I am reminded that I can no longer run the way I used to as I chase after my youngest daughter on the backyard grass. She has created her own obstacle course, with yellow cones to weave in and out of and ropes to jump over. I admire her persistent creativity. I follow her along the route she’s created. She’s only three and is still faster than me. The ease of her running is an in-my-face reminder I simply run like a mother now.

The Calamities of Motherhood

At 39 and after two pregnancies—one being very difficult, full of aching hips, an umbilical hernia, and utter exhaustion— my tailbone is somehow now dislocated. My right foot aches from a pinched nerve and tiny prickles of pain haunt my toes. It is a nerve I’ve had removed, but one that I can still somehow feel. Then there is my bladder that threatens to burst at any moment. These are the calamities of motherhood, ones that I bear with honor.

“Come on Mommy!” my daughter says as she wiggles her way through the grass. I follow as best I can, lumbering along as I chase after her flying hair caught by the warm breeze.

It is during these moments when I am reminded that I used to run. And I am reminded motherhood replaced things we used to be.

I was a Runner

I ran the streets and neighborhoods of every California city I’ve lived in. The summer toasted my skin and the sun bounced off of ocean waves both large and small like slivers of glass.

I ran Santa Cruz, along the cliffs pressing so close to the ocean.

San Diego, my feet pounding along the bay.

San Francisco, through the hilly neighborhoods all the way to the flat lands of the beach.

I would run alone, earphones in, music radiating through my body.

I miss the eclectic residents of these coastal places, the vagabonds and hippies, surfers and wanderers. The ones who play instruments, stomp their feet, and laugh with smiles acres long.

All the Changes

Now, since moving to Thousand Oaks five years ago, the mountains of suburbia barricade me in. My neighborhood has changed from open oceans and bays to closed homes stretched on either side of the street. These homes that are cookie cutter, perfect and neat. There are wide, paved roads and cemented sidewalks. I am grateful that hiking trails are extensive in this area. I search for the many pockets of open dirt paths winding through the Santa Monica Mountains.

My oldest is six years old. It means it’s been six years since I’ve ran; six years since I became a mother. I’ve attempted short runs here and there—one time for eight weeks trying to keep up with a gaggle of other mothers far more athletic than me—but it hasn’t had the same endorphin hitting effect as it used to.

I Still Run

Therefore, I don’t know if I’ll take up running again. Sometimes motherhood replaces the things we used to be, without us ever truly signing up for it. As mothers, we have to be OK with that. We have to be OK with the pieces of ourselves that change and OK with the myriad of times we must let things go.

Now, when I run, it is to chase tiny legs breaking free into the front yard. It is to pretend I am a villain trying to catch the gleeful screams of my daughters. And it is to jog alongside a bike as I teach my oldest how to pedal without training wheels on. I run to chase down a soccer ball that has rolled down the hill behind our house.

Now, when I run, instead of the Pacific Ocean sprawled alongside me, I have my daughters, just as wild and just as free. I no longer run like I use to, I now run like a mother. I chase and jog and tag along with so much more heart and meaning than before.

And I’d say it is an even trade.

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Kelly is a native Californian and has lived up and down the coast, from Santa Cruz to San Francisco to San Diego and has now made her permanent home in Newbury Park. She has a masters in creative writing from San Francisco State University and finds solace and strength in writing about the vulnerability of being a mother. When not writing, she enjoys hiking, gardening, reading and all things cheese--especially a good blue or cheddar. She is married to an amazingly supportive husband and is a stay at home mom to her two wild daughters.

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