The Long Road Ahead

This past weekend was my first post-baby race.  As I already stated, it wasn’t an all-out race for me – but truth be told, I did push myself.  My lungs were burning and legs were hurting at various points during the 6.2 miles.

My pace for those short miles was slower than the pace I’ve run marathons in.

Approaching finish line of Boston Marathon

I’m certainly not complaining about where I am at physically right now.  At 5 weeks postpartum  I know that I am blessed to have had a fairly uncomplicated pregnancy (with the exception of gestational diabetes and posterior pelvic pain) and an easy labor and delivery.  Both of those allowed me to return to running very soon after my son was born and I know a lot of females are not as lucky.

But it’s been extremely humbling so far.  My body seems to have forgotten what certain paces feel like.  I’m a big fan of not running with a Garmin all the time and have gotten pretty good with judging my pace based on perceived effort.  But right now, I have no clue what pace my body is moving at. I think (and feel like) I’m running a certain pace and then I look down at my Garmin (or treadmill screen) and see a totally different number – typically about a minute slower than I think I’m running.

Paces that used to be easy for me are now hard.  After months of running easy and not doing speedwork, my pace is NO WHERE near where it was even 5-6 months ago, let alone prior to pregnancy.

Back in January (when I was 4 weeks pregnant), I did a 10-mile run on the treadmill in 1:11 (7:05 pace).

A week before, I ran a 10k on the treadmill in 41:40 (6:43 pace).

In June, I ran the NYRR Mini-10k in 48:43 (7:51 pace).  I was 25 weeks pregnant at the time and didn’t go all-out for the race.

NYRR Mini 10k

Where am I right now?  On Saturday, I ran the Runner’s World Festival 10k in 48:20 (7:47 pace).

NYRR Half & Festival 10k (Thanks, Harold for the picture!)

I ran 23 seconds faster this past weekend than I did in June (-> that’s only FOUR seconds per mile) and I was 5+ months pregnant in June.  Ouch. (Note: I am not saying that this pace is slow…just that it’s slow for me given the times I am used to running)

It’s a tough reality to deal with – especially since in my mind I am still capable of running these paces. It’s just that my body doesn’t agree right now.

When I sit here at the computer at night, it’s easy to tell myself to be patient.  That my pace WILL return.  That it takes time.  That I should be happy with how I am running so far.

And then I wake up the next day and forget the conversation I had with myself or my husband or  ____ (fill in the blank) and I expect to be running my usual pace.  I fully expect to wake up and be running a heck of a lot faster than I am right now.

I am trying to stay positive.  Unfortunately, we are smack in the middle of fall marathon season.  And as amazing as it is being immersed in a running community via twitter, facebook, and blogs, it’s also my achilles heal.  I read and hear about amazing long runs, paces, goals, PRs.  I want that.

And I hate that I’m jealous.  Hate that I feel like I’m starting from square one.  Hate that I have such a long road ahead of me to just get back to where I was a year ago, let alone make any improvements.

I know I need to be patient.  But honestly, it’s a lot easier said than done at the moment.

Have you had to return from pregnancy or injury? How did you deal with the return? 

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    52 thoughts on “The Long Road Ahead

    1. I know you wrote this years ago, but I’m running my first post-partum race (a half marathon) on Sunday and I realllllly needed to read this. I had a healthy pregnancy and ran throughout, but had a really tough labor and delivery, so much so that I wasn’t cleared to exercise again until 10 weeks and then I had an accident in January and was out of commission for another 8 weeks. My baby turned 7 months old yesterday and I feel like I should be so much further along. We’re so hard on ourselves, aren’t we?!
      Jillian recently posted..The Boston Marathon and Bikini Body GuidesMy Profile

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    3. Man! I totally expected your time to be SLOWER than the 10K in June based on your intro. However you were FASTER than the 10K in June! Which makes sense considering you are no longer carrying a child around in your belly! That is AWESOME! It doesn’t matter that you were 4 seconds faster per mile or 4 minutes faster per mile, what matters is that you were FASTER! Next time, try to beat 48:20 (like set a goal for 47:59). Remember, our bodies don’t bounce back like a rubber band stretched once and then released. Rather, a rubber band that has been stretched out for 9 month straight, upon release slowly but surely returning to its original shape. You are doing grrrrrrrrrreat! Don’t be in too much of a hurry; when we rush things too quickly as runners we sometimes get injured.

