Thank you for sharing, Rachael! I so love your honesty – thanks for giving us a glimpse into some of your hard times and also the glorious parts, too. 

A woman crossing the finish line of a race.

I started running after my second baby was born in 2007. She was a howler who seemingly never slept, and I thought I would go crazy if I didn’t get out of the house at least once a day! I’d been exercising all through my pregnancy with another pregnant friend, but somehow I just didn’t feel like hitting the gym at 5:30 AM after being up all night with a baby.

I started with a Runner’s World plan for newbie runners. At about two weeks postpartum, I could barely run for 30 seconds, but I dutifully kept plodding around my neighborhood, and when my daughter was about three months old I was SO proud because I could run for 30 minutes without stopping! I ran 3 miles 4 times a week for the next year and through the beginning of my third pregnancy until I had emergency surgery for an inguinal hernia when I was 24 weeks pregnant. LINK:

Once my son was born, I started up again–slowly but steadily! When he was about six months old I had this crazy idea that I wanted to run a real race. Most people start out with a 5K, but I signed up for a half-marathon on the spur of the moment. My husband and I ran it together (LINK: when our son was 9 months old, and training for that race was such an amazing experience–I loved our weekly two-hour long runs every Saturday. We traded babysitting with some friends who were also training for a race and it was my absolute favorite part of that winter–it gave us the most amazing endorphin-fueled time to discuss our big dreams for our little family. I loved it so much, in fact, that we trained for another half-marathon that fall and I ran it when I was 10 weeks pregnant with our fourth baby (LINK: I ran all through my pregnancy with him right up until delivery, and it was by far my best recovery–I was back out running again five days after he was born. I couldn’t believe the huge difference that running was making in my resilience, even as my body was aging.

My fifth pregnancy was much harder (ovarian cyst, anyone?) but I still managed to run my (slowest!) half-marathon at about 13 weeks (LINK: I ran up until delivery with my fifth baby as well, and while it was much more taxing on my body than it had been with earlier babies, the mental benefits from running made every bit of achiness and muscle soreness 100% worthwhile.

A woman crossing the finish line at a race.

After he was born, I really struggled with postpartum depression–I felt like I was in the depths of despair. Once again, running was a lifesaver for me, just as it had been during that difficult adjustment after my second was born. A combination of running and Zoloft carried me through that year–I ran a half-marathon when he was six months old (LINK: Facing a dark and dismal winter, I decided to finally go for it and trained for a full marathon during the polar vortex–on my treadmill! It was about -25 outside most of the winter, and my husband was working late nights as a doctoral student, so I fell into the pattern of running for hours every night once my kids were in bed. Often I would stop after 14 or 15 miles to nurse the baby and then climb back on the treadmill–at 11 PM! I honestly can’t believe I did it, but that training totally carried me through the darkest point in my life thus far. It gave me something to look forward to and plan for, and the sense of accomplishment I felt when I crossed that finish line–a few days before my fifth baby’s first birthday and two months before I turned 31–well, it was pretty incredible! (LINK:

I never really thought I’d be a runner–I always hated running when it was required for other sports–but as a mother it has become SO incredibly important to me and something that I absolutely cherish. The health benefits are nice, but what running really does for me is gives me a space of my own–it’s something that I do just for me, and it’s something where I can see measurable changes and improvements and accomplishments. It gives me time to think and process and just be by myself (or to talk with a good friend!). It allows me the opportunity to step out of my role as wife and mother for just a moment and take time to really focus on myself, then come back to my family refreshed and invigorated. I originally began running to exercise and to create some time for myself; eight years later, it’s become a sacred time for me that is so integral and fundamental to who I am that I can’t even imagine my life without it!