As we're finishing up our third mother runner book, we're going green this summer and recycling some of our blog posts. This post originally appeared on our site on July 26, 2010
This landed in our inbox recently, and both Sarah and I were moved by the honesty and power of her story--and were, once again, reminded of the healing qualities of running. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say running saved the life of this mother of two, who requested to remain anonymous. We should all be so lucky to have a friend like her's.
I was a non-runner, married a marathoner. I also have a bunch of friends who are runners. I religiously read Runners World, addressed to my husband, when it came in the mail. I cheered everybody on at races, often with tears in my eyes as I was awed and moved by their commitment to run 26.2 miles. I couldn’t imagine. I had never run a day in my life. The 600-yard dash at school gave me a stitch in my side.
Then four years ago, my world came crashing down. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was raped. The 9 months that followed were a blur. I don't remember how I even got out of bed in the morning or got my kids out the door to preschool and school. Everything focused on the criminal investigation, visits with the district attorney, medical appointments and questions on how I was doing.
How was I doing? Terrible. I wasn't sleeping or eating well. My life was consumed by that night. There wasn't room, it seemed, for anything else. I felt like this was the beginning of what would be the rest of my life. I was not sure how to get out of the tailspin or even just catch my breath. I was defined by what I had happened. I was the woman who was raped.
One day, a dear friend came over. She literally pulled me out of bed and told me that we were going to go for a short run. Just 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes where I would not have to think about the rape or impending court case. She would just talk to me about other stuff or we could run in silence.
She slowed down for me, distracted me with stories about the kids and we ran as far as I could go. Honestly, it all seemed so trivial after what I had been through, but 15 minutes stretched to 20 minutes that night. More importantly, it was 20 minutes without thinking about that horrific night or the aftermath.
She came over the next day and the next. Soon, my husband took me to buy running shoes. We never really talked about what running was beginning to do for me, but we both knew. I can't articulate the metamorphosis that was occurring. It was not instantaneous, but within a month or so, I was running 4 times a week. I was sleeping and eating better. My body was healing--and so was the rest of me. I so looked forward to my runs! I promised myself during my runs that I wouldn’t think about the rape. I needed that time.
During the trial, I focused on the run that I would go on at the end of the day. When he was sentenced, I went on the longest run I had ever gone on; I wasn't keeping track of the miles then, but it seemed to take forever! My life started coming back to me. My smile was back. Maybe that was because the trial was behind me, but I think it was mostly because of running—and what I was allowing back into my life as a result.
Now, four years later, running has flipped for me. I am too busy with the rest of my life to spend rehashing the past, but I know that sometimes I need to. So, only on my run do I think about the night I was raped or the effect it has had on my life. It is my time to cry about it. If I want to.
Running is my escape, because I could not escape that night. Now I can run fast and get away. I could not that night. I feel strong when I run.Powerful. I hope to run a marathon next year. I know I have the strength and determination to do it.
Last week, I overheard woman at our local running store talking to an employee. She talked about how she started running after being clean of breast cancer for a year. Then she asked me why I run. She said she loved to hear other women's stories. I said I didn't really know.
But in my head I absolutely know. I run because I am no longer that woman who was raped. Instead, I am a runner.