April Anselmo has been one of the top trail runners in the Midwest since she started trail running in 2007. In 2013 in particular, April was the woman to beat. She won all the Midwest trail running races that year, including the Superior 100 mile, Zumbro 100 mile, Wild Duluth 100k, Voyageur 50 mile, Surf the Murph 50 mile, Chippewa 50k and Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon.
In 2016, April gave birth to her son Archie. While April has returned to ultrarunning since giving birth, her return has not been easy. I caught up with April after this past year’s Voyaguer 50 mile trail race and spoke with her about the challenges of returning to ultrarunning after having a child.
What has been the most challenging part of returning to running and racing ultras post-childbirth?
First, on the mental side, I feel like I am competing with my old self: the pre-baby April, the April who used to be fast and won. I feel like I am chasing an unobtainable goal. There has been pressure internally and externally to return as I had been. And honestly, I wish I could be as fast as I used to be. I wish I could win, but I’m not being fair to myself.
I have had people suggest that I’m not relevant any longer as a potential top runner. I have had people flat out say, “You used to be fast.” This has been the hardest: trying to live up to standards placed on me by other people… and now I hold them for myself.
Second, physically, well the pelvis isn’t the same right after having a child. I learned that the hard way by trying to come back too early, and I was injured all of 2017 and half of 2018.
Finally, it is a time commitment to train well in order to race well. I used to be a sad, single, lonely girl who could run for hours after work. Priorities have changed, and now I want to be home to put my son to bed.
I feel like I am competing with my old self: the pre-baby April, the April who used to be fast and won. I feel like I am chasing an unobtainable goal.
What goals did you set for yourself when you first returned to running after having your child?
My goal when I first returned was to get back to where I had been: at the top! Funny me!
You registered for the Voyager 50 mile and Superior 100 mile this year — two races you have had a lot of experience and success at. What goals did you set for yourself this year?
My goals this year were to get my 11th finish at the Voyager 50, to finish the Superior 100 well, and to try to find a happy balance between competitor April, while being honest with my level of fitness.
How do you feel about your run at the Voyageur 50 mile?
I feel like I didn’t race at Voyager this year. I spent the first half socializing. Then, at the halfway point, I was mad at myself for being in like 10th place, so I spent the second half mad running — not something I’d recommend. I was, and am still, mad at myself. But, there were so many strong women this year! I placed where I was meant to, and I got my 11th Voyager finish.
Why do you keep pushing yourself to run ultras after having had a child? Why not switch to training for shorter races that would take less time to train for?
Ultras are a part of me. I love them, and I need the everyday vacation of running. It’s my mental and spiritual reset. I pray and get myself right while I’m on a trail. I love the community, and I love, love, love the challenge. With shorter races, I would have to run faster to do well! I like finding my autopilot mode and motoring out there for hours.
At last year’s Superior 100 mile, you returned and ran a very strong race, placing 2nd. After Superior, are you still comparing yourself to pre-baby April, or have you been able to put those thoughts behind you?
Haha, that pre-baby self is a hard one to compete with!
I had big plans for Superior last year. I am happy with my finish, but I knew going into the race that something was not right with my body. Three weeks after Superior, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. Now, I have this part of me thinking, “What could I have done at that race without Lyme?” I have a feeling from now on my competition will be not with pre-baby April, but rather with pre-Lyme April.
With this year’s Voyageur 50 mile cancelled, what role is running playing in your life now?
With Lyme disease, I had only one running goal this year and that was to obtain my 12th finish at Voyager. Selfishly, I’m not all that broken up about Voyaguer being canceled. If it had been put on, I would have done it. I would have finished, but at what cost? Those are kind of my thoughts.
Running — even without races — is still part of me. It’s in my marrow. I was a runner before I was a mother, a wife or a nurse. I get myself right out on the trail, by myself with my thoughts and with God. I’m working out my frustrations with Lyme disease. I’m working on my faith. I’m working on my patience with a four year old. I’m working out the grief from my best friend’s suicide. I’m working out my fears and anger from working as a nurse during a pandemic. With no races, this has not changed.