Patellofemoral pain syndrome, got it. As in, I have it. Hubby and I were training for another half marathon and all of a sudden my knee threw a tantrum and decided it did not want to participate. It’s kind of ironic, because the last time we ran a half, we did not prepare and my knee was fine! That race was in the beautiful valley area of Nova Scotia, where you will find local wineries and popular restaurants serving local food. You could see this as either motivation or torture on your 21 kilometer slog. I like to run with the image of a glass of wine dangling on a rope in front of me, like the carrot in front of the donkey. Sad, I know, but it gets me to the end!
Like I said, very much in opposition to my personality, we did not train for that race. Typically, I follow a pretty strict training program that has me grumbling through the streets four times a week, slowly building up to 16, 18, 20, 22 kilometers. But for some reason, hubby and I ran short distances a few times here and there, and then decided to tackle a half. While we both finished (and in surprisingly good time for our lack of planning), the aftermath was so not pretty. We hobbled on legs like sticks back to the car, and at home for the rest of the day the pain only got worse.
Have to pee? That’s a twenty-minute round trip from the couch.
Thirsty? You better make it a big glass, so you don’t have to make that seven-foot trek again any time soon.
The-morning-after-the-day-with-all-the-running-and-pain, my seven-year-old stepdaughter jumped in bed with us and said, “You shouldn’t stay in bed all day if you’re sore. You should walk around and deal with the pain” (I know, she’s a tough cookie that one).
I started thinking about how much the race and recovery were reflective of the stepmother experience.
You mean fueled by Gatorade, painful, arduous, and may cause injury?? Ha ha… no, no. Not really…
Kidding. Of course not. But let me share my thoughts…
Both are long journeys. You have to think carefully about how you will take on the challenge, and know that there will always be tough sections of the road (unless you’re an elite athlete, and I’m not sure what the stepmom equivalent of that would be!). It’s not a sprint where you devote 100% of your physical and psychological energy to the task for a very brief moment in time (hello stepmom burnout).
Before the Race
We arm ourselves with a plan. We try different approaches to see what works best for us, developing strategies through trial-and-error. We think about the kind of runner we want to be – do we run with a group of like-minded runners who are going through the same experience? Or do we run solo, focusing on our own journey?
During the Race
Know that the start will likely be easy, fun, and exciting. The possibilities stretch out before us – we feel light and full of energy. Then there will come a point where you feel tired, frustrated by a steep hill, or twinges in your muscles (oh the metaphors!). You might question why the heck you chose to do this, and perhaps take a few minutes to walk and catch your breath. Breathe in, breathe out.
Suddenly you crest a hill to see a water station, and your second wind kicks in. Celebrate every small success along the way. Every hill you crest, every step you take, I’ll be watching you. Oh wait, that’s The Police.
Every hill you crest, every step you take, shows your strength and dedication. Most of your 21 kilometers may feel like this. Up, down, easy, impossible, tears, joy, doubt, pride. And that is okay.
After the Race
There are absolutely instances when you’ve tried your best, but in the end, it’s best for everyone if you call it quits. Hopefully that’s not what “after the race” means for you as a stepmom, but I do believe you have to take care of yourself and any children involved first, and no relationship is worth causing children pain (just my opinion as a child of divorce).
Like everything in life, there will always be struggles and triumphs. If you stay on the path, you will have to prepare yourself for some inevitable aches and blisters. A support system and a strong self-care program are essential, and without them your running days are over.
And for the love of whatever deity you pray to, TRAIN for your race! This is not a stepmom metaphor, this is for anyone planning to run a race EVER in your life! TRAIN!!! Okay, just had to get that out.
But that feeling… the last hundred yards leading to the finish line… what a feeling. And you run straight into the arms of those that love you.
It wasn’t easy, it’s never easy, but you did it. And you keep on doing it.
Breathe deep, love deeper.
Erin Careless is a PhD Candidate in Adult Education, focusing on stepmom learning. As a certified Stepfamily Coach, Erin provides support and help to stepmoms through her business, Steplife – Stepmom Coaching and Support. Erin and her husband Matt share their home with his two little ones – 9 year-old Oliver and 7 year-old Waverleigh.