I first remember Caroline, a native Canadian and mother of two, because of her slight obsession with Keith Urban; for a stretch, her Facebook picture featured her with Mr. Nicole Kidman, both with beaming grins. Since then, even though we've never met, I've come to adore her, and not just because we're both a tall runners who have dealt with post-partum depression. You will too: check her out at Canadian Runner in Exile and at @carotabi on Twitter
I never meant to be a runner.
When I was young I was told several times that I was not good at running, People—and by people, I mean my dad—would always say that I ran “funny.” Running never felt natural to me, it always felt awkward; maybe because I am 5’11” tall.
In high school, all the seniors had to run a 5k. No exceptions. I was petrified just thinking about it. I was in good shape; I was a member of the swim team and the basketball team, but running a 5K? That scared me.
I remember the run like it was yesterday. It was on a Saturday morning and a lot of parents were there to watch. Just what I wanted to add to my stress level. We had to run two laps on a trail in the woods behind the high school. After the first one, my lungs were burning and I had a nasty side ache. At the end of it, I threw up. “Running sucks," I thought. I was pretty sure I'd never run again.
Fast forward 25 years. I received an email from a friend telling me a friend of ours had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. I felt two things: sadness and anger. I wanted to fix this and of course I couldn’t. I sat in the dark long after I finished reading this terrible news just thinking about what I could do to help. Cooking was out; I like this person and well, let’s just say I am not winning any cooking contest these days. She had help with the kids already so that was out also.
I had to find something. I decided that I would run the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure in honor of Shana and try to raise as much money as I could. This was 2010 and I had just turned 41. I did not train a lot and I had no plan. I did have a brand new gym membership so I figured that a little running on the treadmill would do the trick. Running outside was not an option; I was too embarrassed and intimidated to do that. Race day came and my goals were to finish and not die. I was not able to run the whole 3.1 miles, but I finished.
Those miles changed me.
I should say they changed the Caroline I had become over the last 6 years, the 6 years since I became a mother. That day, in March of 2010, I saw a glimpse of who I used to be. Like many women, I lost myself after I became a mom. I was someone’s wife and someone’s mother and there was no time or room for just Caroline. She got pushed away and buried really deep by 2 rounds of post-partum depression. Even after I got better and I wasn’t depressed anymore, I was still trapped in a body that had become too big and in a lifestyle that always put me at the bottom of the list. Even after the dog.
The jeans I wore got bigger and I was always tired. Nothing I did during my days was just for me. That changed after the Susan G Komen 5K. I did it, I survived and I wanted to do it again. I wanted to run another 5K and this time run the whole thing and do better.
The first thing I did when we got home is look for my next race and register before I could change my mind. I started to treat running like it is my job. Training plans are my schedule. Races are my evaluations. PRs are my bonus. The road is my office. Moving up from in distance--from 5K to 10K to the half-marathon--are promotions.
And each mile led me back to myself. Somewhere along the road to getting Caroline back, I lost 75 pounds. I was trapped under several layers and they kept peeling off. The fewer layers I had, the better I felt in my own skin.
These days, I run to not get lost again, to make sure that Caroline never disappears again. It's simple, really: all I have to do is go left-right-left-right, and trust that the rhythm and road will always lead me back to her.