I met Laurie Marr on Twitter, the way Dimity and I connect with a lot of #motherrunners. I clicked on the link to her blog…and soon had tears streaking down my cheeks. Laurie committed to running—and blogging—because she had a stillborn baby daughter named Brienna Marie. Grab a box of tissues, keep your child(ren) nearby to hug, and read about how she progressed from a 100-degree 3-mile run to a marathon, all with her angel-daughter guiding her. One sum-it-up quote from her blog: “I am stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.” Laurie now is also often joined on her runs by her 8-month-old son, Pete. Find Laurie on I Run for BMM [her daughter’s initials] and on Twitter.
For years, I had an on-again, off-again relationship with running. I would convince myself that I didn’t need running and that I was better off without it because, in the end, I always got hurt. A pesky IT band usually precipitated the break ups.
Running and I had been on the outs for some time and I assumed our relationship was over for good. Yet when I was pregnant for the first time, I discovered I truly missed running. When the option wasn’t there, I wanted it. Badly.
Then in June 2009, my daughter, Brienna, was born still. To put it mildly, I was devastated. I don’t remember my first run after she died, but I remember the one that changed everything. I was in Washington, D.C., with my husband, left to my own devices all day while he was at conferences. I decided to go for a short run along the Potomac River. It was 100 degrees out, and somehow I ended up getting lost and running more than three miles, further than I’d run in years. The “old me” never would have done that. But Brienna taught me that life is short and to take advantage of beautiful things. After my run, I was exhausted and surprised, but also proud of myself. And for the first time in a long time, I felt…not horrible.
Running became my lifeline. It kept me afloat in the sea of grief I was trying not to drown in. Every time I laced my sneakers, I felt a connection to Brienna. It was because of her that I ventured out on my own in D.C. I continued to run and at some point, my sister asked me if I’d be interested in running a half marathon in Brienna’s memory. I was definitely interested, but not sure I was capable.
Turns out I was. My sister and I had T-shirts made with Brienna’s name and footprints and started with a 10K. Five months after the birth and death of my little girl, I ran a half marathon.
Almost as soon as I’d finished, I knew I wanted to run a marathon, too. I signed up for an “early spring” marathon at the end of February 2010. Training was brutal, with most of it being done on the treadmill. But every time I felt like giving up, I touched my necklace with Brienna’s name on it and I thought of her. I reminded myself I would be running for less time than I got to hold her. It got me through every single run.
The day of the marathon, I was petrified. I felt like an imposter and half convinced myself that I couldn’t do it. The race was far from perfect. But at Mile 20 (it really is the last 10K that’s the hardest!), I distinctly remember feeling Brienna with me. I started to cry and at that point, I realized I was going to finish. At the end of the race, I ran to my husband and just cried. I was a marathon mama—and I was so proud.
Three weeks after the marathon, in memory of Brienna, several of my running friends and I ran a half-marathon complete with cheerleaders. I accomplished my sub-2:00 goal, and my feelings of being an imposter disappeared.
So why do I run? I run for BMM. I run because it keeps me sane when I feel anything but. And when I run, I can’t help but feel and extra connection with Brienna. And by virtue of that, I’m able to share Brienna with those that never got to meet her. These days, I run with my original running buddy, our dog, Bailey, and my newest running buddy, Pete.
But perhaps my best running buddy is my angel, Brienna. She inspires me to be better than I think I can be and to run because I can. My relationship with running has been cemented because of her, and for that, I’m forever grateful.