Running Through

Another Wednesday; another non-project, non-house-related post.  I haven't been very projecty lately. But lucky for you and for the internet, I'll share some musings.  I've been thinking a lot over the past few, well, years about the intersection of running and life. Recently, I was talking with a friend who is going through a break-up and I said that what got me through my own was my family, my friends, my kids and running. Oh, and beer.  :) 

I thought more about that.  What got me through was people and running.  People who love me and support me and were there for me without judgment or question or hesitation.  Friends who, when I said "I need you" asked where rather than why.  Family who said "we only want to see you happy".  My kids, whose hugs and kisses at the end of the day made everything - no matter how bleak - seem OK.  And ... running.  Running was just an activity, right?  Just something I did?  Or was it?  

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that running wasn't just something I did.  It was who I am.  And who I am yet to become.  And it was the process of grieving the end of my marriage and the absolute terror of starting over. 

I am not one who is ever at a loss for words.  Words is what I do and words is what I love - in my real  life and in my real job and here on the blog.  One of the things I love most about writing is my ability to take, and my love of taking, my thoughts and putting them all to words in a way that people want to read, and in a way that people can somehow relate to.  I've been told that I have a way with words.  And for me, having the blog is fun and also therapeutic.  It's sharing a bit of me with the world.  But I have been at a loss for words and unable to explain the direct tie that running has to my peace of mind and my life for the past couple of years.  Don't get me wrong: I've always run.  It's always been important to me.  But it took on a new meaning a few years ago.  I fielded a bunch of similar questions that ultimately asked this: "what are you running away from?"  And I would protest that it's not running away ... running centers me ... running helps.  But my words always fell short.

Until last weekend.  Last weekend, Amy, Bill and I watched the recap of the Ironman World Championships in Kailua Kona, Hawaii.  What's funny is we did the same thing a year prior - it was the day before the Philly Marathon, and we all watched, we had all signed up to do Ironman Lake Placid, we were just about to start working with our coach, and I think we all realized that a year from that moment, we would be Ironmen.  So watching the coverage took on a whole new meaning this year.  The feelings of excitement, nervousness, tension, anxiety, joy ... they were palpable this year because we had gone though it just a few months ago ourselves.  We watched the recap with rapt attention, especially since we had watched the live coverage on race day.  

Ironman always profiles a handful of "personal interest stories" as part of this coverage.  And this year, one athlete was Lisa Hallett.  Hallett started a running-based organization after her husband, a soldier in Afghanistan, died in combat.  Her story was, of course, inspiring.  But her words were even more so.  She shared her story, and I cried.  I cried because it was moving and it was sad and it was inspiring, but I cried because she was able to articulate why running has helped me through my own divorce in a way that I have not been able to.  And I say this recognizing that her loss - the loss of her husband and the father of her three children - cannot in any way be compared to my divorce.  I don't mean to minimize or trivialize her loss at all.  I simply found that her words resonated in my own life.  She gave words to something that, until that point, I was not able to do.  Here is what she said about how running helped her in her grief:

I remember going out for my first run  . . . in my first few steps I was finally able to find the quiet and the space I needed to connect to my grief.  . . . In those first few months, I was trying to run from the heartbreak and tragedy that life had given me.  But I realized in this journey that I wasn't actually running away, but running through it.  

Yes.  Those first few runs when I moved out on my own were like this.  I am pretty sure I burst into tears after a few steps.  All that strong facade that I put up on a daily basis fell to the side and it was just me and my footfalls.  And I was afraid.  And worried.  And yet ... empowered.  I found that when I was running, I was simultaneously my most fragile and my most powerful all at the same time.  I didn't know how to process this, but I knew when I finished my run, I felt good.  I felt like me.  I felt ready to go on with my day.  I wanted to bottle up that feeling of strength, hope, vulnerability, invincibility and make it last.  So I kept on running.  Some runs were just normal runs where I listened to my stupidly horribly music and had a good time. Some runs were just horrible and I felt like a fraud and a failure and the Sesame Street piano player I'LL NEVER GET IT NEVER!!!

Some runs were those joyful, euphoric runs where everything was perfect and I felt amazing the whole time.  And then there were the therapeutic runs -- the ones to which Lisa Hallett referred.  The runs where I worked through my grief and my fears.  Sure, losing a marriage to divorce isn't like losing a husband to death.  But a divorce is, in a way, a death.  It's the death of a marriage, of a life together, of a dream, and of hope.  No one enters a marriage thinking that divorce is a possibility and no one leaves a marriage without a hell of a lot of heartache.  All this is to say: running connected me, in a tangible way, to the grief that I was feeling, but could not articulate, as my marriage fell apart.  Running was, and continues to be, the common thread that makes me feel strong.  Four to six days per week, you will find me running. Running when happy, when sad, when stressed, when angry, when terrified, when normal.  Running is what grounds me.  And, like Lisa Hallett, I find myself running through this journey called life, and not away from it.   I will never run away from anything (OK, except maybe clowns. or mascots).   And I don't necessarily think that I'm running toward anything either, because for the first time in my life, I am trying to be focused on the present rather than being plagued by the future and what will happen.

So for now (and likely forever), I run through.  I let myself feel whatever I feel and deal.  I run through.  I accept things I cannot change and look back on mistakes I made and learn from them. I run through.  I look a bit to the future in the joyful, yet very grounded and realistic, hope of what may possibly be. I run through.  I thank God, every single day, for the incredible blessings in my life: my family, my friends, my children, my health, my job, this blog.  I run through.  

I run through it all.  And through it all, I keep running.  

See you swoon

1 comment:

  1. That makes so much sense to me Shanna. I am glad running is there for you.