of things!). I’m in need of some wardrobe and sneaker updates – thanks for your list! So happy you’re getting some time to do this!

    1. Thanks, Shannon! I’ll be running alongside you (in spirit) as we both get back into a groove. Thinking of you!! xx

  4. On household admin: Oh my goodness YES. This is my life too. I love how you call it “household admin” — because the term “chores” doesn’t really do justice to the scope of work to run a household smoothly. I have tried to automate as much as I can through monthly subscription services but I still find myself doing a lot of admin. Even more so now, I think, when I have to keep tabs on our stock of everything much more closely than before in order to be more organized and prepared when we need to re-order delivery. That image of you in what you describe as an “inverted u shape” cleaning stuff off the floor: I SEE YOU. This is me too, as I silently remind myself: ” I am the boss of her (my toddler)” – HA!

    That’s so great you’re taking up running again — GO YOU!

    I have a pair of those CRZ leggings (I have the figue colorway too), because based on online research they have been praised as a dupe for the cult favorite Lululemon Align leggings… I don’t have the Align as I couldn’t bring myself to spend $100 for leggings, but then I had bought 3 different pairs from Amazon in an effort to find the best dupe. And now I regret it because I didn’t find that to be the case with any of these $25 leggings 🙁 They’re ok, don’t get me wrong. But I wish I had just saved my $ for the real thing!

    I have the Bombas no-show socks and ankle socks. I love the ankle socks for around the house as they provide more cushion than other socks, and they come in fun colors. But, I find that the no-show ones squeeze my feet a little too much (and I have size 5 feet, medium/normal width), but going a size larger wouldn’t work either. I really like the Smartwool “hide and seek” socks, which I get from either Amazon or L.L. Bean. They don’t slip off, but they don’t squeeze my feet either.

    1. YES, household admin > chores. Chores has a childish bent to it — “I did my chores, mom!” Household admin more appropriately, formal encompasses the heft.

      I AM THE BOSS OF MY TODDLER — Ha. Sometimes I wonder…

      Thanks for the heads up on CRZ leggings. Maybe leggings are one of those categories worth the splurge, like bras, for example…and also for the note on Bombas/Smartwool! Merci!!

      xx

  5. Oh, this resonates with me! I have been thinking about trying a run lately myself. I definitely identified as a runner for most of my life (no marathons for me either – mostly 5k and 10k and one lonely half marathon), also due to my dad’s influence, until 10 years ago when I got plantar fasciitis. I did so much physical therapy, got orthotics, had cortisone shots, etc. but it did not resolve and I had to give up running. And cute shoes It no longer bothers me on a daily basis as long as I wear the right shoes, and every so often I’ll try an easy jog just to see…but I inevitability end up with a sore foot. I took up indoor cycling classes which I love and which pretty much fill the running void, but I still miss it. Especially this time of year when the weather is perfect for a run! And I miss the competitive aspect. But now, the gym is closed until ????? and I have no spin class either! And I have two tiny children and no childcare and no alone time and and and…I’ll stop the pity party now 😉 I did get out for a solo walk last week and it was a little slice of heaven! And I take walks with one or both girls most days and I’m grateful for that. Still hoping to work up a real sweat someday soon! Thank goodness for YouTube workouts during stay at home. I’m so glad that you’ve had the opportunity for runs and I admire that you’re pushing through the inconvenience of wearing a mask. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Hi Stephanie! Pity party away — oh, rather, I don’t think of it as a pity party! These are trying times and the dramatic clipping of all free/alone time from our lives is…difficult to swallow as parents to young children. I will be honest and say there have been evenings where I have cried and said to Mr. Magpie: “I need just one day, one full day, to myself. Just by myself. No children underfoot or clinging to my back or whining for something. Just quiet, by myself.” Anyhow: solo walks are a perfect stand-in for running!! At least you’re getting out there for some personal introspection time. I love what you notice when you’re on your own, left to your own thoughts. I know nearly every door on the dog walk route I have with Tilly by heart — the house numbers, the shades that will be drawn, the tulips that will be waiting for me. I love that aspect of walking by myself…

      I’m rambling.

      But, I just want you to know I feel you and this is HARD. Nothing self-pitying about what you said!

      xxx

  6. Oof, I have been looking for those Bala bangle weights EVERYWHERE and they seem to be backordered every place I look! Maybe I should just order now and wait patiently until they arrive? Ha.

    I can so relate to your relationship with running, as my mom was a marathoner as well and it has always felt like something I “should” do and like, even though I don’t really love doing it. I much prefer fast walking coupled with yoga and barre. All of that said, I applaud you getting out there — it’s always a good idea to give yourself some time to yourself, and if it can be spent exercising, even better! xx

    1. I know – I’ve seen those Bala weights sell out instantly! Probably worth the pre-order.

      xx

  7. Oh man I could write a novel on this topic, but yes. By yourself, for yourself. Running is the one thing that can make me feel normal for even the briefest period of time these days. If I ignore the fleece neckwarmer around my neck (which I pull up around my face as a mask and pull down during the blessed people-free moments), I can almost forget that the world has been turned upside down during a run. And while it’s a bummer that there won’t be any races for the near future, it’s nice to run untethered from specific training plans, workouts, paces, etc. I still wear my GPS watch but rarely look at it. If I do a specific workout, it’s because I just want to stretch out my legs and feel some speed under my feet for the thrill of it, not for any defined goal. Feeling normal and feeling good is the goal right now. Best of luck as you wade your way back into the running waters. You won’t regret it, I promise.

    1. I love so many of the sentiments expressed here, Anna! You are right that running these past few times has been the most delightful mental escape from the current situation, and THOSE ENDORPHINS do not mess around. I almost feel optimistic by the end :). Haha. Thank you for the encouragement. xx

  8. Jen,

    I’m not very particular about socks, but I LOVE Bombas. I ordered three running pairs, then a grippy sock pair, and then another three running pairs and three no-shows ha. I will say the running ones do creep up towards the ankle, but I actually think it accents my white Nikes quite smartly!

    (P.S. I especially love their mission to donate to homeless shelters. It helps justify the prices for me.)

    V.

  9. I love bombas! Totally worth it. They never slip down or move at all really. Also just learned that they have a lifetime guarantee and recently returned two pairs with holes and received replacement pairs. Also, couldn’t agree more on flyknits and lululemon sports bras, expensive but well worth it.

    1. So good to know!! OK, a lot of upvotes for this brand. Going to try! Thanks for chiming in, KJ!

      xx

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