New Column: The Most Important Mile of My Life

The last mile of Ironmother was not the best mile of my life, but it is definitely in the top 3. And I love that this picture captures how gratitude was oozing from my pores.
The last mile of Ironmother was not the best mile of my life, but it is definitely in the top 3. And I love that this picture captures how gratitude oozes from my pores, something I feel after nearly every mile.

The run Katherine and I did on a random weekday morning in preparation for the 2007 Nike Women’s Marathon, was almost over, but we were supposed to bookend the four miles with four strides, short bursts of gradually increasing speed. On the fourth stride, my heel didn’t exactly crack, but I imagine it splintered, like a shell of a hard-boiled egg does when you lightly tap it.

I knew immediately I was injured. With a capital “I.”

While those strides weren’t quite a mile, the four laps up and down the path drew a big crack in my life: on one side, pre-stress fracture and on the other, post-stress fracture (SF).

Pre-SF: I was training to sprint away from post-partum depression (which, in a lovely twist of fate, turned out to be “regular” depression that chases me almost daily); to feel like I was more than the sum of my mundane chores (wash bottles; write five-ways-to-lose-10-pounds-in-1-week articles that I knew were BS but paid the bills; bake chicken nuggets; sing “backpack, backpack” a la Dora about 4,000 times a day); to cement a friendship that I sensed was as vital to my well-being as meds were; to prove that 26.2 and motherhood weren’t mutually exclusive terms.

Post-SF: I had a choice. I could stop moving, heal up, and maybe hit another marathon. (Which, let’s be honest, wasn’t going to happen.) Or, every morning, I could take off my monster black boot, fasten on a much slimmer, albeit uglier, orthotic, stiff-soled shoe, and pedal, pedal, pedal. And hope that I could find a taste of the sweaty solace I found pre-SF.

I hung on after that mile and through 26.2.

And almost seven years later, this mother runner continues to—depending on the day—thrive, curse, smile, celebrate, plod, and hang on, mile after mile.

What was (or will be) the most important mile of your life? We want to know.

We're going to make this an ongoing feature on the website (and potentially include some important miles in our yet-to-be-named third book, out in spring of 2015). 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!

29 responses to “New Column: The Most Important Mile of My Life

  1. The most important mile was yesterday 8/24/2013 doing my first 10k in Canby Oregon. I had never been a runner but always had an interest in it when my cousin would talk about her training and races. I didn’t run until 2 years ago on a cold thanksgiving morning when my neighbor asked if I wanted to run with him. I did and wow that was tough.(being a non runner and no training getting out there and doing a 5k.. maybe that was a important mile or two that I’ll never forget but now I’m getting side tracked) Like I was saying the most Important mile was the last mile when I passed that mile marker 5 and still had some go in me and I hadn’t even stopped for a quick breather since I started the race. The fact that I was still running strong passing then the 6 mile marker I started to almost get emotional thinking to myself “holy cow this is the longest I have ran ever without stopping!” When I passed that finish line and my friend Sheila was there just cheering me on as loud as she could I just LEAPED and gave her a hug and cried!! I thought that I would have just a memory of that moment of joy and then today noticed that the photographer at the event got my pure joy of the last important mile and finish. At the end of this 10k I now know that my goal to do a 1/2 marathon, that seemed so far away just 2 days ago, is possible.
    Thank you for letting me share my moment with you.

  2. The most important mile of my life (thus far) is the first mile I ran post-stress fracture (yes – like Dimity) when I was training for my very first marathon. I had only done 5ks and 10ks and hadn’t run in YEARS when I signed up to run with Team In Training for the Disney World 2010 Marathon. I got a stress fracture a few months before the race, and was told NO running on it for 7 weeks. Three weeks in I was going MAD! So, I started aqua jogging. Yep. I was that idiot in the pool of lap swimmers running in place for 1-2 hours each morning. I looked like a fool, I am sure. And let me say for the record, it was BORING! No music. No talking. Ugh. It stunk.

    Well, four weeks of racking up aqua miles payed off. I returned to the road with a 11 miler ahead of me (and just 7 weeks until the marathon). That first mile was the “am I ok to do this?” mental mile. I was scared, worried, etc. But I did it. And, I ran the marathon in 2010.

