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.