Apparently I’m Training for the Columbus Half Marathon Again

Half Marathon Training

Last week I went on vacation with some running clothes packed in my suitcase. I felt excited to run on the island again. I also felt relieved I didn’t have to follow a strict training schedule or Run Streak.

I didn’t run the first few days because, well, because vacation. I slept in, ate too much food, and drank all the gin. I decided on Monday night that the next morning felt like a fine time to run. As it was cloudy and sprinkly the next morning, meaning less heat, I left on my run.

Running on the island makes me happy. It’s flat, yes, with little rolling “hills” on the active trail. Other people run and bike by and I passed more than my fair share of dogs. I kept my pace slow in hopes of avoiding overheating. I finished in great spirits and let my thoughts meander toward a fall race.

I haven’t raced in over a year. After my last full marathon in October 2015, and then fell upon numerous injuries coming into 2016. I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon Relay in May 2016, and then fell upon some more injuries. When I started back to yoga earlier this year, feeling finally healed, I found myself hoping I would be able to race again.

I’ve run some over the past year and a half, but I haven’t run much. If you want reasons excuses, I have them all. In 2016, I focused a large portion of my energy in building the business. For over half the year, I worked two very demanding jobs while freelancing where I could. Add also lots of travel back and forth to visit my daughter, previously mentioned injuries, and the reemergence of my depression, and well, the fact that I ran at all felt somewhat miraculous.

Though, that last point is interesting, isn’t it?

I fully acknowledge that running doesn’t heal my anxiety, doesn’t magic away my depression. I still require medication and therapy. But… apparently not running (or being very active at all) does not help either my anxiety or depression. It’s tricky, that balance. It’s never that I don’t want to run, but sometimes I forget how good it is for me. Sometimes I can’t make myself get out there and do it.

I’ve been working back into running during the spring months. So when I decided sometime during the day on Tuesday that I would, in fact, run the Columbus Marathon Half this coming October, I knew I’d need a forgiving plan.

I lost a lot of speed over my time off-ish. I recognize it for what it is. When I started running again after two years of a back injury, my pace was also slow—just a bit slower than I’m running right now. Part of me feels embarrassed to share my runs, even on Runkeeper. (I am too embarrassed to share them on Twitter right now.) Many of those I ran with in 2013 are now posting paces I remember running, paces I was actively working toward as well. My husband didn’t lose any speed, and Lindsay gained a ton of speed. And here I am, back nearly where I started.

(Insert a bunch of self-doubt on not-unrelated topics like blogging and writing the damn book and those who didn’t take a break but kept working their asses off.)

Blah, blah, run your own race, Jenna.
(Blah, blah, write your own book, Jenna.)

I’m working on it. At least the running part. It helps that the theme for the Columbus Marathon this year is “This Is My Race.” Oh, the lessons we’re forced to repeat until we truly get them.

I went with a Runkeeper training plan, sponsored by Asics. I was honest about recently run distances, slow pacing, and how often I want to run. I’ve never done well with a four-day-per-week training plan. Never. I burn out quickly. So when I selected three days per week and the app didn’t tell me to try again, I felt like maybe I could do it.

I know I can do it. I can physically run 13.1 miles. And 26.2 miles. It’s just a mind game to get there. To not look at my paces and see how slow I am right now and dwell on it. To compare this training cycle to previous training cycles. To not let my head get the best of me on race day if, in the very likely chance, I’m running a slower than ever half marathon. (Though, will anything be as slow as the Pittsburgh Marathon Half in 2015? I think not. Thankfully it won’t likely be 86 degrees with burning hot sun in Columbus in October. Fingers crossed.)

All of this is to say: I finished my first week of training for the Columbus Half Marathon on Sunday. My 4.5 “long” run is the longest I’ve run since May 2016. I run some 4.5s this week followed with a six miler this weekend. I also have a crazy work week which bleeds into Saturday. But I’m doing this.

This is what I do now. Again. Always back to this.

