Running from Guilt to Gratitude - Yes, I'm helping you put together a 3-D map of the Rocky Mountains, but all I'm really thinking about is what it would be like to go running there.I consider running to be a healthy distraction, and I like to run while my kids are at soccer practice so that they don’t feel like I’m asking them to work hard for an hour while I sit around in a lawn chair sipping soda pop and cheering them on. I want them to see me working my body, so that they know even when you’re “old” it’s important to keep moving. And, maybe, I want to inspire them just a little bit, and make them proud of me. But, if I’m running and it’s not during soccer practice, I feel a healthy dose of mommy guilt for taking time away from them. Maybe it’s runner’s guilt.ย Either way – it feels bad, like I’m doing something entirely selfish instead of whatever I should be doing for my family.

Lately I find myself wondering, does any woman run without this kind of guilt?

Lately, as I’ve been pursuing the Distance Challenge race series, and even more since I switched from the half-track option – which culminates in a half-marathon, to the full track option – I’m sure you’ve figured out the distance by now, I’ve made the switch from just going out and running to actually training. Training is tough! I haven’t “trained” since high school, and that was a long time ago. Training takes time, and dedication, and preparation, and schedule modifications, and communication with co-workers and family. Training requires support outside of yourself. And training is not always perfectly compatible with maintaining relationships.

Sorry. I just can't run in this.
Sorry. I just can’t run in this.

I leave the house at 6:30 AM to get the kids to the bus stop. It’s dark out at 6:30. I make the commute directly from the bus stop to work. The killer is that it’s dark by 5:45 PM. Between running errands and a 45 minute commute, I can’t beat the dark to get home and still have the time to fit in a run unless I leave work early. Licorice gave some awesome safety tips for running in the dark, and Salty’s defiant decision to run where she wants is inspiring (“defiant,” when spoken about a runner, is always considered a complimentary term, in case you didn’t know). But, I just can’t bring myself to tune into my body and my run like I need to for training when I’m focused on deer, coyotes and imagined trenchcoat-clad figures standing in the treeline. So, I don’t train in the dark. Lucky for me, my co-workers are ultra supportive, and a little crazy themselves, so they are behind my marathon goal and I can tell them, “I’ve got to leave now if I’m going to get a run in,” and they don’t bat an eye.

The biggest and most surprising source of support I’ve found is my husband. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not surprised that he’s supporting me, but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at just how he’s supporting me. One day, he showed up at soccer practice on his bike to ride along with me. He has made dinner, and shuttled children, and suffered in silence when I slip out of bed and disappear for hours at a time for a weekend long run. The other Saturday, we had several errands to run, the last of which included stopping by his parent’s house. Some visits to his parents house take many more hours than you would think. I was fretting over whether or not I would be able to fit in my 8-mile run before it got dark, and he suggested that I just run at his parent’s neighborhood. I worried that it would be rude to ditch the visit, but he assured me that he would talk to them. I didn’t even go inside when we got there, but hopped out of the car and took off down the driveway before I could be lured into a conversation. When I returned over an hour later, I heard him tell his dad, “she’s taking this training thing pretty seriously.” I tell you, I glowed! Between him figuring out a slightly unorthodox plan for me to fit in my run, promising me that I wouldn’t be perceived as rude for ditching the social time in favor of a training run, and the realization that only did he understand that I was taking it seriously, but that he supported me so much that he would make explanations of my craziness on my behalf – I have never felt more encouraged.

Until Saturday, I grossly underestimated the effect that a strong supporter can have. All of my guilt at the hours I’ve taken from housework, kids, grocery shopping and even work melted away with the knowledge that he understood, or at least made a damn fine effort to. Running without guilt is a new kind of freedom, a new kind of release, and rather than feeling guilty about going to run, I simply feel an immense gratitude.

Salties – how has someone shown that they supported your running endeavors? How did that change your perception of your training?


A 30-something runner striving to hit that ever-elusive BQ. Mother of two young teens, fan of fantasy/fiction/sci-fi (<-read: geek), with a fascination for tortoises and a love of the outdoors.

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  1. Great piece. Thanks for sharing this story.

    I joke that being a mother is one constant guilt trip, from the moment you learn you’re pregnant (“Oh crap! I drank wine last night!”) pretty much nonstop forever thereafter.

    I am also fortunate to have a very supportive spouse. But my goals are ambitious this year — I want to do a 50 mile trail race — and I need to find a time and a way to train for one that he (and my kids) can buy into. I know I’ll need their support, 100%, to train right and do this the way I want to. And they miss me when I’m out on a long run every Saturday morning!

    We’ve concluded that spring isn’t a great time for this. It was a tough decision, because I finished the fall season really stoked for a big race, but it was the right decision. I’m doing a spring 50K, and that’s enough. More than enough — I can’t wait to massively PR it! Now I need to get buy-in for a summer or fall “big” race….

  2. Even without kids running can feel like a guilty indulgence. My house needs cleaning, but I’m going running instead. I need more sleep. I could be writing a post for the site. There’s always something.

    One way I think we can support ourselves is by shedding the “crazy” talk. Your training is not craziness, it’s dedication, and that’s an important distinction to make. I often hear myself referring to my running as “crazy” or “insane,” or even “a sickness,” but that’s language that belies my guilt about taking time away from the rest of my life for it. If we can work on changing to language that celebrates our dedication I think that will go a long way toward feeling that same freedom and peace that you felt when realizing your husband understands how important this is for you!