Why I Run: Caroline Eakle

There is no caption in the world better than these pictures.

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.

Victorious in oh-so-many ways.

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.

63 responses to “Why I Run: Caroline Eakle

  1. Loved this post! After becoming a mom I too have felt like I lost a little bit of myself. I am now a mom and a wife but there was nothing just for me. My day is full and I push my wishes and desires to the “maybe if there’s time” pile. I have determined that this needs to stop! I have to get back to running. The first few weeks might be hard to get back into the swing of things (especially in cold, dreary MI in winter!) but I have to do it!
    Thank you for the inspiration!

  2. Caroline, what an amazing story. Nothing short of inspiring, and something that I think a lot of moms need to hear. It is so easy to get caught up on the day to day of everyone else’s needs that you really can lose sight of your own needs and wants. What a way to take back control.

  3. I want to thank everyone who posted a comment to my essay.
    So much kindness, it really touched me.
    I want to thank Dimity and Sarah for having me as a guest on their blog, your book has helped me so much and same for your facebook’s there I got the push to give me the courage to sign up for my first half marathon back in January, I ended up running 5 of those this year! Who knew I could do this?! Thank you and Merry Christmas!

  4. I just teared up. Truly moving and well written. I relate too much to this not to be touched, and could feel the heart beat from “left, right, left right” that I hope every woman can find in themselves.

  5. Awesome story…thanks for sharing 🙂 As a mom of three I can totally relate. I have only been running for a few years, but I LOVE IT!! I really want to do a half marathon, but I’m kind of scared. It’s the training alone that worries me. I’ll be following your blog now!

  6. Congratulations Caroline! I felt like your story was so familiar; I started running (again) after a 10 year hiatus when I realized that I was going to turn 40 and I wasn’t very happy. With anything. I felt like I needed some control so I ran out from my house for 10 minutes on January 2, 2010 and then back again. Since then, I’ve run several 5ks, a 10k and a half-marathon and I DID cry when I crossed the finish line of the half-marathon. And I’m going to run another one in May. Along the way, I lost 30 pounds, found a way to feel like my life is (at least partially) my own again, like I am a better wife, mother and teacher and stumbled upon a group of running buddies that help keep me in line and from going insane. I’ve also logged 50o miles of running. You are an inspiration. I wish you well in your further races!

    1. Alicia! Congratulations to YOU! I also cried when I crossed the line of my first half marathon and I cried at other races as well…my kids always wonder why…2 weeks ago after I PR on a really hilly course for a older son said to his brother…”she is just overwhelmed with her feelings”..he is 7 I was impressed! wishing you all the best Alicia!

  7. You rock big time! I am posting this to my Twitter account for all my mom clients to see.
    You got to the “other side” and have a great story to share, so glad you did, keep sharing it!!
    Best regards,

  8. Love.
    She. Is. Amazing.
    Beyond worthy of being featured.
    She is one of the kindest people I’ve ever been in touch with.

  9. I’ve read all the “why I run” posts, and yours, yours made me cry. I don’t really know why, it just did and I wanted to let you know that you touched me. I run for thousands of reasons – they change every day, but at the core of it, I run for me, plain and not always so simple.

  10. Amazing essay Caroline. So moving.

    As you know I’ve been a fan of yours from early on and I’ve enjoyed following your journey – congrats on being selected for this series.

  11. Such a great story.
    I also suffered with post-partum depression after both of my boys were born and I started running as a way to feel “normal” again. After my youngest was born, I felt like my life was headed nowhere and it was too late to fix it. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. I didn’t want to just give up. I still struggle with depression off and on as its only been four months since my second was born, but we are doing much better.
    I am a new runner and I have a new outlook on life. Reading your story gives me hope for things to come and makes me feel less alone. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Dear Cassandra….yes it will only get better and better..and you are NOT ALONE. You are already way ahead of where I was when my youngest was 4 mos…he was 4 when I started running…and I am sure lots of good things are coming your way.

  12. Beautiful essay. I can absolutely relate. I lost me after kids. Every waking minute was devoted to my job or my kids. If I needed more waking moments to get those done, I would just sacrifice sleep. My journey started with a run on the beach one morning on my first real vacation after having two kids. Running was the one place it was quiet and I could let my mind go wherever it wanted. It was a time that was all about me and my body (which felt like it had belonged to someone else after two pregnancies and years of breastfeeding). Congratulations on your successes and taking you back. Have a merry Christmas!

  13. Looks like everyone is saying what I feel, too! It’s so easy to get sucked into your other roles that you forget that you count, too, and you need some “you” time. Running IS selfish, it’s purely for you, and after everything you do for everyone else, THAT’S OK! Love it, way to go!

  14. I LOVE the analogy of the job! It is so true. And just to add to it – people say if you have a passion for your work, it won’t feel like work. At some point after beginning to run, it becomes a passion instead of just work! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  15. Dear Caroline, Thank you for such an honest essay. Congratulations to you on your incredible accomplishment of losing 75 lbs! Good for you for doing something for yourself. Happy Mommy = Happy Family!

    1. Bea, thank you. You are so right I believe a happy mom leads to a happy family. The honest part…it was scary to put all that “out there” for so many people to read…but now that I am reading these comments I am happy that I did.

  16. I loved this post so much. I think so many women can identify with Caroline. Running was the only time I felt like my old self after having my baby two years ago. Thanks for sharing your inspiring words Caroline!

  17. Thank you Caroline. May you get the promotions you so richly deserve. I too was the gawky runner….until I read Born to Run and discovered my inner running goddessness. I now can run and not care what anyone thinks of my lope or how I look wrangling a GSP pup and a jogging stroller. The point is that I am out and doing something, right? Be blessed all you gawky goddess runners.

  18. Caroline…thank you so much! I can relate totally. I started running in Jan as I wanted to complete a 5K by the time I turned 40 (June). I did! And since have done several 5Ks and a 10K. With 3 kids, I feel lost sometimes. Everything revolves around my family. With me, like you, at the bottom. Not any more. I am currently training for a 1/2 and I know my training takes time from cleaning the house or other chores, but I don’t care! I run for me and I am important. God Bless You!

    1. Wow….you made me cry…thank you. Yes you are IMPORTANT. I am happy that, like me you found a way to make sure you stay important. When is your half? I wish you all the best. If you are like me, prepare to be emotional after you cross that line…the first one was epic for me. Made me feel invicible even though my time was terrible! 🙂 Merry Christmas Wendy and thank you for your comment.

      1. Hi Caroline! I’m registered for the Pittsburgh 1/2 in May, but may do one the end of March. I’m headed out to try for over 10 miles tomorrow morning. And I am sure I will be emotional! I seem to get emotional every time I run past my last longest. Thank you for inspiring and have a very Merry Christmas!

  19. I love your comparison of running to a job. For those of us who have jobs we don’t love, that analogy is a great one to think about when we’re looking for some job satisfaction.

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