Why I Run: Judith Scott

Since Judith submitted her "Why I Run" story earlier this year, she accomplished something BIG: "My friend and running partner Wendy and I qualified for Boston, running the Baltimore Marathon in 3:53. We'll be in Boston in 2014!!"

Running is an integral part of my life: as much as I am daughter, wife, mother, sister, and writer, I am also a RUNNER. The label is one I wear proudly, and one that gives me health, time to myself, and goals to accomplish. Running has surpassed the definition of a hobby for me and has become a pursuit that fulfills me on several levels.

But it wasn’t always this way. Quite simply, I stumbled into running as a way out of deep pain, and I came out on the other end with a strength to conquer almost any obstacle standing in my way.

Always active, but never an athlete, I spent my Midwestern youth on the softball field, a gymnastics team, and even did a brief stint on a cross-country team. As a college student and in my 20s, I became a certified aerobics instructor and spent hours issuing commands to do grapevines and step-touches. While pregnant with my first child at age 29, I was a power walker and a swimmer. But a runner? Not yet.

When my first child, a daughter, was born and subsequently diagnosed with a severe chromosomal syndrome, my carefree world ground to a halt. My days became filled with endless care-taking, many hospitalizations, horrendous stress, no sleep, and a bottomless pit of worry. My daughter struggled to do the simplest things and her development proceeded at a glacial pace. I was faced with the reality of a future for my family that I had not anticipated and this reality threatened to pull me under.

While out on a walk around the neighborhood one day, I felt burdened both by some sluggish extra weight, but mostly by the unexpected turn my life had taken. I looked up ahead at a stop sign and dared myself to run the 100 yards to get there. Winded and with sloppy form, I made it. The next day, I ran one entire block. Within a week, I was running the one-mile loop around my neighborhood without stopping once. I hadn’t felt so light in ages, nor so free.

On a lark, I signed up for a local 10K, not even knowing how far that distance was. I wore a cotton T-shirt and cotton tights, ran my heart out, sweated like never before, and finished in 48 minutes. Not bad for a beginner. That was in 1998, when my daughter had just turned two.

Since then, I have run countless 10Ks, 10-milers, half-marathons, and three full marathons. I have also had two more children along the way and a dear friend and running partner, Wendy, whom I count as another lucky blessing to come from the sport. On training runs, our laughter, singing, talk, and sometimes even tears are the byproduct of our love for each other and our love of the run.

I can’t say that running has taken away the pain of having a child with severe disabilities. But I can say with certainty that running has helped me to handle the stress of being a parent to a child who needs so much. No matter what I am training for - or even just on a fun run - I am ever mindful that there are people who can’t run, people like my own child, for whom movement is so difficult.

When I pour it all out on a race course, I try to finish with arms overhead and a smile on my face. This pose is my testament to my own hard work, yes, but also my inspiration - my child.

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7 responses to “Why I Run: Judith Scott

  1. I am a mother of a severely disabled child also and I LOVED reading this story and being able to relate. I too run and exercise as stress relief from being a caretaker of a disabled child… And to move my body because my daughter will never be able to run or even walk. Judith, if you don’t mind me asking, what type of diagnosis does your daughter have?

    1. Emily has a chromosomal syndrome called Partial Trisomy 13—basically a duplication on her 13th chromosome. It affects her globally and has caused developmental delays across the board. She’s 16 now and attends a regular high school, but in a remedial capacity. Her main issues are communication (she is unintelligible when speaking) and cognitive. She does really well for all the strikes against her. She’s my inspiration, for sure!!! Thanks for asking!!!


  2. Thank you for sharing your story, Judith. It sounds so similar to mine. Although I have been a runner most of my life, the birth of my son with complex medical needs (heart transplant, autoimmune disorder, etc) through me into a similar cycle of stress, grief, and worry. It took me four and a half years after his birth to lace up again. I am encouraged by your success and your daughter. Thanks again, and good luck to y’all.

  3. You know what I always say my dear friend, just training for life and whatever it throws our way! So glad to be by your side on our runs laughing,singing and cleaning the shiny objects off the roads to keep motorists safe! See you bright and early Saturday! You are an inspiration!!

  4. I’m so happy for you that you have found some relief from the pain of having a child with disabilities. That must be so hard, and it hurts a mother’s heart. I totally agree with you, that running makes things more manageable, and keeps you on an even keel.

    Whenever I feel down, running helps me find my footing. Both figuratively and literally.

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