When my daughter was 2 years old I was sick of being in a funk. I was about 20 pounds heavier than I wanted to be and nothing in my life felt like mine. I had recently become a full time mom after leaving my job as a children’s pastor and though I loved it and in some ways felt more freedom than I ever had (until then I had worked at least part time since I was 16) I also felt stifled. It’s really easy to feel trapped as a stay at home mom, whether you live in an apartment or a big old farmhouse with land! So I registered for a 5k running race. It wouldn’t be my first but it would be my first since becoming a mom. I was excited and glad to have something to train for and look forward to. I had no idea what it would become.
Something turned off in my brain after giving birth to my daughter. I had always been pretty driven, and at the very least busy. There had never been a season in my life where I was just doing one thing. When I was in high school I was also working and also volunteering and also in extra-curricular activities. Ditto with college. When Joel and I got married I was working and going to grad school and volunteering…yadda yadda yadda. Postpartum depression took away my ability to be a people-pleaser, which might have been a tremendous gift in the long run but that’s a topic for another day. It also took away my ability to fill my plate to overflowing. I pared. it. down. I had to. The anxiety of too many people depending on me was overwhelming, let alone the life of a tiny infant. So I had my family and I had my job, and that was good. And then I even said goodbye to my job, and that was good too. And then one day I realized that I was really starting to heal and could probably add something to my life again without insomnia and panic attacks. I am so glad that something was running.
It was this time two years ago that I ran that 5k. Helvetia. A lot of my friends were there too, running the 10k or the half marathon, and that’s when I felt it. That resurgence of the competitive me. The one whose inner voice says “I can do that, too” and actually goes for it. That me had been dormant for quite some time and I knew I NEEDED to grab hold before the fear sneaked back in. I went home from that race and registered for an August 10k and a last week of September half marathon. Now I don’t know if you’re a perfectionist like me, but if you are then you know that signing yourself up for a race means YOU HAVE TO TRAIN because YOU WILL NOT FAIL! 😉 I joke, but I’m actually serious. One of my biggest fears (character flaw alert) is looking dumb, so I knew that if I signed up for a race that I would be expecting myself to A) run the whole thing B) look and feel like a runner doing it C) enjoy the damn thing and D) not finish last. Were those reasonable expectations? Maybe a tad lofty but those were my goals nonetheless and they shaped the next 4 months in a big big way.
I planned out a training plan for the 10k and from there a second training plan for the half marathon. Training for the half marathon actually required my mileage to be greater than 6.5 miles by the date of my August race so I ran my first 10k under my training time by 4 minutes, didn’t slow on the uphills, and literally smiled the whole time. On the first day of my period. Heck-freaking-yes! And that was it. That high, that feeling of success and accomplishment was pivotal for my healing. Because I was broken after my daughter’s birth. Broken and sad and jealous and shamed. I felt disconnected from my body and was angry that it had failed me. Finishing that race strong in the same body that had undergone major surgery to deliver my daughter 2 years prior was the first step in physical redemption. And it felt amazing. This running this was a game changer and I was hooked.
By September, I knew that my body could do the work and run the 13 miles and change when the day came. But my mind…could I actually believe in myself enough to push through fatigue and pain? Could I run those miles alone with nobody there to cheer me on and still push it? It turns out, the answer to all of my questions was yes. When training meant that I missed my daughter’s bedtime or had to rise at the crack of dawn to get the miles in, I did it. When it meant having to take her along in the jogging stroller, I did it. When it was 90 degrees and my only option was an afternoon run, I did it. And when race day came with a misty rain falling the whole time and a nasty headwind from miles 7-10, I finished. I walked some. That didn’t really matter so much by that point. The work had been done and the result had already shaped and changed my heart. I had set a goal for myself and followed through. I was capable. I was strong. I was motivated and could take the steps necessary to see success. And that, dear friend, was a big deal.
For a lot of people, running is a fun group thing. You might train every weekend with friends and sign up for races together which is what I am starting to search for in this season of life. But I have discovered that despite my attempts to make that particular season of my running life a social one, it is quite pivotal that it wasn’t. The healing that took place that summer needed to be an individual and personal healing. I needed to be alone on those trails and on that track and on that treadmill. I needed those solo drives to the race site. God moved and worked and displayed grace upon grace in those hours and I think I would have missed it had I been wrapped up in chatter.
Running is one of the dearest things to me, even though I don’t go nearly as often as I would like. When I walk out the door and push the “start” button on my running app I become my best self. I become the me that knows both my weaknesses and strengths and accepts them lovingly. I become the me that is patient with myself and with others. The me who recognizes her need to space and decides that’s OK. And in the long months waiting to conceive my son, running reminded me that God made me strong and whole…talk about humbling. It is a friend that has seen me through and meets me right where I’m at.
What about you? What was or is or will be your conduit to healing? What is your escape from a life that doesn’t currently feel like your own? If you don’t have the answer to that then I urge you to find it. We weren’t designed to tread water. No. No, there is so much more to be had. So much more.