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My Most Important Mile: Kristen Wood

Kristen, in the middle, has Ka-Pow tights—and a brave attitude.

This Thanksgiving week, we are going to run a series of Most Important Miles to celebrate the fact that we are so grateful for your stories, our collective miles that send strength and love into the world, the community that brings us together, and the simple ability to run. Thank you, thank you.

When I climb on the treadmill today, my legs feel like cement columns and I know this run will be difficult. My training program calls for nine miles. Nine. Long. Miles.

I should be running outside, but it’s cold and I’m not that brave.

The start button beeps when I press it and I take the first step, then the second. My mind wanders as metal music blares in my ears. At first, my overactive synapses flit from my unfinished chores for the day to the audio files I still have to review and the manuscript needing edits on my desk. Then my awareness settles on the recent series in the AMR newsletters: The Most Important Mile of My Life.

It crosses my mind to submit to it someday, but I dismiss the idea without much thought. I know I’m not that brave.

A Disturbed song hums through my headphones and I turn up the volume and my speed. My first mile has passed and I feel more sluggish than when I started, but decide I can do at least three of the nine miles I need. The music pushes me through to that goal, and I decide I can do just one more.

I wonder what my most important mile would be. I think back to my former running life, before I got cancer and brain aneurysms, before I got pregnant and miscarried twice, before I finally received the blessing of my daughter.

Before I let running become my long lost love.

I ran a 53 minute 10K once. It was only on a treadmill at my gym, but that felt like an accomplishment. Maybe that was my most important mile. But it was so long ago. Four years, I guess, or five.

Maybe my first mile qualifies, the one I had to walk-run to complete—more walk than run—when I used to top 250 pounds on my bathroom scale. That momentous mile led to a 125 lb weight loss over the next 2 years. But I feel low now, defeated, since I’m still carrying around an extra 30 from my pregnancy with my daughter, who is now one.

Maybe not that, then.

My music no longer motivates me, so I shut my iPod off and turn on the TV, settling on an old episode of Chuck. I begin alternating my speed to keep my feet going, though I’d rather be watching upstairs on the couch, with a glass of wine in my hand.

Why am I doing this again?

Because I used to enjoy it. Right. And I used to have energy. And sleep. God, I miss sleep.

I hear my daughter playing with her father and it brings a smile to my face. I push through. Another step. Another mile.

I wonder if I might be able to finish nine miles after all, but then I remember I’m not that brave. It takes a stronger woman than me. A thinner one. A younger one.

I slow the treadmill down, prepared to jump off, then I hear laughter from upstairs—a delightful, innocent sound; the sound of a young girl who trusts me to show her how to live well—and I nudge the treadmill back to speed, adding a little extra effort for good measure.

One foot. Another foot. Another mile.

My shirt is drenched in sweat. I rip open a package of Gu. I drink more water and push harder, alternating my speed again—not to just keep going this time, but to see if I can break my boundaries. I do a few minutes at 6 miles per hour, another few at 7 miles and I feel awesome for the accomplishment.

And I focus. I focus on the weight I want to lose. I focus on the half-marathon I want to race in February. I focus on what type of woman I want to be. I focus on my daughter.

My legs still feel like cement, but my momentum keeps them going. And that's when I realize: My most important mile isn’t in my past. It isn’t the mile I ran when things were easier.

It’s the one I’m running now.

It’s the one where I keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when I don’t want to, even when I think I can’t.

And tomorrow, and the next day when I lace up my shoes and try again, that will be my most important mile.

Because damnit, I am that brave.

What was (or will be) the most important mile? Share it with us! Best way to submit is to email us your story with a picture: runmother {at} gmail {dot} com with “Most Important Mile” in the subject line. Please try to keep your mile stories under 300 words. Thank you!

12 responses to “My Most Important Mile: Kristen Wood

  1. I’ve read this post at least 3 times, and every time, i get teary. Yes, I personally know the author, but it’s more than that. It’s the honesty in the piece about the tough times, which we all have. The honesty about the self-doubt, and the inspiration to keep going anyway. And Kristen, you are even braver than you know!!!

  2. Loved this! Way to get it done. One step at a time. The most important miles are the ones we think we can’t do, but prove ourselves wrong.

  3. This spoke to my soul! Exactly when I needed it. Thank you! And yes, you are strong enough, and badass, if I may say so.

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