dill stargazingRecently, I met my friend for a crisp, cool, wintry 5 am run. After she left, I decided to add on a few more miles, weaving back and forth among the cul-de-sacs in my neighborhood. Each time I turned to face east, I was struck with the beauty of the night sky.

There was a beautiful bright crescent moon with a trail of stars and one star in particular that was so bright and large that it may have actually been a planet. I made a mental to note to google if any planets were visible this time of year. For once I didn’t have a billion thoughts going through my head; I just ran and enjoyed the beauty and the solitude. I was at peace.

As I walked into work later that morning, that feeling of peace was quickly stolen away by the news that my co-worker and friend had passed away the night before. I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe that bright star that caught my eye was him.

For weeks now, I’ve felt as if I’ve had nothing to say. How much can you talk about something as trivial as running when people you love are losing people that they love? Jason’s passing was yet another tragedy in a long line of terrible things that seem to be happening to a lot of truly good people I know lately. How silly is it for me to worry because my shin has been hurting or that I may not be in great shape to run my next marathon? Who cares if I ever break 3:30 in a marathon? I mentioned this to my fellow Salties and they understood where I was coming from. Then, Cinnamon reminded me:

Running is about connecting to my life and what is bigger than me. Things are tough in the world and running gives me the place and perspective I need to handle it.

I know the stars I saw probably aren’t the people that recently passed from this world, like Jason or my friend’s infant son or my other friend’s unborn daughter, but I know that they reminded me of them, and maybe that’s enough. I wouldn’t have been up at 5:00 in the morning to feel the calm and peace that those stars brought if it hadn’t been for running. If it hadn’t been for running, I also wouldn’t have been able to chat with my friend who needed to talk through some heavy stuff. If it weren’t for running, I couldn’t pound out angry miles when I think of the injustice of good people suffering and dying and how angry cancer makes me.

I can’t stop running when life makes me sad. Movement helps heal and the physical act of putting one foot in front of the other teaches you to keep moving forward. No matter what life throws at you, keep moving forward. Writing this reminds me of a Rodney Atkins song:

If you’re goin’ through hell keep on going
Don’t slow down if you’re scared don’t show it
You might get out before the devil even knows you’re there

No matter what happens in life that may seem out of control, I take comfort in the fact that a mile never changes, it’s always 5,280 feet. So I will continue to pound out those miles. I will do so to remember those we’ve lost and those who are fighting the good fight. I will go out for those early morning runs so I can witness the splendor and beauty of the night sky and of the morning sunrise. I will cover miles with friends to remind me that life is still good. I will run to see the stars.

How does running help you cope with loss?

I'm a running mom of two little girls, who is busy balancing life, work and marathon training. It's always training season for me because I'm on a quest to run a marathon in every state, while constantly striving to be the best runner I can be. Running has led me to some great adventures and I always have a good story to share!

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  1. That Cinnamon! Wise words right there! Thanks for sharing this. You’re so not alone. We will all encounter this feeling at some point. Life is good, even when it’s hard and we or others suffer. Suffering is part of life. Enduring and understanding life’s fragility is what makes it so good. Bad things can happen, but goodness always prevails in the wake of it all. It might not seem like it in the thick of things, but if you look at the big picture it always does. Hugs, friend!

  2. Running helped me cope with PPD and Anxiety. One step at a time I worked through my issues. I could go somewhere else in my mind and think about nothing and everything at once. And when thinking hurt too much I would concentrate on just going forward. Now Anxiety and Depression aren’t part of my daily life anymore, but pounding out the miles brings so much peace.

    Thanks for writing this.

    1. Erin – same story for me too. I dealt with awful PPD last year and running was my savior. Happy to hear your days are no longer filled with sadness. It is a miserable place to be. I am much, much happier as well:).

  3. Aww shucks, kid, you’re makin’ me blush. But I’m glad my words helped. It IS hard to keep running or to do anything really, in the face of loss. Loss is really…humbling. Running is a great way to cope, because it can let you live in that humility or it can help to build you back up, like the sisters in Salty’s interview yesterday. Like any good friend during a tough time, it can be what you need it to be.

  4. I am so sorry for your loss. I know what you mean, about how you can focus on something like running when there are so many terrible things in the world, but a friend recently pointed out that it’s *because* so many terrible things happen in the world that we should not feel bad about taking pleasure in the things that bring us joy.

  5. I loved this! You wrote this so well, and from the heart. I agree with it all the way. The loss of our baby has made me crave those miles like none other. I can release my anger and sadness in an outlet that is healthy. My mind goes into some deep places when I am out on the roads logging miles, I have found I can’t reach that depth in my every day life. It makes me capable of coming back to reality feeling refreshed and less capable of breaking. It makes us so strong to be runners!

  6. I love this. I’ve struggled to reconcile the frivolity of running with the grimness that we see around the world every day. I think these things remind us that running is NOT important, that it’s a delight and a privilege but ultimately our race times and mileage tallies are not important. But I also think running is a way of coping with those things, as you say, physically and mentally helping us handle them. Running is healthy, it’s good for mind, body and spirit and as such it’s still important to us…but it’s good to remember how unimportant it really is.

  7. So well written Bridget. I think about you so much. I think for me, running has always been the one constant in my life. The place where I can always go to seek refuge. When my Dad passed away almost 12 years ago now, I would go out for a run and just talk to him. Out loud – like he could hear me. Christmas was always his favorite time of year so I started a tradition where I would go out on Christmas morning for a run and tell him all about my life the past year. I think with running, it is the one spot in my life where I feel truly free. I just let go of everything sometimes and I come back healed. Hugs to you my friend.