Saturday, October 20, 2007

La reprise

I love to run. I've been a distance runner since middle school, when I realized that despite my natural lack of coordination, I could learn to like at least one sport, after all. I was soon hooked, and I've missed it ever since I temporarily gave it up over nine months ago, on my doctors' advice, at the end of my first trimester of pregnancy. I kept using the stationary bike at the gym for a while, and kept hiking and walking, albeit slowly, up until le Petit was born. Five days after his birth, I was out walking again as much to stay sane as to get back in shape, since la promenade was and still is one of the most effective ways of getting him to sleep. But I hadn't started running again, and was waiting prudently to have finished (almost) all of the pelvic floor reeducation sessions that are routinely prescribed postpartum in France.

As le Petit started sleeping well and my life started getting back into a routine that I could recognize, I began to miss my daily runs. I was jealous each time a runner passed me and le Petit in the stroller, especially since fall is the most beautiful season to be a distance runner. Especially on clear, cool days, when the sun gives more golden light than heat and you get to chase dry, rustling leaves down the sidewalk. So, last week, with all but four of the ten reeducation sessions finished, I decided to kick the dust from my running shoes and try a short, five kilometer loop around the island near our apartment.

I left le Petit with my mother-in-law, who conveniently lives in the neighborhood, and headed out, promising myself to be back in a half an hour lest something happen that required the immediate intervention of Mom. I know the route by heart and could probably run it, push a stroller, or Bjorn it with my eyes shut, but it seemed longer than usual. My breathing was difficult. I felt every one of those nine months of time off, but enjoyed myself anyway. I can back feeling high, thrilled to have reclaimed a part of my old self. And le Petit wasn't even too difficult with Grandma while I was gone (he'd eaten just before I left, so I was more concerned about her nerves than I was about him).

"Didn't even hurt!" I bragged on my return. And it didn't, at least not that night, but I ached the day after, and even worse the day after that. But the day after that I threw caution to the wind and headed out for another loop. After all, the first one went so well...

After a couple kilometers, I felt like I did at the 38th kilometer of the Paris Marathon. I was still running, but other runners were passing me as if I were on a walk with the stroller. I suddenly, self-consciously realized how unsexy I must look with my post-pregnancy thighs in my running tights. I stopped caring how I looked at around three kilometers, when I stopped gratefully at a red light, leaned on a lamppost and moaned quietly to myself in pain. My breathing was no worse than the first time and most of my body was okay, but my legs felt like they'd been off playing rugby without my knowledge.

I was too proud and too tough to stop and walk back, but I decided that for a few weeks at least, I'd limit myself to running once on the weekend.

Funny to think that just over a year ago I ran the 20 kilomètres de Paris, accompanied by my husband and -- although we didn't know it at the time -- a very tiny le Petit. When I think about that, I realize I have every reason to be patient with my body. It's done quite a lot this year.

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