Tuesday, September 6, 2016

On Compensating

5:20 a.m.

My alarm sounded from underneath the worn and thin pillow on the bed, and I groped for my phone. It took two, maybe three tries for my brain to connect with the nerve endings in my hand so that I could turn it off.

Turn it off before anyone woke up. Mark, Miles, Si ... especially Si.

I padded downstairs and went through my normal pre-run routine. I made coffee, went to the bathroom, made something to eat. I poured coffee and plated my food, eating and drinking as I scrolled on my phone. I got dressed. I went to the bathroom again. I put on my shoes.

And on this day, a recent Saturday, I filled up the bladder to my Nathan vest, tossing in three fruit punch Nuun tabs and two Nuun Plus tabs. I downloaded the new Another Mother Runner podcast and slipped an extra tank in my pack.

I looked at the clock. 10 minutes. I'd leave then, so that I could begin the first part of my long run. This leg, the first of three, would be solo before meeting up with friends for another 5 and then running a 4-mile race to hit 16 for the day.

Just as I weighed the merits of another cup of coffee versus another bathroom stop, I heard the babbling of a small but mighty Si upstairs. I put the cup down, opened the freezer and grabbed a waffle for the toaster.

I went from wondering what to do with 10 minutes to moving about furiously. Buttering and cutting the pastry, destemming grapes, pouring milk. Climbing up the stairs, showering a cute face with kisses, changing a dirty diaper. I peeked in on Mark and told him he had 5 minutes – and to enjoy them.

The 5 minutes he laid in bed I spent trying to make up for the fact that I'd be gone for the better part of 3 hours so that I could run 16 miles.

And the next day, Sunday, I spent the better part of the afternoon trying to do the same. I tried to change all the dirty diapers. Do an extra load of laundry. Make bacon. Be extra dutiful. I went shopping with the boys while Mark went to the movies.

But as I stood in Gymboree, watching Miles try on Halloween shirts (he wanted one that glows in the dark) and listening to Si scream from the stroller, I put my hands in my head. I took four deep breaths – just like Daniel Tiger instructs – and wondered what I was doing.

I could have stayed home. I could have picked up the house. I could have sat the kids in front of the TV instead of making a trip to Barnes & Noble to get the boys each a book and later to Starbucks for cake pops.

I could have done anything but what I was doing – compensating.

While I am fervent in my belief that moms should not feel guilty for working out or going to run, myself included, marathon training is a whole different beast. I do feel guilty that I'm leaving for three, four hours a day on a weekend and then spending another hour cleaning up, shoveling food and trying to feel normal.

I have feelings, as my friends say, about my training taking priority for not just one weekend but for 16 of them. That my kids wake up and I am not home. That when they ask where I am that the answer is always, "Momma is running."

So I treat my boys – all three of them. I take them to lunch, buy them fun things, make the dinners they like. I try to make sure that I talk to them about anything but running.

I try to compensate.


  1. I totally get what you're saying. Here's what I tell myself, I'm getting up ungodly early so really, I'm only missing an hour or two of them when they first wake-up. Plus, you really are setting a good example. You're taking care of you. I think you, much like me, feel better equipped to be a in dedicated mom-mode when you've gotten some exercise. You're doing great!

  2. Feel the feelings! Honestly, there's nothing wrong with an occasional guilt-induced shopping trip, meal or "favor" ... If you feel better and they enjoy it, who cares?! But if you don't have time or energy to compensate, they won't notice either. Life is give and take, and I think anyone who knows you knows that you give more than anyone else. :)

  3. Thank you Kim! You just put eloquently what I feel all the time during training. I often wonder what would make me the better mom. I don't think my family would want to know the mom who sacrifices her runs, but I can never seem to shake the guilt.

  4. Yes. I don't feel this as much with the kids as I do with Dave. I don't like it.

  5. Yes. I don't feel this as much with the kids as I do with Dave. I don't like it.