    4. Sorry I’m late to the convo! I just wanted to tell you that it will come back pretty fast. 5 weeks is REALLY early to expect much out of yourself. I like Jen’s suggestion of bagging the watch for some runs for a while. Sometimes when we’re getting into shape it helps not to watch it happen – the ol’ watched pot never boils thing. But even if you keep the watch, you’ll be shocked by how much faster you’ll be in 6 weeks from now and then 6 weeks from then. You’ll probably be back in your pre-baby shape within 3-4 months. That’s nothing! Just keep plugging along and it’ll happen. Hopefully I feel good enough to run 6 sub-8:00 miles at 5 weeks post-partum, but I’m not counting on it 😉 Keep up the great work!
      Salty recently posted..You Finished Your Marathon. Now What?My Profile

    5. I know how frustrating it can be – it’s totally killer!! My husband took up running while I was pregnant with our second, and I was so gunned to get back out there and compete with him (since he was by the end beating me!) that I just caused myself to get injured and sit out another 2 months. My youngest is now 7 months and I feel like I’m restarting all over again. We are supposed to race the 5k before the marathon and I keep telling myself to just deal with it, and accept that I’m not where I was before the pregnancy, but it’s so so hard to actually do!
      Ashley recently posted..Finding “Me” Time as a MomMy Profile

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    7. I finished a marathon 3 weeks ago and usually the training for a marathon makes me much faster and I have great fall races. Unfortunately I ended up with achilles tendonitis after the marathon and have to rest now. I’m worried all the hard training is gone by the time I will be back running. I know I will be back soon but I totally understand what you are feeling right now. Hang in there!!!
      Christine recently posted..And this is what the doctor saidMy Profile

    8. Michele!

      I can totally relate to your feelings 100%! I remember reading the runs you were completing when you were 8-9 months pregnant and thinking, “wow, I am so slow!” It is natural to be competitive that is what makes you such a great runner! The first 3 months after having Caleb were a bit of a challenge. Like you, I started running 4 days after having him! And, was back up to 20+ mile weeks pretty quickly. But, then, I just couldn’t get beyond 30 miles/week for quite some time. I think it was the fatigue of having a baby alone here in Singapore. I decided to just let my expectations relax a bit. But, I set a goal of a 1/2 marathon at 5 months. And, I was NOT going to make a fool of myself. I pushed myself HARD one day a week and the rest I just enjoyed being able to run without a big belly! I ended up running 1:48 which is 7 minutes off my PR. And, you know, I wasn’t disappointed in the least. But, it took some time to mentally get to the place of accepting that I am a new runner again. My body is different and my mind is different. Finally, 6 months postpartum, I am able to run 30-40 mile weeks at a good clip. With your experience, I am sure you will get there sooner! But, it will be so fun when you do!! You are doing great, and I appreciate and acknowledge that you wish you were doing better :) Enjoy yourself as best as you can and know that I will be rooting for you!!

      daniellebressoud recently posted..Ramblings…My Profile

    9. Oh my goodness- seriously your pace just 5 weeks postpartum are amazing. It’s totally normal though to feel the way you do. And… I know it does feel like a long road ahead, but just think, a year from now you’ll be setting new PRs or racing ironmans and be able to look back on how far you came. Yes? YOU ARE AMAZING and will always be my inspiration!!!!! HUGS!!!
      STUFT Mama recently posted..Runner’s World Recap Part Three- 5K and 10K RecapMy Profile

    10. Congrats! Wow, running a 10K at 5 weeks postpartum, that is awesome! You should be proud of what you accomplished! There are many women out there that wouldn’t even attempt walking at 5 weeks postpartum, let alone run!

