It’s been nearly two years since Tina Muir announced that she was leaving professional running to pursue another dream of hers: starting a family. Shortly after her daughter, Bailey, was born last January, we spoke with Muir for Women’s Running’s Meet the Elite column and learned about her plan to return to running at a pace that felt natural to her. In the last year, Women’s Running checked in with Muir periodically for updates on battling through her first postpartum injury, gaining a new appreciation for injury prevention strategies and, most recently, her return to racing.
With a recent win at the Walt Disney World Half Marathon on her pro running resume, Muir has announced that she has her sights set on the 2019 Boston Marathon. Though Muir plans to race apart from the professional women’s field to eliminate some of the pressure and expectations that come with racing on the marathon’s biggest stage (her return to racing is, after all, very recent), her performance on April 15 will still be one to watch.
We’ve connected a few times since the birth of your daughter, Bailey, to discuss your return to running. How is running feeling for you now, a year after you became a mom?
It has been fun. I have really enjoyed the last year of training, now that I can look back on it. I have had ups and downs, as with every running journey, but I wanted to keep the joy of the journey. I had a goal race [in January, the Walt Disney World Half Marathon], which I could see come together and see that my work had come to something. I didn’t run as fast as I felt I was ready for, but I was at peace with it.
Do you have any other goal races coming up?
I think I could have run faster, but we’v had a very busy few weeks with traveling and honestly making the most of this life with family and friends and our daughter. That caught up to me. We don’t want to accept that our life can affect our running, and we want to bulldoze our way through training and think nothing’s going to get in our way. But it does. It adds up. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for how much energy it uses. I didn’t take that into account, but looking back I could see I was never going to be able to run as fast as I was capable of, because of all the other things in my life. I am going into all this with an awareness. Flying back two days before my goal race from England probably wasn’t a good idea.
That said, there’s only one race I have planned: the Boston Marathon. I am determined to make it a run, rather than a race. I’ve asked to be put into [Wave One], because I don’t want that pressure on myself or the time goal. Right now I just want to be at that point. I understand that some people are driven by goals, but for me at this point, I have too many other things going on in my life with my business, my baby, maintaining relationships with family and friends. I don’t have the mental or physical capacity to train at the level I want. I’d rather be out there enjoying it and still running hard, but not having that same pressure that I would as an elite.
You recently released a book about your experiences, Overcoming Amenorrhea. What inspired you to tackle that project on top of everything else?
It wasn’t initially a book—it was more me writing what I was feeling. I wanted to remember what I had been through, my journey. We have a habit of thinking we’ll remember things forever, but when you look back it becomes a blur. If I ever got myself into this situation again, I’d want to be able to look back and see what changes I made to fix it.
I noticed that I was still receiving a flood of emails from women every day asking me for advice, wanting support from someone who had been through it. As much as I wanted to, and if I had the time and capability to, I would have loved to speak to them on a one-on-one basis. I couldn’t really do that, so I started to write it down for them, as well. Essentially writing to them in a supportive, “I’ll give you a hug” kind of way, but also being firm and confronting things they might not have wanted to confront. It took a few months to write it and then thinking about launching it and getting a book cover took a few more months. To get it published within the first year after Bailey was born was a big thing to take on, but I did enjoy it.
Your book, your training, your Running for Real podcast, your role as a mother—how do you stay on top of it all?
To me, it feels like I’m not doing enough. I’ve been talking on my Facebook lately about how I can look at other moms and runners and think, Wow, I can’t do that. Even though people look at me and think, Wow look at what she’s doing, I think we’re all too critical of ourselves. I’ve been trying to give myself breaks and appreciate what I’ve been doing.
A lot of it has been doing the best I can and accepting that that’s enough. If that means waking up early and doing some work before my daughter wakes up, then I’ll do that. For me, the priority will always be making sure Bailey feels loved and appreciated. As long as I get that time in, everything else in my life is okay to be B-grade. I’m okay with that. A good example is [the Walt Disney World Half Marathon]; I felt like I was capable of racing faster, but I was lucky to win the race.
Is your mindset while racing different now that you’re approaching it as a mother and elite runner?
I don’t know if I’m different in the way I see things. But the other women I read about running postpartum, they think about their child and it pushes them to run harder. It doesn’t work for me; it has the opposite effect. I think, Bailey loves me no matter what, so it doesn’t mater. I try to compartmentalize and focus on the task at hand, which is running as fast as I can. The lead cyclist at the race, he said he didn’t know if I even spoke English because I was so focused. As soon as the race finished, my first thought was, Where’s my daughter? But during the race itself, I was just focused on what I was doing and keeping it separate.
I think the one thing I feel like my race at Disney has shown is that being a mom doesn’t have to completely end all the goals you have. You can pick something really hard, but if something happens—your child gets sick or something—you don’t have to have that same intensity as a mother to have the same success. You can find joy in the journey. Maybe you won’t run quite as fast as your potential allows, but you enjoy it so much more.
What are some of the most important takeaways you’ve had from your experiences in the last couple of years?
To new mothers who feel a pressure to write that comeback post: We have this image in our heads of what we’re posting on social media the day we’ve officially come back. There’s a lot of pressure in that. Be it six months, nine months, three years—you don’t have to come back. You don’t have to prove yourself to the rest of the world to be valued. You’ve done an amazing thing by making and growing a human. Your running, training and goals will be there for you, but don’t rush it. It will be ready when it’s ready. The time will pass by very quickly, but those moments with your child you can never get back.
Looking at my race, people have said, “Of course you won, everything works in your favor.” I’d like to point out that I did run six minutes slower than my personal best. I was quite far off my personal best, and I was okay with that. You don’t have to run a personal best to be valued. I think there’s a lot of pressure on women to get a PR after baby.
What did it feel like when you crossed the Walt Disney World Half Marathon finish line in first place?
The thing that meant the most was the fact that it was at Disney. It’s cheesy to say, but it is the happiest place on earth. I wouldn’t change that for a PR any day, because it was such a high to have that be the representation of joy in running. I tried to soak in every second as much as I could. Winning a race is an incredible feeling, and I realize many women won’t get that experience. That’s something I’m fortunate to have, but at the same time I feel like I would have felt just as happy as any woman crossing the finish line of her first race. You have achieved a lot; your body has achieved a lot. It can recover, it can repair. It’s a great feeling to know the body can heal itself.