Embracing Change & Hitting Pause: The joy of having a baby & running
This blog was written by rabbitPRO Lauren Totten, an accomplished 2:33 marathoner. Lauren and her husband Seth Totten, a fellow rabbitPRO athlete, are expecting their first child in early 2020. We are so incredibly excited for the Tottens as they start this amazing new chapter of their life. On the blog, Lauren shares her experience as running shifts towards a different meaning and purpose in pregnancy, and it is a great read. We also want to take a moment to share our company stance and policy towards our athletes who want to create a family while also maintaining a professional running career. It is our honor and privilege to support Lauren, and all of our athletes, who get pregnant. All of our athletes are protected and supported through and after pregnancy without exception. Founded by two female runners who are also mothers, rabbit values family and vows to always provide maternal protection to its athletes.
I’ve always dreamed of being a mom and looked forward to that day. As a young girl I loved running and became a marathoner by the age of 23, qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials with a time of 2:35 at my debut. As I watched friends put babies on hold for their running careers, I looked forward to the day I would become a mom. When I met my husband, Seth, I watched his glow for kids. After 2 years of marriage, I began to feel my heart shift to wanting kids and my running legs needing a break from years of marathoning. After Seth and I raced the 2019 NYC Half Marathon, we hoped to start a family. God gave us that blessing two short months later. I couldn’t have been more thrilled and thankful.
Embracing change and hitting pause are two things I’ve learned in pregnancy. Having a baby is one of the greatest joys and Seth and I have always known I would hit pause on my running career when that day came. And, when it did, I created new goals and found a new rhythm to my mornings and life. No more 4:45am alarm clocks for workouts or even getting out of bed for breakfast for that matter. My first trimester, though filled with so much peace and excitement, also included a whole lot of morning sickness. My last run at 4.5 weeks pregnant was 9 miles around a pretty reservoir in Orange County for a friend’s wedding. That afternoon, the first signs of nausea came and lasted through rest of my first trimester, halting my runs to morning walks and moving up my bed time to 7:00pm.
While most of myself embraced slowing down and rest, I did have a couple moments of wondering if I would run during pregnancy. If I’ve learned one thing, just like in my running career, comparison steals joy. I stopped using Strava and also, stopped paying attention to what other running moms were doing. I knew that in order to find joy in my pregnancy and truly embrace it, I needed it to be without comparison to anyone else. Some women can run all the way through pregnancy while some don’t run at all. My goal was to not have any goals except to be happy and healthy, and grow our baby strong. That meant slowing down, walking more until I felt better, and setting healthy boundaries on what I viewed on social media.
Of course, there was a part of me that wanted to run a race during pregnancy. I’ve always been goal oriented, even though my goals during pregnancy have completely shifted. As first trimester passed and my bump slowly started to show, I started to attempt running again. I felt really nervous, like a first time runner. Would I remember what to do? What if I felt sick the whole time? What if I never feel normal running? My first couple of weeks back running were 30-40 minute runs, 3-4 days a week at almost 2.5-3 minutes a mile slower than my usually pace. But, I was happy to be out on trails and doing what I love with our baby. I gradually increased over the next few months as I moved to 5 days a week of running 35-60 minutes of running daily with a long run on the weekend. One of my happiest accomplishments was running my favorite trail in Ojai —10 miles. That trail holds my fondest 30 mile run when I was preparing for TNF 50 in the short season that I competed on the trails to take a pause from marathoning.
I also started to learn and grow on runs in new ways. Instead of grinding and pushing in a tempo run, I learned to slow and pause. I ran up Romero Canyon a few times and took more than 6 or 7 or 8 stops (and stopped to eat snacks, of course), pausing to catch my breath but also to look around and appreciate the beautiful views and take in things I don’t usually see. I’ve spent most of my marathon career not seeing any sights when I race a marathon or being able to really pause on runs. I’ve never been out of a breath in a tempo and just stopped. I realized, being pregnant that I had that option. I’ve stopped more and hit pause; what a beautiful thing that has been to experience. I think that’s something I’ll carry on even after kids; hitting pause can teach you so much.
And, naturally, I signed up for a half marathon at 6 months pregnant. Pregnancy is full of unknowns and I had no idea how I’d prepare for the half marathon or if I’d be able to run it. But, it gave me a marker to work towards. In my “build up” I ran two 10 miles runs and an 8 mile run. Nothing longer. No workouts. No faster runs. No training plan. In fact, most days I wake up and decide if I’ll run, walk, or cycle.