      By the way, I just found your blog and have been enjoying reading your posts and looking around. I look forward to following it!
      Melissa @ Fit ‘N’ Well Mommy recently posted..What I Ate Wednesday and New Recipes!My Profile

    11. First of all congrats on your first post-baby race! It’s amazing that you are running so soon after having a baby and remember how motivating and inspirational that is for both new moms and other people alike. My baby is almost 3 months and running is definitely more work for me now. I’m not speedy and am still doing run/walk ratios but I keep telling myself that it’s better than nothing at all. Trust that it will return :) big hugs.
      Jenny @ simply be me recently posted..Fall and winter runningMy Profile

    12. Hi Michelle,

      First, know how much I admire you and your great times! If it makes you feel any better, I am currently on bed rest and in the hospital as I carry my twin girls (I’m 24 weeks, 4 days) and haven’t been able to run in 5 weeks and obviously won’t be able to for the remainder of my pregnancy. It’s hard from going to the “marathon lifestyle” to lying in bed all day and feeling like your body is so fragile! One thing I do know is this…when I return to running, I’ll be slow, it will hurt, and I won’t recognize my body but I’ll GET to run. I have to appreciate what my body can do right now (carry these babies…being threatened with losing them put things in perspective) and when I return to running, I’ll have to appreciate what my body can do then. It’s a long road, but I’m sure you’ll get back to where you want to be, if not improve!!

      Thanks for your great blog!

    13. I’m sure you’ll be able to make up for your hours of not running, especially after getting pregnant. Even as I can’t run for a few miles, I simply jog and/or walk around to keep myself moving. Sometimes doing a couple of joint rotations will complement my jogging.
      Amy recently posted..Leftover Turkey Recipes for ThanksgivingMy Profile

    14. Thank you! This has helped me so much. I am currently 10 and a half weeks pregnant and already feel slow as molasses. I have never run through a pregnancy before, but your posts have given me hope! (My first child was born 8 years ago and I was not a runner at the time). I am much slower than you overall, but I am trying to listen to my body and adjust to running with a tiny baby in my belly (currently its feels very inconvenient.) Keep going and I bet you will be back at it before you know it. Keep the posts coming, they are helping me make it through this rough 1st trimester.

    15. Michelle the speed comes back and so does the ability to judge pace, you are 5 weeks out from having a baby and can’t expect to be running at the same pace you were before that (the hormones haven’t even settled down yet) :-).

      Actually you remind me a little of me, you don’t want any excuses and want to run fast now and just keep going no matter what. We both need to learn a little bit of patience, something we are not good at.

      Soon you will be back to your “normal” pace :-) Keep smiling and good things will happen.
      Harold recently posted..#RWHalf Festival Final Reflection and RecapMy Profile

    16. I also had to return from pregnancy last year… don’t laugh, it’s true. The dads go through (some, not all obviously) of the experiences. I gained some weight, wasn’t as active and home a lot once baby arrived. It’s a process, you know it AND you’ve been through it before.

      I have nothing but confidence and faith in your return. And, yes, you have three months until our teams meet again in the playoffs. Better be ready for 20!
      Pavement Runner recently posted..Preview: What I’m Running InMy Profile

    17. Thanks for a great post. But don’t forget how quickly those speed gains will happen. Each week you will be stronger and faster. When else in your life will you enjoy such rapid performance increases? It is truly amazing how our bodies can return to their former glory. Sign up for the journey and enjoy it.

      I’m no where near your paces but I ran a 10k at 2months post partum in an hour… I gave everything and crossed the line shattered. 3 months later I ran a 10k in 46min 52. When in my life will I ever knock 13minutes of my 10k time in a few months…NEVER.

      I find running so rewarding when you are improving from run to run. The improvements post partum are so noticeable it is so motivating!!! Enjoy it. Soon you will be back to your former super speedy paces and will have to flog yourself to shave the seconds off!!!
      Jenelle @ Mummylovestorun recently posted..Plus 5My Profile

    18. I read somewhere recently (maybe on MissZippy’s blog) that after a break from running, the last thing to return is speed. I can attest to that! After taking many months off, I was able to build up my mileage effortlessly, but the speed is slow to return! Just remember you are doing FAR more than many mamas out there!
      Tiffany recently posted..Rallying (& Running) for Colton!My Profile

    19. You did amazing! But, I know how hard it is mentally to get back into running post-pregnancy… I did NOT run during my pregnancy and when I jumped back onto the tredmill 12 weeks after my daughter was born, I was soo frustrated because I couldn’t even run a 10 minute mile, let alone 2 miles…. I had to literally do the run/walk thing (how pathetic), anyways 5 months later I am avg. 8 min pace for 7-8 miles/day!! You will get back to your old running self in no time!!! Just try and stay positive because you ran amazingly at 5 weeks postpartum!

