I recently had to submit a headshot, so I went to grab the photo I've been using for work. It's a photo that Artemis Shoots Photography took during a mother-daughter photo session when Zoe was not yet a year old. I love the photo. Yet, it didn't quite feel like me now. So I looked at photos in my phone and found a recently selfie "headshot." Here is the comparison:

photo comparison

The photo comparison got me thinking. Not only are they 2 years about, as my friend Cristin pointed out to me, they are "so many mile" apart. In the first photo, I had a 3-year-old and 1-year-old and had returned to my career. We had found a new normal. Yet that new normal primarily included family and work. It was not long after that photo (and completely unrelated to the photo) that my husband and I talked about me joining the Fleet Feet No Boundaries couch to 5k program. We agreed it was a family commitment - that the family would help me not only go to the group runs on Wednesday night and Saturday morning but also get a run in on Monday night. And so, my new running journey began, and now 2 years later, I'm registered for my 6th and 7th half marathon and training for my first full marathon.

The photo comparison captures a physical change. However, so much more has changed in the last 2 years. First, I have a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old. They are amazing. They have a much greater understanding now than 2 years ago what Mama is doing and the commitment and sacrifice that it means. They understand that I am not home for dinner on Monday and Wednesday. They understand I get up while they are sleeping on Saturday and run a lot of miles while they sleep in and then have a special breakfast. They understand I have to eat healthy so my body can run long distances. They understand that exercise can be fun and helps us stay healthy. They also understand that we have to work to meet our goals. After Caleb ran a kids' race one day, I asked him if he went fast because he wore his new Flash tshirt. His response was, "No, Mama. I run fast because I train." They understand friends and friends who become family. In fact, Zoe often assumes anyone who is my friend runs with me. They have seen the Fleet Feet family step up to help when we needed a babysitter, they have hung out with my running friends, and some of the runners often stay to watch the kids run their races. My children understand about competing with yourself instead of competing against others. They understand about doing your best. They understand that some days you push yourself and go fast and some days you have an easy run. They understand that their mama loves them and that she takes care of herself and that these are not mutually exclusive ideas.

I've also grown a lot in those 2 years. I am strong, confident, empowered. I am a mama and a runner and a professor and a wife and a woman. Life gets overwhelming at times, but I move forward one mile at a time. I've learned not to seek balance but to integrate the different parts of my life. I move forward with grace and ease - and sometimes chaos and tears - but I move forward. Just like with running, there are times to go fast and hard and times to go easy, there are times when I must rest and there are times I work on a goal. And through it all, I have the support of an amazing partner and true friends.

It's been a good 2 years, and I am looking forward to what the future has in store for me - as a runner and as a mama.