  3. My mile was around mile 8 of my first double digit mile run. Originally my running buddy wsa going to accompany me, but last minute changes made it so I had to run solo. I was a little intimidated to run 10 miles alone, but I had to do it. I got my run on … I felt good. No, I felt great! My route was a rolling route and some of the hills were difficult, but I persevered. I was approaching another hill, I had my tunes in my ears and I just kept going. At the top of the hill Usher and David Guetta started singing “Without You” … kind of appropriate as I did this without my running buddy, without any one … just me! I felt incredibly overwhelmed that I was going to run into mile 10 … me … a gal who had only started running a few months prior. I literally teared up knowing that I did it! I will never forget that mile and I will never forget that song. It plays on every single one of my runs … whether it’s a 3 mile run or a double digit run.

  4. I LOVE what you said! “I have the heart”. That touched me because it is so true. A runner is a runner because they run not because of how the look or how fast/slow they go.

  5. The most important mile I ever ran was on May 18th 2012. It was the first full mile I ran as an adult. That day I stopped thinking “I can’t be a runner–I don’t have the body,” and started thinking “I can be a runner–I have the heart.” Since then I have logged over 800 miles–some good, some miserable, and some truly blissful. But none of would have happened without that first mile.

  6. It was not a big race. No half, full, or ultra-marathon. The day loomed large before me. It was week five of the Couch to 5K program, and I was scheduled to run two miles straight with no walking, the first all running day. The previous longest run was 3/4 of a mile. How was I going to run a full two miles. I was not sure on a beautiful spring morning, 6:00 a.m., the sun shining, the sky a brilliant blue. After two weeks of nearly steady rain, it was a real and welcome gift. With all the rain, I was only able to sneak in one run during the week, running “between the raindrops” as my Mom used to say. I didn’t get out at all on Wednesday, so I had not run since Monday. Worried whether I should chance it today, I cleared it with my trainer who said I was so ready. Go for it!

    My husband came with me this morning, both to mark my laps and to cheer me on. We drove to the La Salle Academy track, brand new and beautiful, my first and long awaited run there. It was cool when we left; I wore my LSA sweatshirt for good luck.

    The sun was streaming over the track, beautiful, with a cool breeze, and we stepped onto the track for the first warm-up lap, a brisk walk. Then I broke into a run.

    Never an athlete, this was a big moment for me. A small, niggling doubt lingered as I started. My legs felt a little bit heavy and I thought eight laps might be too much. But I had Tony at my side, the confidence of my trainer, the support of family and friends, and the encouragement of all the people on the “Couch Potato to 5K” facebook site. All of them were on my shoulder as I flew around the track. I slowed down to a jog only once, to remove my sweatshirt and sail under the sun, the breeze cooling my shoulders.

    As I complete the fourth lap, one mile, I reached the goal I had wished for twenty years ago but was unsuccessful in reaching. I knew at that moment that I would finish. I looked at Tony and called out, “My first goal: one mile. I can do this!”

    The second mile was not easy, nor was it pretty or fast, but not as difficult as I’d imagined. Not until the final lap did I begin to tire, likely more psychological than physical, knowing I was almost there.

    It is impossible to describe the feeling of joy and accomplishment I felt as I spotted those green arrows on the last lap. Two miles. I am fifty-nine years old and have never done anything athletic in my life. Six weeks ago I could not run one minute without feeling as though I was going to die right in the road. I looked up at Tony sitting in the stands, beaming, and pumped my arms in the air.

    And then I cried.

    Since that day I completed the journey to 5K, and this year upped the ante and ran 10K, at age sixty. But no run, no matter how long, no matter how fast, will be as satisfying, as delicious as finishing that second mile on that wonderful day.

  7. The last mile of my one and only marathon. I was spent, my training program wasn’t the best fit and I went way to fast on the first half. I crossed that line so disappointed in my time 5:22 and still am to this day almost four years later. I usually am a very positive person an should be grateful that I accomplished it and on the outside I will tell you I am. However inside I just pretend it didn’t even count. Pretty bad, huh? Sometimes that’s the problem with us gals we sell ourselves short. I figure only way to redeem it is to do another, this time I have a lot more runs under my belt and I will be training like a mother.

