I’m not totally sure I’m the most qualified to be writing about running after having children. I’m just getting started.
My sister, on the other hand…
To recap: My sister and I were born six years apart. Six years doesn’t sound like too much (unless you’re talking U.S. Senate terms) but during our formative years it was a Grand Canyon-sized span of space and time. We grew up in different towns, attending different schools with our parents in different stages of career/life/marriage.
The gap, as it turned out, widened in our adult years. She: Straight through school, grad school and into career-mode as an attorney; also married young and had kids young. Me: Just imagine a torn little leaf flapping and whipping in the breeze. Sometimes up and sometimes down but just kind of moving along toward the inevitable ground.
We were comfortably in our spots. She: raising children in Davis, a runner/cyclist-friendly college town suburb just outside Sacramento. Me: Just 100 miles north in Incline Village, Nevada, swimming in Lake Tahoe in the morning and running up Tunnel Creek Road to the Flume Trail in the afternoon.
On the occasion she and her husband loaded the Pilot with kid-themed carrying and sleeping and feeding devices and came up for a visit, something as simple as a 40-minute hike would turn into a four-hour ordeal. Dressing, packing snacks, loading the car, turning around, loading the car again, getting out, weathering a tantrum, taking four steps…and stopping (repeat). It wasn’t a question of when my sister and brother-in-law, both competitive age-group runners in their day, would pick up running again—but whether they’d make it until nap time.
I’m not going to say 100 percent that these little vignettes acted as a kind of birth control for me, but the week after they’d leave, I’d strap my shoes on, take a big old hit of mountain air and be on my way, skipping over creek rocks and jumping off tree stumps—thanking all things celestial about how lucky I was.
…Then it happened.
My sister received a phone call from me one October evening in 2013. I had news and was she sitting? This was, of course, an awkwardly timed set up. My girlfriend and I had met my folks in Monterey that evening for dinner. My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer five months earlier and any reserves he had to do anything beyond fighting the disease had been taken through three rounds of chemo. It was left in question until the last minute whether they would make the trip at all and my sister was on high alert. If something did happen, she told me, she’d be down there in a couple hours to help out.
So when I told her to sit, I could feel the lump welling in her throat. “Oh God,” she said. “Oh God no.” I took a deep breath and said, “I don’t know how to say this…(pause)…but Robin’s pregnant. You’re going to be an auntie.”
“Oh my!” She said through the tears that were quickly turning from sadness to joy. “Oh my, AJ. How did that happen?!”
My son was born the following April, exactly 100 days after my father had passed. Somewhere in there, my sister and her husband suddenly found themselves with time on their hands. They woke up one morning that spring and their children were independent teens, helping navigate my father’s care and concern was no longer a priority and their careers were cruising steadily at 30,000 feet.
What to do?
And run they did. Early indicators that the power structure in this running family was shifting came that June when their family came to visit their nephew/cousin for the first time. Knowing we’d have built-in babysitting from my 17-year-old niece, Robin and I signed up for our first 5k since baby. My sister and her husband signed up too—saying they’d been running “a little.”
Yeah, well the little wasn’t so little.
I staved off my brother-in-law at the finish, but that would be the last time. Our most recent run together was in March; I finished a 7k (it was a St Paddy’s Day fun run) at just over a seven-minute pace; he finished a half at just over six. …We were both first in our age group, but he, for lack of a better term, just completely smoked me on the course.
I asked him after the race the very question you see in the above headline: “How do you run with kids?”
He laughed. “Wait for them to get a little older.”