“How’s your running going?”
I knew that question was coming. It’s one Matt, my Ramblings on the Run with Ali & Matt co-host, and I ask each other to start every episode.
Last month, I was giddy in my response. It was only January, and I’d already completed my one running goal for the year: running a sub-6:00 mile during the mile benchmark challenge at Orangetheory. I’d done it. I pushed hard to make it happen. I was thrilled, and I was proud to report back.
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5:55!!! My goal for the @orangetheory mile today was to go sub-6:00. I knew that with the treadmill lag, I’d have to go out at a pace that’s way faster than what I’m comfortable running — and would have to max out from there. So I did. I felt great for the first 90 seconds running at 10.2 mph, and then it felt hard. At the three-minute mark, I bumped it to 10.3, and at 4:30 I hit 11 mph. I squeaked in with five seconds to spare, and I am PUMPED! That was hard and I loved it! The whole time I was running, I kept repeating @gigrunewald’s words in my head: “It’s OK to struggle, but it’s not OK to give up.” I think about Gabe a lot. I don’t know why. I never met her in real life. But her legacy is so powerful. That’s why I’m teaming up with @lululemon and am hosting a private @otfedgewater class on Sunday, February 9, at 3 PM! It’s a $30 donation-based class, and every single cent we bring in that day is going to the @bravelikegabe Foundation. We have 39 spots up for grabs. Check out the link in my bio to sign up, and do it fast — I have a good feeling this is going to sell out ASAP. It’s going to be such a fun class. It doesn’t matter if you’re an OTF regular or you haven’t run since the timed mile in fifth grade. It’s for all levels. We’ll have a live DJ, post-class mimosas, and a bunch of awesome stuff to give away and raffle off. (Bring cash for the raffles!) And it’ll be coached by @iamem_fit, who helped get me to that 5:55 today! The goal is to have fun, have friendship, break a good sweat, and raise as much money as we can for Brave Like Gabe. If you can’t attend the class but would still like to make a contribution, you can do that at the link in my bio as well. Just select the “donation” option and contribute however much you’d like. Nothing too big or small. Grateful for it all. To everyone running the mile today, YOU GOT THIS!
But for some reason, the question caught me off guard this time.
“Uh, good question,” I think I stumbled, trying to remember the last time I’d actually gone for a run. Not an Orangetheory run. Not a rushed treadmill run. But an outdoor, feel-the-fresh-air-on-my-face, come-back-exhilarated type of run.
I love the treadmill. A treadmill run, in my opinion, is absolutely “a real run.” But running outside, finding my footing around New York City, getting lost and finding my way back, completing endless, never-boring loops of Central Park — that’s what made me fall in love with this sport.
But I’m a routine-driven person.
I’ve eaten the exact same breakfast for two years straight. Every morning, the same thing. And every morning for the better part of the past year, I’ve followed the same workout routine.
Alarm goes off at 4:25 AM.
Get up. Go to the bathroom. Brush my teeth. Get dressed. Out the door by 4:45. Drive to Orangetheory.
Then, from 5:15 to 6:11 AM, I’m working out, usually alongside 30–45 of the other 5:15 AM regulars. I love those workouts, that part of my day. There’s a reason I go almost every day. It’s fun, and I feel strong.
I’m back home by 6:21 AM. I take a speedy shower, throw on some sweatpants, check my emails, and am ready to start my day before Annie wakes up. Then it’s go time.
It’s a routine that I love, and it works for me.
But in mindlessly sticking to my group fitness class routine, I stopped running regularly.
And this weekend, I realized I really miss it.
