A Runner Returns

I moved to New York City fresh out of college, but it wasn’t until January 16, 2012 – at the ripe old age of 26 and two months – that I finally felt like an adult.

That night – instead of searching out free happy hours, discount chicken wings and the poor life decisions of a 20-something enjoying independence and a paycheck at the same time – I tagged along to a Kathleen Edwards concert at Tarrytown Music Hall with some of my older/wiser/more cultured friends. There were no cheap beers, no sparkly tops and no next-day hangovers, and it felt like the most respectable, grown-up outing I’d attended since relocating to (and quickly adopting the mantra of) the city that never sleeps.

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In fact, here I am at a boozy costume party just months before with two random co-workers, one of whom I would eventually marry. 

My friends Beth and Karsten probably remember the evening in Tarrytown for the great music, the fantastic company and the fact that Edwards cursed so fervently between sets that the radio station hosting the event feared it wouldn’t get enough material to string together a PG-13 show.

But what has stuck with me most these last eight (8!) years was something else entirely: a seemingly inconsequential conversation with my friend Karsten on the drive to Westchester County. I don’t know why it’s so seared into my memory, but I vividly recall him asking as we left Manhattan what I’d done that day.

“Oh nothing,” I remember telling him. “I just ran four miles.”

“Four miles isn’t nothing,” he insisted. He was adamant that my Central Park loop was an impressive distance and something worth celebrating.

I disagreed. I was gearing up for my first marathon, regularly clocking 12-milers before breakfast, and I knew he couldn’t possibly mean it. Four miles was child’s play, I remember thinking. Four miles was embarrassing. Four miles was n-o-t-h-i-n-g. I spent so much time obsessing over distance running in my mid 20s – reading blogs, tracking mileage, comparing my training logs to strangers’ – that I truly, honestly thought four miles of running didn’t. even. count.

Oh, how wrong I was. But it took a life changing year to understand it.

Also a life-changing year for concert-goers Beth and Karsten, turns out.

After almost a decade of running, I stopped cold turkey last spring when I got pregnant. My doctor didn’t make me, but I felt heavy and tired and bloated, and my favorite sport simply didn’t appeal anymore. And after an entire year off, getting back into the swing of things with a new body has been tougher than I ever imagined.

Last month, after getting the post-partum clear from my doctor, I went out for a crawling 15-minute jog – and was subsequently sidelined for the next week with searing pain near my C-section scar. When I finally worked up the courage to try again, I only made it a mile then walked back home. I asked my doctor’s office whether there was a solution to my running-related abdominal pain, and the nurse’s response was a slap in the face: “Well, maybe you just shouldn’t run then.”

So I took off a few more weeks, focusing instead on stretching and strength and recovery. And eventually, I made it on a full 1-mile run, without pain. Then I did a 2-mile run. Earlier this week, I notched it up to a 3-mile run.

And today, pulling off a feat that seemed impossible just a month ago, I hit that elusive 4-mile mark.

Coach Lucille checks the splits.

I don’t care about my pace — all I know is that did it. And you know what, Karsten? You’re right. It’s not nothing after all.

It’s something.

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