I’m a runner. I run after my kids, I run after the dog, and I run after our recycling that blows all over the road. I also run for a hobby. When I started I could barely walk on the treadmill without feeling like I’d pass out. Eventually I got better.
I remember training and running my first 10 km. I worked really hard, and I was slow as hell, but I did it and I was proud. I remember catching my first glimpse of the elite athletes who had ventured to that race, to compete against each other to win. They took my breath away. The man who won the 10 km that year had one leg. I’m not sure what his story was, but I was instantly inspired by him. I knew I’d never win a race like that, or any race ever, but I still wanted to compete.
After that race I went on to compete in a couple half marathons and finally, I got up enough courage to stand at the start line of a full marathon. It took me 5 years to get there, but I did it. I spent years prior to that day running to prove something to others, to prove to myself that I could, to punish myself at times, to work out my crazies, to escape anxiety. I ran for a million reasons, and none of them were the right ones.
On my 30th birthday my younger sister forwarded me an email that scared the living shit out of me. She had signed me up for a marathon. She did it because she heard me talk about how much I wanted to complete one. She also did it, I think, because she believed I could. She was the only one at the time. I know I sure didn’t think it was a very realistic goal. I had 3 little kids. I had a job. I had major responsibilities at home. I was just bouncing back from the birth of my third child, and years of struggling with depression. I had a zillion excuses why I couldn’t do it. My sister didn’t care. She said I would, and I started to believe she was right.
I printed out my plan of action. I posted it on the fridge. Every day for 6 months I crossed numbers off a chart. I spent my Sundays away from my family. While they were enjoying a leisurely morning, I was out running. I ran for hours. I dedicated a lot of time to my goal. A lot of people asked me if I was running to raise money for something. I wasn’t. I read a lot of stories about people who dedicated their races to past or present loved ones. That wasn’t the case for me either. I was running that race for me, and only me. I started to feel bad about it. I started to feel like maybe it was a very selfish thing to do. I was spending countless hours focused solely on myself. It was all about me. I felt like I was wrong for making it so. I believed that because I was a mom, I couldn’t possibly take this much time for myself. I had 3 kids and a husband. It was supposed to be all about them right? Wrong.
Get your crackers folks, it’s about to get super cheesy.
I ran my first marathon for the little girl inside me. When other runners were dedicating their race to their sick or passed loved ones, I was dedicating my race to the little me. Throughout my long journey through the depths of hell (a.k.a. depression), I learned that a lot of my issues were a result of my childhood. Now, I’m not getting all blame-game on my parents. I don’t need to re-hash my childhood, explore my “daddy issues” here, or anything like that. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with me, the little girl that didn’t ever feel like she was good enough. The little girl who felt left out, unloved, unworthy. In therapy (oh god, please say I’m not one of those “my therapist says..” people), I spent a great deal of time remembering the little me. Talking about her, and about the girl and young woman I was before I ended up in that office. It was pretty horrible work. I hated it. I resisted it with everything I had. I can’t tell you how many times I rolled my eyes at my therapist. I fought her almost every step of the way, but somehow she got through to me. At the beginning of it all, she told me to find a picture of myself when I was a little girl. I laughed at her (maybe even to her face, I don’t remember), but I did it. I was in a very desperate position. I was willing to try anything. As we worked on all those shitty, horrible feelings that surfaced I was reminded over and over again to take care of that little girl. To remember her and keep remembering her. The picture that I found of little me was on my mirror for 10 months straight. It stayed there until the day I travelled to run my race. I’ve never, ever told anyone this. I didn’t tell my sister, my mother, my husband. No one. In fact, I’ve never ever discussed the things that I went through in those 10 months of therapy. I don’t think I ever will. I told no one, but I took that picture with me, and put it in the belt I was wearing on race day. I had decided that I was running that race for the little me in the picture. I was running to prove to myself that I could do anything I set my mind and heart to. I ran that race to prove that I was in fact, good enough, kind enough, pretty enough, smart enough. To prove once and for all that I was enough. I carried the picture of little me 42.2 km across that finish line. When I reached the end I said in a whisper (because I was tired as hell), “You always were, and always will be. You are enough.” And then I scarfed down 2 cheese strings and chugged as much water as I could before finding my way to my family.
As parents we are told that we shouldn’t take time for ourselves. That our whole life should be about our kids. I don’t believe that is so. I learned through running (among other things) that I need to take time for me. We all need to take care of ourselves, because sometimes no one else will. When I’m up and running at the crack of dawn each morning, I’m taking time to do something I love. It makes me a happier, healthier person. I’m taking care of me because I know that if I can’t take care of myself, there’s no way I’ll ever be able to take care of my kids.
I’ve found the right reason to run. I run because I love it. It makes me feel happy and proud to be me. It’s how I work through things, how I re-charge and relax. It’s how I take care of me.