According to my mother’s lore about my childhood, my first steps were not timid or slow. Allegedly, I ran across the basement at my grandparent’s house a few times. And then realized I was running. And then I sat down. But the first steps were running strides. I kind of love that. Because I kind of love running.
My affair with running has been an on-again-off-again relationship spanning my entire life. In grade 1, I joined the cross country team at school and loved it. I was never as good as the girl who came from an Olympic legacy (no, seriously), but I loved it. When I switched schools in grade 4, I joined that cross country team. Again, not the fastest or the best, but still in love. In high school, other things took my attention – grades, clubs, meetings, student associations and choosing church over everything (if there was a meet or practice on a Wednesday night when we had church services, then it was an automatic no-go). Also, high school started to care how fast I was. And joining that cross country team meant talking to a bunch of new people since my best friend at the time didn’t love running and I was easily swayed (damn peer pressure). So I quit. And got bigger and more sedentary.
Then university came. In the beginning, I didn’t join any athletic anything, nor did I take advantage of the free gym pass given to every student. I was stupid. But busy. Again. Busy being lonely and studying and trying to keep my head above water.
I was a Chapters-girl, going to the bookstore/coffee-shop for fattening drinks and quiet-yet-not-alone study time. And sometimes, shockingly, I would browse books.
Okay. So maybe it was all the times.
During one of those browsing sessions, I came across the The Complete Book of Running for Women by Claire Kowalchik, and I would flirt with the idea of buying it. And then the flirting turned serious and not only did I buy it, I brought it home and I read it. Cover-to-cover read it.
This book gave me so many things and is the backbone of my adult running. It taught me how to pace myself using my breath, it explained sports bras (for someone who has boobs but had never really exercised, this was important and new information!), it taught me how to tie my shoes (no, seriously), it gave me motivation, and it gave me an easy-to-follow 10-week training plan that would get me from thinking about running to running continuously for 30 minutes. In short, it was (and still is) magic.
So I did it. I ran faithfully four times a week for those 10 weeks, and it worked: I ran for 30 minutes continuously with Ben (my then-boyfriend *swoon*). It was completely awesome.
And then I just stopped. Because that’s where my training program ended and I didn’t have anyone but me to stay motivated or anything to work towards. I let it go. For a really long time.
I got married to my dreamy boyfriend, worked, had a baby, worked some more, had another baby, stopped working out of the home, and had a miscarriage. My heart was broken, Oreos were my best friend, and I was the heaviest I’ve ever been. I was the saddest I’ve ever been.
This was right around the time that Jacqui, Toni and I started going to a bootcamp together. At the time when I needed something to do, something that wasn’t about babies or dead babies or marriage or dishes or laundry, when I needed something just about me, it was the perfect fit. And after the miscarriage, it gave me an outlet that wasn’t wrapped up in refined sugar and carbs to kick misery’s ass.
Part of my recovery after our miscarriage was that bootcamp and rekindling my love for running. It included Ben putting together a 5K run, complete with signs and certificates, for me and my family and friends, to celebrate and remember the baby, Charlie, that we lost.
And then I ran my very first 5K chip-timed race, The Santa Pur-Suit, with Ben and my dear friend Jill, finishing with a time of 43:01:2.
If you’re keeping track, I’m missing a baby. A few weeks after this race, I got pregnant. And because of some spotting and cramping, I had to (and wanted to) stop running. I had a healthy pregnancy, an early, yet safe delivery, and a healthy baby boy. And I was itching to get back to running. And exercising. And being active. And feeling awesome again.
It’s been 7 months since our last baby appeared and 5 months since I started moving again. Walking to and from school with Sophie has been a great warm-up to more intense exercise, but even those two hilly 20-minute walks every day aren’t enough for this busy mama.
Now, I am working out/running 3-4 times a week and it has been a huge part of my recovery from my third bout of postpartum depression. I find that if I don’t get some sort of exercise in, I am a beast, my worst self, my most anxious most angry most resentful most awful me. So as part of my healing regimen, I go to therapy once a week, I take medication every day, and I make sure that I don’t go more than two days at a time without something active. In this moment, running is saving my life.
This past weekend something absolutely magical happened: I went on my first outdoor run of the year AND I went with three of my sisters: Toni, Jacqui and Kim.
I can not tell you how happy I was during and after this run. It was the highlight of the weekend, of my week, of the months since my brain broke again. It was by far one of the best days ever for me. And all because I got to share the beautiful, early-morning-early-spring air with three of my biggest supporters, cheerleaders, and best friends.
It was completely free (aside from the gas and the pants and the shoes). It was so simple: show up, talk, run, talk, have coffee, talk, go home, shower. It was so healthy: fresh air, exercise, camaraderie. It didn’t involve Oreos or feeling sorry for myself. And it was so freaking empowering to finish.
I love running. It’s hard. Some runs really, really suck. But in the end, I’ve never regretted going on a run. Never. I’ve regretted sleeping in, eating too much, and watching too much TV. Never ever a run.
I read this recently and it sums up completely how I feel about running in this moment in my life:
“Running can help you through a cycle of depression or self doubt by making you feel strong and in control of your life.” – John Stanton
I’m ever so grateful for this gift.