The runner’s adolescence.

Becoming a runner again has had its awkward moments. In some ways, for me anyway, it's like going through adolescence all over again. Suddenly I have an ingrown hair in my armpit and one on a random place on my thigh. This morning I looked down and noticed that my toenail was bleeding. "Oh. That's interesting" was all I thought about it before I moved on. My feet are swollen and red in certain places. When I come in from a run I smell like a junior high phys ed class. My running clothes are always in the wash. My face is breaking out. I never have time to do more than slap a hat on my head before I head out. My legs are always sore and I'm always hungry and thirsty. When I'm out running I never know where to put my arms and trip on my own feet all the time.

So basically, running is turning me into a 14-year-old boy. Which is probably super attractive to my husband (and anyone who is unfortunate enough to run into me at the grocery store or on the trail … I am in the same state in either place because working out now takes up any small amount of time I had for hygiene).

It's been a long time since I took working out seriously. I'd forgotten the aches and pains that comes along with forward movement.

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But what I'd also forgotten is what regular exercise does to my personality: it makes me generally nicer and easier to live with. It makes me feel good and it makes my pants fit better. It reminds me of how strong I really am, it throws into sharp relief how lucky I am to be able to just pick up running again and suffer (so far, fingers crossed!) no injuries. I mean, I am still a little surprised to report that my body can take it. That mentally I can do this. HOW WEIRD.

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On Saturday I faced what has been my hardest running challenge yet, which was 6 miles while pushing both kids in the jogging stroller. John had to visit a team about an hour away on Saturday morning, and could not make our group run. Saturday group runs mean my long run for the week, and it also means that my husband is the donkey and I get to just run. It's awesome. He handles the toys and shoes flung into the sidewalk, passes out the GoGurts, breaks up the fights, keeps everyone entertained (and he still clocks ten minute miles and shepherds our group and makes sure no one gets lost, sheesh) while I settle into my 11-minute miles and my own head space. This is how I ran 8 miles two weeks ago and felt amazing. This is why I love group run Saturdays.

But on this particular day, I was to be the donkey. The farthest I'd ever run and pushed the stroller was maybe three miles. I'd set my alarm for 6:45, enough time to drag myself up and get dressed, get a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal, scoop the kids out of bed and bundle them into the jogging stroller with their snacks and be ready to leave the house. But of course, in a stupor, when my iPhone alarm went off I accidentally turned it off instead of hitting snooze and jolted awake to find that my clock read 7:15. I frantically raced about trying to get ready and get the kids ready and didn't make it out the door until 8. CRAP. I headed straight to the route from the house and bypassed the coffee shop and began searching the horizon for orange shirts.

Finally, our friend Mike (who usually leads the group and clocks 8 minute miles), approached about a mile in. We high fived, he told me the turnaround point, we wished each other a Merry Christmas and off we went. One by one our friends from group came up the hill and high-fived, most of them surprised to see that I'd made it out. I pushed up the big hill before the drop to the beach. I held on for dear life as I eased the giant stroller down the beach ramp dusted in a slippery coating of white sand. I rescued shoes and toys. We stopped at the bathroom once.

And before I knew it we were nearly done. The way had been so slow, but now we were catching up to the walkers at the back of the group! They couldn't believe that I'd pushed the stroller up the beach ramp alone (and I told them that I had the booty lock to prove that I HAD in fact done it!). It took me 1 hour, 21 minutes and 5 seconds to complete 5.92 miles.

But now I know I can do it. It can be done.

Running as a mother has been a totally different ball game for me, guys. My daughter has not slept well for two weeks, and usually? Being sleep-deprived is the perfect excuse for me to NOT run because I am one of those people who cannot function on little sleep. And yet as soon as the kids get up from nap today, John and I are loading them into the stroller and heading out to get another six miles (he did a P90X workout earlier today to make up for my slow pace. RUB IT IN, why dontcha!? ha ha!). And what's the weirdest? I'm actually looking FORWARD to it. Sydney is sick with a cold right now and was in hysterics at one a.m. because she had BOOGERS in her nose and couldn't get to sleep and yet? I WANT TO RUN?

Dudes. Who AM I?

All of this is an awesome side effect of what is being borne of all the running. Training means that I will be able to run a half marathon in a few weeks. Which represents? The 53 people in Africa that my friends – the readers of this blog – have given the gift of water. This cup is running over and spilling out into all areas of my life, and it all began with this idea that I would just ask people for help. I would tell them what's going on in Africa, tell the stories of people who do not have clean water, and try to connect the people who could help to the people who needed help.

And it's working. And it's awesome. One person at a time lives are being changed.

There is still time to do something huge in the life of a person in Africa. Just $50 is enough to provide one person with clean water for the rest of their lives, but anything helps.

click here to donate

Your donations are tax-deductible and go directly to World Vision (only a few days left in December to get tax deductions in!). And remember! If you donate $26.20 or more, you get a free recycled t-shirt scarf! And you could look like THIS!

Lauren modeling her t-shirt scarf like a boss. A boss who loves to give clean water.

(and did I mention that these scarves are kid-friendly and easy to care for? Just throw them in the washer and dryer … like a t-shirt. BOOM.)

Thank you for giving clean water. Thank you for giving a child a chance to go to school. Thank you for taking children out of harm's way on the road to water and at water sources. Thank you for doing something to protect children and their families against avoidable diseases like typhoid, cholera, and giardia. Thank you for giving mothers back the lives of their children. Thank you for giving new life to communities that are in desperate need of help. Thank you for reaching out and for your support and for running with me on this journey. When the road is hard, when the stroller is heavy, when I'm headed uphill and don't know if I can make it I think of all the people at my back, cheering for me and praying for me and partnering with me on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Africa.

Thank you.

With love from your sweaty, awkward friend,

Manda

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4 thoughts on “The runner’s adolescence.

  1. A'Dell says:

    I have never thought of Lauren as a boss who loves clean water, but now I think I shall greet her with that when I see her. “HEY WATER BOSS!”

    I love these updates, Manda. You are so inspiring and it’s a joy to read and see your progress. (I got my scarves today and I LOVE THEM. Thanks!)

  2. Jesabes says:

    I got my scarves on Christmas Eve and was very excited! We only went to church on Christmas eve (all fancied up), so we dressed casually for Christmas day and I wore my scarf. Forgot to take a picture, but I’ll be sure to get one soon.

  3. Dorie says:

    I’m a fellow mom runner delurking (I think) to say I am soooo jealous that you get to run to the BEACH. I love the beach, however, I live in a rural area of NW Illinois which means I get to run outside maybe half of the year, on country roads, and all I get for scenery is cornfield after cornfield. But now I think about the women in Africa that get their exercise by walking miles to get water for their families. Guess I don’t have it so bad.

  4. Lauren says:

    I am just amazed and inspired by what you’re doing. I’m just barely starting Couch to 5K, running on a TREADMILL, SANS STROLLER, and here you are, running six miles outside pushing two shorties. A-freaking-mazing.

    I really, really want to start to love to run. I want to WANT to run. So you’re saying it happens, right?

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