    20. Hey Michelle!
      I missed my BQ by 10 minutes, super disappointed but prob going to give it another try with the Poconos Run for Red in May. Thanks for your encouragement a few weeks back before you had your babe! During the marathon it hurt and I remember thinking that goals worth setting shouldn’t be easy.
      I wasn’t into crazy speed before I had the twins but ran 3 weeks 4 days after i had them for the first time. I remember how devastating it was, I felt like I had never run in my life. It’s funny, I had NEVER watched tv before I had babies but I nursed both for 4 months and was breast feeding up to 8 or 9 hours a day. Needless to say I became familiar with reality tv very quickly. While i was running I thought of the obese contestants on the biggest loser and realized if they can make progress, so will I. I mean heck, they were pushing +200 excess lbs! You might think that is a silly comparison to make but that is how horrible I felt. I felt like I must have been existing on a McDonalds diet (which i would never eat) and just felt like death.
      Your times kick some serious butt. I understand they are not acceptable to you, this is part of what makes you a great athlete! It won’t be long until you are crushing your old PRs.

    21. I really enjoy your blog and especially this post! It’s exactly how I felt for months after my c-section — that I so didn’t want. It took me many many weeks to just get back to the pace I ran the day before he was born! I completely stopped wearing a watch or garmin for a while and when I put it back on recently (7 mos later), I was happily surprised. Good luck to you! You’re doing awesome just by getting back out there racing again!

    22. What a great, honest post, Michele… thanks for sharing. The comparison thing is tough, when you’re surrounded by the running community and the blogging community. But as others have pointed out, running a 10k at 4 weeks is beyond impressive! Every week you will continue to improve and I’m sure you’ll get back to where you were, plus some! Hang in there!
      Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..16 Fun Halloween Food IdeasMy Profile

    23. I haven’t had anything I needed to overcome such as pregnancy/injury in my running yet so I can’t really relate but I still wanted to leave you a comment. I think the key is as you said to keep reminding yourself that you need to be patient….eventually you will get back to where you were and maybe even better! Your body went through 9 months of changes and is still changing right now. Just like it took you time to get to where you were prior to pregnancy it will take time to get back there. I know you can do it – take it one run at a time!

    24. Just read my blog. My paces will make you feel like a speed demon. And then we can stay connected since I miss hanging out with you already. It’s a win win! 😉

      In all seriousness, though, you are AMAZING and have accomplished so much. Focus on what you’re body was able to do that short after delivery. Not many (aka very few) can say they did what you are doing. Own it and soon enough you’ll be owning the super speed demon status again too. Hugs!
      Tina @ Best Body Fitness recently posted..#RWHalf: Inspiration AboundsMy Profile

    25. I NEEDED This post. I feel the exact same way. It is crazy how once easy paces feel so much harder now. Somedays I feel great but most days I feel like a slug. Not only are our bodies different now I think the sleep thing is getting to us too. I know you will be back stronger than ever and you have the most beautiful little boy now:) LOVE YOU!

    26. hi sweet michele! i want to tell you that i know **exactly** how you feel, though when i was returning from pregnancy i could not even come CLOSE to running the paces you are running right now. i remember my first mile postpartum and it hurt like CRAZY and it was slower than slow for me (somewhere between 10-11min pace) and i was 4 weeks postpartum. you are doing AMAZING michele!! if you can do what you are doing now, just think what you will be capable of when your body has really had a chance to HEAL and you are getting sleep again (!!!) and are more into a routine now that you have double the amount of children to take care of than you did 5+ weeks ago! honestly, i am just in awe of you and what you are capable of. i understand it is so hard – i remember it so well – but hold your head up high! take it one day at a time and trust in your body and in the strength of your spirit, in your passion and your determination. michele this is the beginning of so many wonderful beautiful amazing things in your life. running is a part of that – it is symbolic of so much – i just KNOW without an inch of doubt that you are going to surprise yourself as time goes on. you are already doing things many wouldn’t even attempt to do – and you are graceful and real and strong and humble. keep going! we are all cheering for you and believing in you and are so so inspired by you! xxoxxo
      jessica (pace of me) recently posted..a different kind of butMy Profile

