Why I Run: Kira Hagenbuch Monica

Flash from the past: Kira Hagenbuch Monica at mile 24 of the 1992 NYC Marathon. She's training for this year's NYC 'thon and says she hopes to be smiling again (but will forgo the acrylic nails and fanny pack this time around, she jokes).

Welcome to a continuation of our Why I Run series, which we occasionally run because we love your stories and voices so much. (And, okay, we admit it: We also do it to have inspiring, often moving content on our site when we are on vacation.) Each day another mother runner will tell us in her own words why she puts one foot in front of the other in rhythmic fashion. This segment of the series will go through July 13. If you crave more, find past posts here.

Twenty years after running the NYC Marathon, mother of two Kira Hagenbuch Monica will again step up to the start line of the legendary race this November. Kira—follow her musings on life and family on her blog and on Twitter—says running, “is about what you can do or who you can become.”

The simple answer as to why I run: I stunk at basketball. After earning the title of Most Improved Player my freshman year of high school (which, as my husband likes to point out, means going from bad to average), I went on to have another mediocre season as a JV player. I didn’t kid myself by going out for varsity. My mom was in her early 40s and a runner. We’d cheer her on at various 10Ks and fun runs. I witnessed the ease with which she did it; she’d simply put on a t-shirt, shorts, and shoes and head out for a run on our peaceful country road. No lay-ups, no jump shots, no free throws. Just one foot in front of the other. I knew I could do that. So I started running.

At 25, running began to take on new meaning. That April, my boyfriend from college and I broke up over dinner at a Chinese restaurant. A sure thing suddenly wasn’t. I found myself starting over instead of settling down. My best friend called that night to see what I was doing. “Picking lint out of my blow dryer,” I answered, which pretty much summed up the depth of my low. Around that time a friend I was running with—who up until that point had no interest in doing a marathon—suggested that we run one. And not just any one. New York. Running and dating soon flip-flopped. What had been casual became committed. Training turned my flailing into focus. It became the thing I could count on when everything, especially my future, felt uncertain.

A family photo, taken last spring, includes Kira (wearing the floral print shirt, standing next to her husband and boys), her mom and dad, and sister and her family.

In my mid-30s, running was the familiar when I was catapulted into the unknown: motherhood. On a warm, clear September day I went out for a run a couple months after my emergency C-section. I was decked out in baggy maternity shorts. Skin flopped, flapped and folded on a body that now nourished an infant. It was awkward. I didn’t recognize it. I was literally uncomfortable in my own skin. But I knew the motion. Slowly, I made my way up the sidewalk, one step at a time. A few weeks later I returned from the gym and boldly announced to my husband: “I weigh 158 pounds.” Never in my life had I uttered my weight out loud. It was something I’d always associated with shame and embarrassment. But I knew I had to acknowledge it and own it before I could make changes. Motherhood gave me the desire to be courageous and brave. I would face things head-on. No more hiding. Another step forward.

Now 45, I am running through grief. My dad died last summer. There are moments when the almost-unbearable sadness creeps up out of nowhere and threatens to overtake and overwhelm me. Running provides the uninterrupted alone time where I can look to the sky tearfully, sometimes with sobs escaping, and say with all of my daughter self: “I miss you, Dad.” Grief is about what—or who—you miss. Running is about what you can do or who you can become. Twenty years later, I am again training for the New York City Marathon. This time, the landscape has changed: there will be no Twin Towers and no dad snapping photos at mile 24. But there will be two beautiful boys and a dedicated husband.

And so I continue to run...because I am not a girl who can’t make a jump shot. I am a mom who can cross a finish line.

16 responses to “Why I Run: Kira Hagenbuch Monica

  1. Truly beautiful. I wish you all the best on your NY run.

    Love this part ” Running provides the uninterrupted alone time where I can look to the sky tearfully, sometimes with sobs escaping, and say with all of my daughter self: “I miss you, Dad.” Grief is about what—or who—you miss. ”

    Thank you SO much for sharing.

  2. You inspire me to run a 10k instead of just a 5k. I have never been able to run further than 3.5 miles. That was a wonderful story. I was sorry to hear about your dad. Hope all is well with you and your family.

  3. Beautifully written. I like how Kira captures the bitter-sweetness of life’s changes amidst the steadiness of her running. The last three sentences are my favorite.

  4. sister – I was proud of you then, and I am proud of you today. I admire who you are and the way you live life! Can’t wait to be cheering you on again along the streets of NY, and hopefully jump in and run some miles with you too! But only if you dig out those awesome shorts. Love you!

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