Half Marathon Training

It’s Time to Start Talking

It's Time to Start Talking

“Don’t write about writing.”

Except that I need to in order to move myself—and my writing—forward. Over the past two years, my writing frequency declined. I left a beloved, long-time job just over two years ago. After leaving another job almost one year ago, I found myself unable to write.

It’s not that I didn’t have things to write about at the time. Oh, I did.

However, some things simply couldn’t be written about at the time. Some things still don’t lend themselves easily to the page, though I’ve been working on how to write about certain topics solely from my point of view. It’s hard.

We write so much about the early stages of parenting. Of poop and sleep and leaky breasts. Of best parenting practices and how to make mom friends and how to make your baby a genius. And yes, thanks to our generation of writing moms, we even talk about loneliness, fear, and depression, postpartum or otherwise.

We’re allowed to keep up this talk, this back and forth of learning and teaching, through some point in elementary school. We can write about school trials and tribulations. We’re allowed rant about unnecessary testing. We’re still okay to share our kiddos pics.

Until we’re not.

Until the dreaded tweendom takes hold.

Suddenly and silently, we’re on our own, and quite honestly, it sucks.

The sudden lack of anything in Blog Land regarding parenting of tweens feels much like the Blogosphere when I started writing about open adoption as a birth mother. In 2004, no one wrote about birthmotherhood, open adoption, grief, loss, happiness, visit, or anything in between. In 2005, when I started Chronicles, I did so solely out of a need to share my truth.

It grew into so much more, of course. It grew until those who didn’t like my voice worked tirelessly to silence me. I do not regret that I “let” them “win.” Chronicles, as it existed in its then form, outgrew its purpose. My experience at that time could no longer be used to help others. I recognized the approaching tweendom wall with my daughter, and if no one’s writing about parenting tweens, let me tell you this:

No one is talking about birth parenting tweens in open adoption.

That’s not really good for anyone, our children included. While birth parents can muster through their grief and loss without much direction or support when their child is but a wee babe, doing so without support or empathy from others during those tween years (and beyond) seems like a bad choice.

I’ve spent the past year silently wishing for help. My therapist—not a birth mother, not an adoptee—can only offer so much insight. I’ve learned a lot from the vocal, helpful, beautiful adoptee contingent on Twitter over the past year, both publicly and via Direct Message. And still, I felt very alone.

It wasn’t until I reached out to another first mother involved in a fully open adoption earlier this year that I learned some of the things my unique family unit is currently experiencing are not abnormal or unique. I literally felt like the only birth mother on the planet going through what we were going through until that moment.

I felt that way because no one is talking about it.

No one is talking about it out of fear of stepping over boundaries, out of habit of walking on eggshells. Out of being silenced by other birth parents; trolled by adoptive parents; dismissed by a society which wants to believe we’re the bad guys in a good versus evil situation.

It’s time to start talking.

It’s time to start talking about how birth parents involved in open adoption can help their child address the trauma caused by relinquishment. To start talking about mental health and illness and suicidality among adoptees and birth parents. To let other (birth) parents know they’re not alone when a(ny) child becomes a tween and the relationship dynamic shifts drastically.

It’s time, once again, to break the silence. Doing so requires careful attention that we, as first parents, discuss how it feels for and affects us, to avoid projecting our feelings. It requires sharing about our experiences, not our children’s experience.

It means knowing what is our own issue, what is not, and a careful use of language and writing skill.

I plan on being part of this next wave of change in how we share about our experiences in open adoption. (I also plan on sharing more about the tween(s-to-be) who live under my roof.) I share all of this now, in this long post about writing and not writing, so that when I jump in soon, readers have a frame of reference.

I sat silent on topics pertaining to adoption for two years because it hurt too much. For the past two years, I’ve dipped my toe in the waters but stayed out of the surf. I’m ready to share, to ask, to learn, to help once again.

All this to say: Hi. Let’s talk about the realities of parenting and birth parenting again.

It's Time to Start Talking