Many of us start running long before we have children. Many also stop running after becoming parents due to the large time commitment both demand. But for those who have found a way to fit both into their lives, it's often obvious before we ever mention that we're in the parental way because, well, we get a little weird -- even for a runner.
1. Truck spotting. Prior to kids, we simply went out and enjoyed the run, occasionally remembering to look around at the scenery and appreciate the beauty of the trees, water or the view from atop a hill. Post-kids, our eyes light up at every passing vehicle that could possibly excite a child (read: large trucks, construction machines, school buses, semis, any neon colored car, etc.). We get so used to seeking interesting things to point out to our child -- whether it's just to see them smile for a moment or if it's a desperate attempt to keep them entertained on a car ride longer than five minutes -- that we find ourselves starting to exclaim, "Look, Junior! A school bus. Ooooooo!" even when Junior is not with us.
2. Shoe art. Check our shoes closely. If our child is at least a year old, don't be surprised to see any or all of the following: marker or pen marks on the shoes, short laces due to a scissor incident, a road ID tag because -- finally -- you're motivated enough to take your safety on the road seriously.
3. Eye "art." You don't have to look closely for this one. Are there dark bags under your eyes from weeks or months of inadequate sleep? Are you so tired you are actually sleeping with your eyes open on a run? You, my friend, must have a baby at home.
4. Tag, you're it. Parents -- not even just runners -- have been trying to start a new fashion for years. We want the world to believe it's cool (and intentional, of course) to wear your clothing tags fully exposed (sometimes referred to as "inside out" by those unaware of the fashion statement being made). The look has nothing to do, of course, with severe sleep deprivation. Nothing.
5. Pre-run ritual. Remember when you used to get up an hour before your run, perhaps do some yoga or stretches to loosen up and fuel properly with a bowl of oatmeal or peanut butter toast, a banana and some water? Now, we stumble into the kitchen at whatever-o-clock in the morning after feeding the baby or calming the fears of your toddler who just had a nightmare about the cookie monster, down half a pot of coffee (OK, all but one cup's worth because you're a considerate spouse), and head out the door with at least one shoe properly on and tied for the morning run.
6. No finish in sight. Parents have an uncanny ability to start about 17 conversations in the span of 10 minutes, yet finish none of them. This unproductive form of communication is attributed to constant interruptions from our children and, over time, parents simply lose the ability to follow our thoughts to completion -- even when our child is not around. Good luck on your run with a parent of young children; it will likely make your head spin faster than high altitude training.
Just like running, parenting is no joke. The two lifestyles have much in common and, in my humble opinion, certainly count as cross-training for one another. There's no reason to give up running when you become a parent, but please understand that it won't be the same; nothing in life is after children, which is what makes the adventure so fun. So get out there and run hard, love your kids hard, and remember to smile at the outcome, no matter how silly it sometimes appears.