I’m Anne. I am Another Mother Runner. I’m the Happy Girl. And this is my 5 year Runniversary.
Runniversary? Is that even a word? Actually, I don’t know. It's my five-year running anniversary. I think I made it up. But it sounds really good and it rings really true. For me.
5 years ago, I was 30 years old and the full time stay-at-home mother of 3 little girls. I was marking pretty big milestones in life: my oldest daughter was in 1st grade, my middle daughter was in preschool, and my baby girl was only weeks old. (*notice there wasn’t any mention of “me” in that list?) I was deep in the throes of sleepless nights, dirty diapers, potty-training, classroom volunteering, carpooling, cooking, cleaning, and chaos. Yes, I was blessed to be all of those things, and believe me, I was making the most of it. But I was also tired, poured out, and invisible even to my own eyes.
During one of my library expeditions (you know, the ones that have you exclusively perusing the children’s section) I walked by the table of Librarian Recommendations placed like a life raft in the lobby and saw a bright yellow book titled Run Like a Mother. *lightbulb moment*
The word "RUN" jumped out at me and straight into the deepest corner of my soul. "Run," "run," "run" kept repeating itself in my head all the while my lips sang and hands clapped along to "If you’re happy and you know it." There was only one problem... I don’t run. I am not a runner. As my track coach in high school so often liked to point out, I don’t have the right body to be a runner. So who am I kidding, anyway?
But in what I look back on as being one of the most significant moments of bravery in my adult life, I put my name on the (long) waitlist and reserved myself a copy of that book. On March 12th, 2011 I cracked open the cover, stood my two feet on a treadmill for the first time, and started running. I walked/ran for 15 minutes, then 30 minutes, three times per week.
I read in the morning while the baby nursed and ran once she fell asleep. For 10 weeks. Why 10 weeks? Because I had decided that I would run my first 5k while I was still 30. Because there were only 10 weeks left until my birthday. And because, surreptitiously, there just happened to be a brand new race, a women’s only race, happening the weekend before. If there were ever an arrow pointing me in a direction, it was this, and it read Run Happy Girls 5k.
On May 29th, 2011 I swallowed my fear and showed up at the START line. When I got there, I looked around in awe. I had never seen so many women in one place. There were women of all ages and all sizes. There were women in fancy athletic apparel and women in baggy sweats. There was an entire park filled with the chatter of gaggling girlfriends—all of them up early (by choice) on a Sunday morning doing something for themselves. And that’s when it hit me… I was there too. I was one of those Happy Girls. I belonged here.
Then the horn blew and the race began. 3.1 miles seemed like an eternity. I felt slow, my legs felt heavy, I was not feeling so happy. This was hard! But I heard Dimity’s voice in my head: "Break it down to smaller goals. Pick a landmark, run to that, and then keep going."
And I did. I crossed the FINISH line. And the pride that swelled in my heart, the sweaty smile that spread across MY face, the strength that rose up in ME... well, it was MINE. I had found my happy place.
I decided then that I would continue training, that I would keep showing up at START and running to FINISH. 10 weeks later I toed the line at a 10k START. I will never forget running up to the Y in the course and seeing arrows pointing for the 5k to go one way and the 10k to go the other … I remember thinking: "I've done it, I've graduated, I've followed my arrow and run farther than I ever thought possible." I guess I didn’t know then what I was truly capable of or how far I really could run.
One year later, on the same Saturday late in May, I showed up at the same park and at the same Happy Girls START line – this time, to mark a new milestone, to run my first half marathon. The horn blew, the race began, and I ran 13.1 miles. A heart filled with happiness and my very own two feet carried me along the course, and as I ran by my little girls holding signs at mile 9 and at the FINISH, I realized that they were seeing me… I had run to life.
5 years later… I’m now 35 years old. I’m a newly single mother to my three girls. My oldest is now in middle school, my middle is in 4th grade, and my baby is in preschool. I have crossed the FINISH of a 5k, two 8ks, two 10ks, a 12K, and seven half marathons.
Every year since the "first," I start my run season on Happy Girls weekend, on the same Saturday late in May, at the same park, and in a sea of now familiar faces, and along familiar miles… to keep myself honest, to push my own limits, and to celebrate my milestones. I have secretly been saving my "next 5k" for this one—to really measure how far (and how much faster) I’ve come since my beginning.
I am proud, yes, because I PR’d my original 5k time by five minutes and placed 2nd in my age group. But even more so because in these 5 years, I have ended up becoming my BEST self and I have found my STRONG.
If you are sitting on the couch nursing your infant, are on the floor building block towers with your preschooler, or are sitting at a team practice alternately showing interest in your offspring's athletic prowess whilst reading this blogpost… you are not alone. Friend, you can start. And you will finish. You just have to give yourself permission to dream it up, give yourself a little time every day to do the work, and show up for yourself. You just have to harness your inner badass and let your legs prove it to you.
If you are still running on the treadmill hidden safely in your house because you are too afraid to get outside, or are longing for a running friend but are also too worried about whether you’ll be able to keep up, don’t be! You are perfect just the way you are and someone else out there is looking for someone just like you. Get connected; go on a group fun run or join a training program.
Whichever category you find yourself in at the moment, you belong. So celebrate! Run in honor of yourself. Run in the company of other women. Run with us (!) at this year’s Run + Refresh Retreat and Happy Girls race in Spokane, Washington.
And hold onto these simple truths:
1. The joy is in the journey.
2. When you RUN like there's no tomorrow, you’ll discover that life is made up of moments and every.single.day you hold the power to manifest your own destiny. Because today leads to tomorrow, one 'first step' leads to a second, one mile leads to another, and one START line can lead you on a scenic (albeit sweaty) journey if you're brave enough to keep on running.
3. Whether your goal is to bravely START and FINISH, or you’ve trained up to FINISH STRONG, somewhere along the way you’ll discover that you were, indeed, STRONG all along.