Exciting news first: This single mother runner will no longer be checking the “single” box after July 2015. This gal is getting married! This amazing man of mine and I met while I was training for my first full marathon and commuting 75-miles one way to work. I’m pretty sure he thought I was crazy, but he watched my son while I put in my Saturday morning long runs and he was standing there in the rain at the finish line, which was the first time ever that I wasn’t alone at a race.
I’m blessed to have found a real partner. He runs beside me pushing the jogging stroller and keeps me laughing on the treadmill next to me at the gym when the last thing I want to do is run on a treadmill. I taught him to shorten his stride and increase his turnover and he taught me how to do a burpee without hating it (as much).
But my life wasn’t always so blissful.
Way back when, my identity used to solely rely on another person. I ignored my own voice and blindly followed where I was led. That led my empty shell of a body and mind holding an infant at the door to my parents’ home nearly 4 years ago.
It’s painful to think back to when I didn’t feel like I belonged to anything. It was a past life I can barely relate to anymore. My lowest moment came when I was amputated from something I was dependent on as if it was air and I was suffocating without it, when my son’s father walked out on us. I was plagued with feelings of rejection, depression, sadness, and anxiety. As a very independent introvert, I had no one to turn to and no outlet to unburden my repressed anger. I felt like my pain was too much to tell to anyone. Religion, therapy, drugs, even food had no appeal for me.
I still quickly give credit to running for saving my life. But running isn’t something that knocks on your door and asks if you believe in the call of the road. There was something strong still within me. There is something strong within each of us at our weakest moments. Running drew that strength out of me when I believed it didn’t exist.
During that first winter act-of-desperation run, that strength grew just enough to start lifting me out of the dark. When I needed it and when I was ready, running was the catalyst that gave me control of my own life. Like my old co-dependency, I found running and clung to it. I found something to love and obsess over that would never break up with me. I’ve never had a date with the road that I regretted or thought was a waste of time. The road doesn’t care that I’m sweaty and haven’t straightened my hair. It doesn’t care how slow or fast I go. Running doesn’t call me clingy when I read Runner’s World cover to cover.
For months, during each run I would drop off bits of anger and sadness and leave them behind. I would come home lighter, my eyes clearer. I found how food can fuel the body and I ate myself back to a healthy weight. I ran my first 5k and applied for a job 75 miles away in the city that I knew, despite the commute, would give me a way to make a life for my son and me. I came to find my love of running transcended to a love for my self. I loved how I could persevere and do things I never thought possible.
I started training for my first half-marathon. I woke every day at 5 a.m. to get Jordan to the babysitter and to work by 7:30 a.m. Most days, I wasn’t able to lace up my running shoes until 8:30 p.m., ice on knees by 10 p.m., and head on pillow by 10:30 p.m.. Repeat.
The year I ran 7 races, four of which were half-marathons, I got promoted at work and bought a new car. I found new friends who knew me in this new state of confidence, who liked me because I was inherently interesting, not because I had a partner who was interesting. I had finally found and fixed me. I was no longer desperate or sad or lost. Running acquainted me with me.
I made the decision to step up to the 26.2 challenge and began base training November 2012. I believe not coincidentally, I met Mr. Wonderful in December. This relationship was different than the ones previously. I was in charge of my own emotions. I created boundaries in the beginning and he understood. We were smart, logical, and he continues to make my life easier, not harder.
The thing I love about the running community is that everyone has an inspiring story. Each of us can relate to each other because regardless of pace, gender, or geography, we all know what it’s like to cover a mile on our feet. We know what it feels like when things just click and you fly, and we know the feeling of lead weights on our feet, fire in our lungs and tightened rubber bands in our thighs. It’s the shared experience that unites us. Even when you are alone, you know you are part of something.
If you are struggling with something, whether it be life-altering or if it just ruined your last hour, know that you are strong and can get through it. Find a way to lace up your shoes today and have a date with the road. It may not get better today or tomorrow, but slowly, one mile at a time, you will find that voice within you saying “you can do this” getting louder and louder.
How has running changed your life? Did it bring you out of the dark?