  8. I had completed a couch to 5K program, even ran a few official 5K races, but I still felt like I wasn’t officially a runner. On a strangely cool and cloudy Sunday afternoon in July 2012, I told my husband that I was headed out for my run. He said, “you know, this is record breaking running weather.” I smiled, handed him the baby, and went outside. The first three miles felt routine, boring, until I decided to end the run down a different street than normal. Mile four of this particular run was MY mile. I decided to try another new street, and then another. Pretty soon, I realized I wanted to keep going, and I did. I ran six miles that day, and felt like I could have run all day. That was the first time I felt runner’s euphoria, and I let the whole neighborhood know, too! I whooped and hollered the last block of that run, and held my arms in the air like I had just crossed a finish line. My brother told me I’d never forget the first time I ran for an hour straight, and he was right!

  9. I think the most important mile will be the first one I make without pain after this metatarsalgia, to show that injury won’t keep me down forever and I won’t be one who “was a runner” but will always BE a runner.

  10. I feel like there are a lot of important miles in my life. The first big one was in 7th grade. I wanted to do sprints in track but the coach didn’t like me so she made me run the mile, which was the longest race for a 7th grader. And I was mad. I tried to make excuses to get out of practice and not run a full mile. Then came my first race. It was a small race…. maybe 9 or 10 runners. They only gave ribbons to the first 6. I can’t remember what place I got, but I got a ribbon on my first race! I was super excited and after that I LOVED to run. I knew right then that I wanted to run cross country in high school. A lot of birthday and Christmas presents after that were running related. I love that mile.

  11. My mile is the first mile i ever run without stopping. I remember it so clearly & more importantly, I remember the most amazing feeling of accomplishment afterwards. In my adult life (to be honest, I might not have ever fine it in my pre-adult life), I hadn’t run a mile straight ever until that day (age 39). I was almost embarrassed to tell my husband who was running 5-7 miles with no problem. But it was so amazing that I just gushed when I got home. That day, I realized that I can run (slow, but I can run!)

  12. My most important mile was the last of three, the first time I ran as an adult. I grew up believing that I couldn’t even run a single mile without struggling, so tackling three was one heck of an accomplishment for me. If I could do three, I knew I could do more. I finished that run and just started bawling, because I was so damned proud of myself!!

  13. The most important mile is the toughest mile- the one that presses your desire, your will, everything you’ve got. It’s the one that makes you want to quit, to question your ability- it’s the one you may have to walk a bit through, the one where your lungs and legs may give out- but you keep going. You press on and press through and uncover the treasure of self-discipline. That, my friends, is the most important mile because it is when the impossible births possible.

  14. Really great piece here Dimity. Your pre SF paragraph really resonated with me. You’ve got me thinking…Not so sure I could answer this question right away but I’ll be thinking on it. Lots of very powerful miles in my life…. Lots!

  15. The most important mile(s) for me was the first 5K race I completed on Mother’s Day, 2008. My mom had died January 8, 2008 and I had the incredible privilege to be with for most of her final weeks. I had doing some casual for several years, but had never seen myself as a “runner” — and something changed when I crossed the start line. It didn’t matter how long it took to cross the finish line — I was running! I cried for the entire 3.1 miles — missing my mom, feeling her so close in my heart, and feeling so grateful for the gift of being with her in her last days. I was met at the finish line by my husband, my 3 year old son, and my sister — I was a sweaty, sobbing mess….and I felt so alive and proud. I’ve done that race each year since then, with the exception of 2009 when I was on restricted movement during my 2nd pregnancy

  16. Awesome & inspiring! I, too, am “only 50” and starting to run again after a rather lengthy hiatus. Best of luck to you on your 26.2 endeavor – you can & will do it!!

