A Running Mom: A Tale of Guilt, Gratification and Gratitude

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I’ve never been a runner. Many of my friends run half marathons, and I’ve always thought, “They are crazy.”

For years, I occasionally ran on the treadmill for the obligatory 30 minutes of cardio, and I hated every minute of it. Then came the pandemic. I adopted a regular workout routine, and running started to be — dare I say it — enjoyable. (Maybe it was because I was actually in shape and didn’t die on every run.) 

Then Peloton’s Robin Arzon asked a fateful question.

“Why not you?”

It triggered something in my brain. Why not me? Why can’t I run a half marathon? So, my slow, unathletic self decided to become a running mom and run the Indy Mini

The guilt

I’m a working mom. I get only a few hours a day with my son. Training requires runs three (or more) times a week. And if you’re going to run 13.1 miles, the workouts are not short. I tried to do my weekday runs on work-from-home days, but the longer the runs got, the more they bled into my mornings and evenings. 

Long-run Saturdays were the worst. Like I said, I’m slow. Weekly long runs would take me 2+ hours. Plus, there’s the travel time to the trail, the stretching, the post-run meal, the shower, and the mental recovery. Running monopolized my entire morning and early afternoon. Sometimes, the aftereffects bled into the rest of the day.

My husband was a rockstar. He was super supportive and had no problem doing daycare drop-offs and pickups and spending every Saturday morning for four months alone with a four-year-old. But I felt so guilty. I was missing all of this time with my kid. I felt like my husband was contributing way more than I was to our family. That mom guilt hit hard. But I persisted.

The gratification

I don’t think I’ve ever worked toward a tangible goal outside of work. All my aspirations have been dependent on someone else. With this training, I was the reason I would succeed or fail. Being completely in control of my success was immensely gratifying.

Over the training months, my son started exercising with me. He would run on his “treadmill,” which was just scurrying back and forth on my yoga mat for two minutes. But he was so excited to do it with me. He told me if I won my big race, he would be so proud of me. Running mom (right) with brother and sister in law holding medals after the mini marathon

During my training, I thought for sure I would cry when I crossed the finish line on race day. But when I finally took those final steps, I was just numb from exhaustion. 

But I did it. Me — the unathletic, slow, anti-running runner — had run and completed a half marathon. When I got home, my son asked if I won. I showed him my medal, and he told me he was so proud of me and gave me a big hug. 

The gratitude

I am so thankful for the example I set for my son through my endeavor. He has watched me cross several finish lines. He knows exercise is important and that it can be fun. He has seen me work hard to achieve a goal. Plus, he got lots of quality time with his dad. 

I am thankful to myself. I can’t remember the last time I really did something just for me. And I accomplished something hard, something many people won’t. I stuck it out through the freezing long runs, the sore toes, and the mom guilt to cross the finish line and establish a new me. 

I am a half-marathon runner. 

I am disciplined. 

I can do hard things. 

Being a running mom will help me navigate the challenges of motherhood. I have learned how to push through the guilt and bad days and savor the activities that save my sanity — so I can truly enjoy watching my son grow and achieve his own goals. 

Move past the guilt and take on that personal challenge, mama. You’ll be stronger and happier, and your family will reap the benefits. 
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Jen Walker
Jen is a native Hoosier who spent 8 years living on various beaches before returning home. She now lives in Carmel with her husband and son. For a decade, she worked in TV news. After becoming a mom, she transitioned to a more family-friendly career in PR. She currently works at a B2B SaaS PR agency where she ghost writes thought leadership articles. In her free time, Jen is an avid Pelotoner, runner, reader, and sports fan (Fever season ticket-holder and long-suffering University of Miami supporter). Her family loves trying all the fun experiences and restaurants central Indiana has to offer.

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