I have ALWAYS been a runner. I remember a fitness program in my elementary school where the kids would run laps around the goalposts of the soccer field during recess. The teacher would use a big colored marker to stamp a dot on the palm of your hand after each lap and I loved the challenge of seeing how many dots I could collect each time. I did 5K’s as a kid, track and cross country in high school, and kept it up into my adult years with races of all lengths all the way up to my one and only full marathon. I’m NOT a fast runner by any means and I’m not competitive. I just love getting out there and both pushing myself to exhaustion or leisurely taking the scenic route while stopping to take pictures. I look forward to a weekend when I can get up at 4 a.m. and pay someone else a lot of money to run 13.1 miles with “thousands of my closest friends”. Only fellow runners know and crave that same crazy thrill.
Running for me is definitely not about winning a race or the number on the scale. Although it does have the added benefit of helping me fit into my favorite jeans and somewhat justifies indulging in good beer and French fries, running helps me keep my head on straight. While I’m hitting the pavement, I’m solving problems and thinking about how to tackle whatever happens to be on my plate at the time. It also gives me a chance to appreciate the (good) small stuff, pray and daydream. It’s the best selfish “me” time there is. Healthy body and healthy mind is what I’m after. This has been especially true in the past few years.
I’d been forced to alter my running habits as we dealt with infertility and miscarriages prior to the loss of Bella. I ran a 10-miler while I was about 8 weeks pregnant in early 2012 with the permission of my doctor. But instead of trying to maintain so-and-so minutes per mile, I took it easy and enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the California coast. But that pregnancy was not meant to be and I was faced with the loss. And then the recovery. And then learning to take it easy and heal. In the fall of that year I was pregnant again. And then another loss, but this time it was just a couple of weeks before a half marathon that I’d signed up for months in advance. I hadn’t been running much because I was pregnant, and then I couldn’t run because I was recovering from surgery. But my stubborn, unprepared self went out and ran the half anyway. My time was embarrassingly slow and my muscles ached for days, but getting back out there made me feel like myself again.
When I found out I was pregnant with Bella, my doctor advised me to limit myself to walking for the first three months, which I did. After our move to New York, I decided I’d ease back into running and worked my way up to short runs three times a week. I felt great and decided I’d keep going as long as I felt well. I felt better than “well”. I felt energized, strong and healthy. My last “long” run was at 38 weeks and 5 days, although I jogged about a half a mile of my 4.5-mile walk on the last day of my pregnancy. I’d even checked a major item off my bucket list this summer—a 5K while pregnant. I averaged a 10 min/mile pace for the down-the-hill-and-back course while pushing my 43-lb daughter in the jogging stroller. I was 29 weeks pregnant and so proud of myself!
I always considered Bella to be my little running buddy. I’d pat her little bum and talk to her along the way. I felt that she was showing me how strong I was to keep going even as I grew more and more enormous. Our runs were always very early in the morning due to Greg’s work hours, which meant that I was usually running along the river just in time to see the sunrise. The chance to see the reflections on the water of the beautiful morning sky with my Bella made getting up before dawn worth it. It was our special time together and each morning as we set out together, I wondered if this time the sky would be mostly purple, mostly orange or just clear and blue. It was always our little surprise to discover together.
Less than a week after losing Bella, I started to get the itch to get back out there. I’ve been living out a nightmare without her and I wanted to do something to feel closer to her again. Bella was born at 7:07 a.m., which is right about the time that we’d admire the morning sky together. I’ve been awake in the early morning every day since she was born and I feel that she is present with us most at that time. A friend recently commented, "I have a sneaky suspicion that you will always feel her and 'see' her whenever you partake in your special activity". I think she's right. So in order to be "with" Bella, our whole family headed down to my favorite running path to go for a short jog and admire the sky exactly one week from the time she was born.
Love you so much sweet girl,