  17. I am a struggling walk/run newbie despite the fact that I am currently training for my second half. A few months ago I did a 5k to start off my training season. I hadn’t really run much beforehand but was determined to run the whole thing with no walk breaks. And I did. It was slow, but I did it. My most important mile was the last one. I was tired and it was taking me a long time, but I had already finished the first 2.1 and I knew that to run that last mile would be the difference between succeeding in my goal and feeling like I had let myself down at the beginning of my training season. It was a powerful mile.

  18. I would like to say that the last mile of my first half was the most important, but it wasn’t and I’m completely sure that the last mile of my first full marathon won’t be either. The most important was that very first mile I ran, and still remember although it was nearly 3 years ago when I was “only” 50. I remember tearing up when I crossed that 1 mile mark without walking – proving to my parents, husband and children, that yes, I could do it, but more importantly, proving it to myself and that it wasn’t too late in life to start running. If I could do that one mile, then I could do 3, then 6, then 13.1 and in December 2013 will cross that finish line in Tucson at the 26.2 mile mark!

  19. My best mile ever is always the first mile out of my door. The one where I cease to think of my family as people who constantly need something. By mile two I remember sweet smiles and cuddles and that my husband does say things besides, “Hey can you please…?”

    Though that mile has serious competition with the one just over the half way point of any race. The mile where you realize you’re more than half way there!

  20. Well, I completed my first 10 mile race in April, after totally NOT training for it the way I had intended too. But, I felt a deep need to prove to myself that I could do it, that I would not waste the registration fee, and that even if I came in last, I still finished. I had a total paradigm shift on that last mile. I went from “wanting” to run halves and fulls to seeing that I could do ten miles, and that 13.1 is only 5 K more than I had just done! I think I crossed over into a real mother runner at that point, because I found confidence that I never knew I had.

  21. Oh Dimity! I can’t look at your IM picture without tearing up. Thank you for sharing your most important mile. I’m going to share mine too! I love hearing all the BAMR stories because running is so much more than excercise or a hobby. It is a lifeline. I can’t wait to meet you and SBS in St. Louis.

  22. My most important mile was the last mile of my recent marathon (my first) My legs cramped up. I mean, REALLY cramped up. I could not run. Luckily I could walk. I walked that last mile to the finish line! Walking or running I got it done!

  23. The last mile of my very first half marathon is my most important. It was the Race to Robie Creek in Boise, ID. An 8 mile straight up hill and 5.1 down. It was an amazing challenge and my husband was ahead of me; way ahead of me. As I started the last mile, I was hoping to see him at the finish. He had walked back up to cheer me on and as I saw him, I had to stop because the tears started flowing and I couldn’t breathe. It was an amazing feeling of accomplishment! That was the start of my post college running and It’s been on and off for 12 years since then!

  24. Beautiful picture! Thank you for sharing your story. I too went through post-partum depression which also ended up being just regular depression, as it runs in the family. Running keeps me sane. Running is my “me” time. Participating in races also helps me remember that I am more than just a mom and someone who cooks and cleans. I have goals, big goals and I am strong and I can accomplish great things!

  25. Even though I don’t exactly remember it, specifically, my most important mile was the first mile I ever completed. I am 48. One year ago, tomorrow, in August 2012, I began my running journey. I had never run before. Ever. Well… aside from being made to run in gym a looooong time ago. But, I had never run a mile, even then. So, although I can’t, exactly, remember that first mile, it was a very important step in completing my couch-to-5K that fall, which led to a complete lifestyle change for me. Now, a year later, my body has been reshaped by many happy miles on the road including 6 5K’s, 1 10K, a half marathon, and a 5K trail race. Plus, I am training for my 2nd half this fall. Without that first mile, I shudder to think of where I would be now.

  26. I have never thought of any of my miles as important before. Bit off tje top of my head the last mile of my first 5k. It was the first run I had done since graduating high school 15yrs before. I stillcant believe I was able to do it after being so sedentary for so long. I was elbowed out by a little kid at the finish too. Right up there with that one would be my 11yr olds first 5k withe where he beat me by 45 secs. I could see him ahead of me the whole race & it was sweet how he kept looking back for me & almost waited for me to finish. Everyone yelled for him to finish fast so he did. I am looking forward to the last mile of my first half in the near future because as of right now I cant fathom running for that long. Just to say I did it. 🙂

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