How Running Saved Me:
It was as if fire blazed through my life leaving a charred, crumbling, unrecognizable, water-logged ruin behind. I went from a satisfied existence (mostly happily married in the ‘burbs) to a life in complete shambles in a span of 8 months: from infertility and the accompanying invitro-fertilization, to the tentative joy of a positive pregnancy test, to a request for a divorce, and finally, a miscarriage. (Frankly, a fire may have been kinder; there could have been insurance money to collect.)
To say I was “SHATTERED” is an understatement. Rebuilding did not begin instantly. No, the smoking shell of my life lay in ruins as I grieved. Slowly, ever so slowly, and with the help of good friends, I mustered the strength to start sifting through the debris to hunt for what was salvageable.
One of the items I pulled from the heap was running. At that point in time my running wasn’t in the greatest of condition, it was like an expensive, hate-to-throw-it-away, yet ill-fitting item of clothing, that I’d take out, periodically, to try on hoping it would suit the occasion.
Running, this time around, seemed to work; mainly because it was the only serviceable item remaining. I started with short distances and a slow pace. The usual discomfort at the start of any run – tired legs, the aches, and the pains – all felt better than the ache in my heart; they brought relief and provided a feeling other than despair.
Healing Powers of Running:
Solace: I ran on a lovely wooded bike trail leading away from anyone I might know and towards a beautiful bridge and stream several miles out of town where I would weep in the presence of the dappled sunlight and the babbling brook below. Like the balm of Gilead, these easy trail runs brought me healing and solace.
Connection: Running brought me home to myself. It connected me back to the wisdom of my body. It gave me access to my strength and health. It revealed how the most important parts of me – my heart, my lungs, my muscles, my willpower – worked in concert to propel me down the path towards healing. This was crucial to repairing my self-image which took a beating from the one-two punch of infertility and the indignities of invitro-fertilization followed by the miscarriage – for which I blamed myself, feeling I hadn’t handled the stress adequately to keep my babies alive.
Choice: I also found comfort in the mindfulness running offered – the way to be HERE in the NOW with THIS activity. When I made the choice to yank my thoughts from the tiresome shoulda, woulda, coulda thoughts of the past, the roiling rage, or my anxiety around the unknowns in my future, I could rest my mind on what was happening in the present: the crunch of gravel under my foot fall; the sunshine and leaf patterns; the way the air felt on my skin; the call of birds. It was liberating to realize, by the focus of my thoughts, I could choose suffering or I could choose joy.
Wholeness: Running trails gave me another way to absorb the truth of the progress I was making towards healing. In the early days of running, five miles was a sizable distance, and then I found myself hobbling my way to the finish line of my first half-marathon. The morning after my first 50K I cried as every muscle in my legs and feet ached in such tremendous pain I could hardly get out of bed. My second 50K was so plagued by blisters I finally quit at mile 22. My third 50K was an exhilarating frolic in the woods; I woke up pain-free and went for a bike ride. Running holds up a mirror to my wholeness.
Running in Celebration and Contribution:
Happily, today, I run for the sheer love of running. I run in celebration of a beautiful, abundant, redesigned life, one that is good and sweet. I live a VIBRANT, HAPPY life filled with what delights me: funny friends who make me laugh; lots of running, biking, and hiking; plenty of adventure and travel; and a man whom I whole-heartedly love and appreciate, and who gets me.
It is from this foundation of love, joy, and thriving that I dedicate this year’s 50K run in memory of Sophia and Noah. The presence of these two souls, for however brief in my life, helped shape me into the woman I am today, and for that I am forever grateful.
It is in the spirit of contribution, which I run 31 miles to raise money for two organizations which do exquisitely beautiful work to support mothers and babies. I invite you to join me in the celebration by donating $31.00 to two great causes.
To contribute follow this link: 31 Miles: Thrive and Do Good.
To learn more follow this link: Discover how THRIVING brings together running a 50K, high-tech American IVF babies, and a pediatric ward in the DRC.