    27. You are not alone in these feelings. I can definitely say I’ve been there- 4 times :-) and the only thing that helps is KNOWING that you WILL get back there and you WILL be stronger than before. One run at a time. You ran a great 10K for 5 weeks postpartum and just think where you will be at 5 months. It will come back you just have to slowly build up the mileage and speed. The key is doing it safely. You do not want to wind up with a stress fracture (like me) which will set you back even longer. It’s taken me 21 months (my youngest is the same age as your oldest) and I am seeing my fastest times now (better than my college days). That’s one of the many things I love about running. The future is so bright and possibilities are endless!
      Tia @ Arkansas Runner Mom recently posted..A scary run- what was I thinking?My Profile

    28. It sure is frustrating being in NYC around marathon time and not being able to run it! I hear you – it must be so tough to see how much progress you were making with your running and then to be set back so much. I had my first baby on Friday and am looking forward to getting back to running but know I will be frustrated quickly! Plus I tore my meniscus at the beginning of pregnancy so was only running 3-4 miles twice a week during pregnancy and now need to get surgery for that. Will be a long road back. Good luck to you! I hope you come back quickly. I will be reading for inspiration.

    29. I completely understand. I’m sitting here 2 days postpartum with my 3rd…and I’m thinking about running already. But then I remember how hard it is to start again after pregnancy (I had to quit at 29 weeks pregnant). And it’s hard to see other people. It’s easy to say I’ll just have to be patient, but hard to do it. You’ll get back into it, but in the meantime, just know I feel your pain.
      Renee recently posted..Introducing my Baby Boy!My Profile

        • I am feeling as good as it gets at this point. I’m ready to feel like myself again. This morning was the first with all 3 of them by myself and so far we’ve had a great morning. Nolan is a great baby and sleeps and eats well :)
          Renee recently posted..Introducing my Baby Boy!My Profile

    30. I think you are doing amazingly well! I know it’s hard not to feel discouraged, but you like literally just had a baby and your 10K time is faster than most people who didn’t just have babies :). Your speed will come back!
      Kristen recently posted..Injury updateMy Profile

    31. I know it won’t help for me to tell you that I wish I had your WORST pace (which is true) because you’re not judging yourself by my standards, you’re judging yourself by your own. Your speed will improve, you will get back to your old pace, it’s just a matter of time.

      Ask yourself this; what would you say to your own child if he/she was going through the same process of examination, self-criticism and doubt. What degree of patience would you show? What sort of perspective would you take? You deserve to be the recipient of the same sort of respect and understanding that you would show to your own child.

      We all deserve that.
      Jonathan Aluzas recently posted..Food For Fitness: Brown Rice Pilaf with Shrimp and Wilted RadicchioMy Profile

    32. If it makes you feel better….your post-partum paces are faster than mine…and I’m not recovering from having a baby!

      However, in 2010, I had a stress fracture and couldn’t run at all. I didn’t deal with it very well, but then I just decided that if I followed a training plan, I would come back with faster times-and I have. I’ve PRd in every distance from 5K to Marathon since.

      I did a lot of pool running–it’s tougher than it looks and spinning. I also did a lot of strengthening exercises to prepare my muscles for running without becoming re-injured. Eventually, I added speed work and longer distances. And the PRs followed. :-)

      I know you can do it and will be back–probably faster than ever–soon.