Now for the rambling, writing-as-I-think, judgment-free, OK?, new-mom-thought part of this post…
There’s a guilt factor for me. I don’t feel guilty waking up early and getting my workout in during the week before anyone else in my family is asleep. But if I were to run outside during the week, I probably wouldn’t get out quite so early. I don’t feel super comfortable running outside before 5 AM. And I need to be back by the time Annie is up because Brian needs to get ready and get to work. (Our nanny comes at 8 AM, and that’s when I start working.) On the weekends, I don’t want to wake up at 4 AM! I’m tired! But I also don’t want to run when we’re all spending time together. It feels — and I would convince any friend who said this to me not to feel this way, but here we are — selfish. I feel guilty. If I do go for a run, I time it for during Annie’s morning nap, but I feel stressed and rushed, like I have to just do a quick run so I still have time to get home and shower and be ready to go before she wakes up.
If I told Brian I was going to go for a run in Central Park and would be gone from, let’s say, 7–9 AM, on the weekend, I’m guessing he would say, “OK, have fun.” He’s not a high-drama person. And he loves every second he gets to spend with Annie. So it’s not like Brian is saying I “have” to be home. It is, I think, just an internal, self-imposed thing.
Lately, I’ve been craving long runs. The kind of runs I could go on before I became a mom. When it didn’t matter what time I got up or got started, because I had few other responsibilities or time commitments. I did what I wanted. I had all the freedom in the world, perhaps without even realizing just how free I was.
Now, I have decidedly less freedom. It’s a beautiful life, but it’s an adjustment, as I’m sure any new (or seasoned!) parent will agree.
I want to train for a half marathon. But am I willing and able to commit to that? I’m not sure.
I think about doing long runs in Central Park on the weekends, running with friends, and that thought alone energizes me. But I think about telling my family I’ll be off running for a few hours — to wake up, get out the door, do my run, get home, and shower — and that feels selfish. It feels like a lot to ask. I’m still in this mode of feeling like I need to do everything for everyone, and I can do things for myself when everyone else is asleep. (Do I sound crazy? Or relatable?)
This weekend, my parents were visiting, and so I pushed my guilt aside, let them hang with Annie (which is all they really want anyway!), and headed to Central Park on the 8:20 AM ferry. I was running in my favorite place in the world by 8:40.
By 8:42, I saw and hugged a friend.
By 8:49, two more friends.
By the time I sprinted to try and catch the 10:10 ferry back to New Jersey, I’d seen dozens of friends. Hundreds of happy people. Lots and lots of dogs.
I ended up running 8.5 miles that day and felt amazing, energized, and positively giddy every step of the way.
I couldn’t believe I’d run 8.5 miles — my longest run in as long as I can remember.
I couldn’t believe I’d run so joyfully, without even thinking about my stomach. Without feeling rushed. Without feeling stressed.
Without feeling guilty.
I practically skipped home. I felt a runner’s high I hadn’t felt in months.
A high that couldn’t quite compare to that 5:55 mile. It was a totally different feeling.
I thought about that run all weekend. I’m dying to do it again. Maybe even regularly.
I don’t expect to find “balance” in work, family, and play. I don’t believe it exists, and I don’t strive for it. I go all-in on what feels most important at the time. For the past few years, running and racing haven’t felt important to me. Being a mom feels important. My work feels important. And I’m starting to feel the itch to make running important, too.
I don’t know why I feel guilt for doing anything in life that isn’t either working or mothering. I try to tell myself things I would tell a friend who might be feeling that way (“that’s crazy! don’t feel that way! is my advice helping you?!”), but so far, it hasn’t worked!
So! I don’t know if I should prioritize my running hobby right now. I already feel like I have a selfish, privileged career — I get to work for myself for half the day and spend the second half of the day with my daughter. On the weekends, with the exception of an hour-long 6 AM workout, I’m all in on family time. I’m lucky and grateful for this life. That is never ever lost on me.
I don’t have the answers right now. I take one day at a time. Maybe I commit to one Saturday per month where I spend Saturday morning in the park, and I get some quality Ali on the Run in Central Park time! (I tend to feel less guilty for things that I plan in advance!)
What I do know: My Saturday run in Central Park was the happiest I’ve felt in forever. And I’m a happy person! I’m very happy every day! But this…this was next level happy.
So here’s to chasing the next next-level happy moments on the run, whenever I can fit them in.