The month before the half marathon, my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer and my husband and I spent lots of time driving from Santa Barbara to Northern California and back. I was tired. With a full mind, emotional heart, and tired body, the goal of my half got pushed to the back corners of my heart. I looked for a place for Seth and I to move, as we had already planned on making the move when we started our family. But, the pressing matter of being near family as soon as we could occupied my mind. And, being present with them became more important than preparation for a fun half marathon.
A week before the half, we packed up our little home in Santa Barbara and with tearful eyes said goodbye to the place where we started our marriage, where we grew our little family to three, and where we established community. Initially, I was so nervous to move to a new town and had a hard time adjusting. Oh how things change. As we signed a lease and realized the move was really happening, I felt a lot of sadness to leave what now felt like home. But, in a season of embracing change, we felt at peace with our move. Sometimes, the embracing change part can be hard and as I write this, it still is. But, there’s growth and life in that. Just like there’s a new life in me growing.
Even two days before the half I didn’t know how I’d decide if I would start. I think I secretly wanted my husband to give me permission to just not do it, which he would have fully supported, but instead, he gently encouraged me. He knew this was something I wanted. He knew I would regret not trying. And, I thought of my dad. I thought of how brave he was to start chemo and radiation this week on his birthday. And, his bravery gave me strength. Many people run for causes to raise money or awareness, which is such a beautiful thing. I ran thinking of my dad without telling anyone. I think, part of me wanted to make him proud.
And, it was almost like going for my first run after my first trimester. It was all brand new. I woke up only 40 minutes before leaving the house, eating thick slices of sourdough with butter, salt and peanut butter. Instead of grabbing race flats, I made sure I had my belly band and SNB anti-chaffing lube. And, instead of making sure I had all I needed with my race kit, I put on the clothes that fit and are comfiest. The nerves I had were the distance and if I’d need to Uber back to the finish, rather than the pace I’d run. Although, I had zero idea how to pace myself. And, that’s always been something that has come naturally. I’ve always been a metronome until baby.
As we met up with friends, Seth and his college teammate, Ben, warmed up, and his girlfriend, Megan, and I visited and foam rolled, moseyed over to the port-a-potties, and chatted. No pre-race strides. No warm up drills. No frantically putting on flats. I instead was figuring out how I wanted the number to sit on my bump, and wondering if I would chaff everywhere. I put on headphones for the first time in a race and prepared a podcast.
We picked a place to start in the middle of the crowd, somewhere between the 8:00 minute and 9:00 pace group and waited for 15 minutes until the gun went off. I gave Seth a kiss and he ran up to the front; it was strange to not start near him. Then, I turned to Megan and asked her how timing works. She reminded me to not press “start” until we cross the line. This was my first time ever, at almost 30 to experience racing in the pack. Yes, I’ve done races where I wasn’t “racing,” but I’ve never truly raced in the pack. As the gun went off, we slowly jogged across the start line and off I went.
At first, it felt so strange to have so many people around me. I quickly found I do enjoy the quietness of racing up front and racing, but that there was also something so moving to being with people of all backgrounds, ages, genders; I loved that. I felt like I was experiencing something entirely new. My podcast was entirely boring and I soon took out my iPhone and put on Florence + the Machine, my favorite artist and the perfect backdrop music to my time spent out on the course. The miles went by quickly and I couldn’t believe I was running faster than my usual run pace, running around 8:10-8:18 pace. I took Gatorade out on the course and darted into my first port-a-potty at mile 3. I was proud to only stop twice during the race when most 30-40 minute runs include 1-2 stops.
As I weaved through people, and was running near the 1:50 pace group, I felt so proud that I would run well under 2 hours. I had a goal of running 2:00 hours or under, but had no idea if that was realistic or if I would finish the half. I worried I might become emotional or start cramping, because, ligament pain. Instead, I felt so much joy for the whole half. Mile 11 started to feel hard, but I new I was close to the finish. I loved experiencing this special thing with our baby boy. And, the best moment was seeing Seth at mile 13. He cheered and yelled like I was running a half PR. Tears welled up in my eyes and I had never felt so proud of myself. I’ve run 1:12 in the half and 2:33 in the marathon, taking 3rd at CIM that year, but this moment in a crowd of other people — this moment was so incredibly special. I crossed the line in 1:49.52.
Hitting pause and embracing change in pregnancy has brought so much peace and joy. While you might not run a half in your pregnancy, try something new or do something you think you maybe can’t. Do it because you love it. I raced because I wanted to experience a race carrying our baby boy, and to one day tell him he can do it. He can do the thing that seems hard or impossible or challenging.
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