    33. Michelle — I can imagine how frustrating it must be but I hope you know what an inspiration you are regardless if it’s taking you awhile to get back in the swing of things! Your the sole reason I know my racing days won’t be over post-pregnancy or post-baby :)
      Hyedi recently posted..Setting some goals.My Profile

    34. Michele I totally feel your pain, except my paces are way, way slower than yours! I’m 16 weeks post-partum and just now getting into a groove with running. Part of it is making time for it with a 4 month old, and part of it is settling into this new body of mine. There are days when my husband talks about his speed workouts and I can’t help but be jealous because I’m not at that point where I can do that yet. Do you have your eyes on a spring half or full marathon as your goal race? I signed up for a half in January and knowing I have that goal is helping on days when I feel like I’m running through molasses. I’m positive you’ll set new goals and beat them!

    35. First of all you are a BADASS! You just had a baby a month ago, and you are friggin unstoppable. And second of all, I know your pace will come back. Even with an easy pregnancy, there are still some serious changes happening with your body, and certain amount of trauma. It just takes time to heal (often a lot longer than our mind wants to believe)

      I am 7 months post-op and still adjusting. With my surgeons telling me its gonna be a FULL YEAR before my body is 100% healed. A full year?! Who has time for that?! BLAH! It will come back though, for both of us :) But my pace will still be a heck of a lot slower than yours haha
      Krysten Siba Bishop (@darwinianfail) recently posted..#WIAW – EnergybitsMy Profile

    36. I’m still recovering from a surgery a few months back, and it has been the most frustrating process. I keep feeling like I’m getting back to my pace, but then have setbacks and have to start over.
      Ali recently posted..Planning AheadMy Profile

    37. It’s definitely frustrating – I’ve been in your shoes. But you’ll get your speed back and maybe even then some! I’m 13 months post-baby #2 right now and I’m running faster than I ever have before (not to mention I’m 36). Just give it time!
      (P.S. – Your times right now are times that I probably will never see. I think you are super fast already!!)
      Lani (@armytbonegirl) recently posted..Army Ten Miler weekend & race recapMy Profile

    38. It is OK to be sad that you aren’t where you want to be but know it comes back. I tell friends that I didn’t even start running until after I had kids and while I am not as fast as you are normally, all my speed comes from post-baby training. Our bodies need time to recover and once it does, your muscles will remember running fast and you will get fast, much faster than us mortals will get there. I see an incredibly fast marathon in 2013 for you and would love to be training for an Ironman alongside you.
      Robin recently posted..Runner’s World Half Marathon Weekend–Day 1My Profile

    39. I think you are doing great. I also think you’ll find that you bounce back much faster than you are expecting. It’s not truly starting from square one – you’re body will return much faster to where you were than if you’d never been there. I didn’t run at all with my second pregnancy and I still found that I got back to where I was pre-pregnancy faster than I expected.

      Hang in there!
      MCM Mama recently posted..Cue the music…My Profile

    40. It’s ok to feel jealous, mad, sad, all of the above! You’re a runner, a fast one at that, and it’s hard to sit on the sidelines. I can remember running a 5-mile race when my daughter was 4 weeks old and man was it ugly! I struggled to do 8s and was cramping, gasping for breath, etc. But you know what? It was step one and it was a big one. It really will come back quickly. A couple of months from now, you’re going to be setting it on fire and I can’t wait to watch it happen!
      misszippy1 recently posted..ING New York City Marathon class of 2012My Profile

    41. Being that I’ve never been pregnant and you’re still running about a minute faster or more than my race pace, I think you’re doing a-ok 😉 I think I’m just a little different because of having asthma that sometimes I’ve learned (more recently) that even though my body can go faster, sometimes my lungs can’t – they need to be built up and I need to give them time. So, for me, just finishing a race is the greatest feat for me. I’m sure things will change as I run longer and harder though 😉
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    42. You are doing SO GREAT! I didn’t run with a watch at all for the first 3 months after giving birth and I think that worked really well for me. Ignorance is bliss! :) I can really relate to this post in terms of pregnancy running. I remember thinking I was running so fast, and was still very capable in my mind, then I would look at my watch and see my 6-7 minute miles were becoming 10 minute miles. It was hard to handle when I let myself think about it!
      Like you know, I had all my PRs post baby, so your speed will come back. It will just take time! Can’t wait to see what you do!!