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Why I Run: Laurie Marr


Laurie and her sister after her first 26.2

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. 

Love from up above: Laurie's friends and cheerleaders

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. 

Laurie, her son, Pete, and dog, Bailey

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.

13 responses to “Why I Run: Laurie Marr

  1. Earlier this month, I lost our son at 16 weeks gestation. His birth was very peaceful, but I encountered some very serious complications that could have cost me my life. I am grateful to the medical professionals and blood, plasma and platelet donors that saved me. Not quite 3 weeks after leaving the hospital, I was able to run (okay…jog) again. Thank you all for sharing the stories of your angels. It gives me inspiration that, while I’ll never be the same, I can at least find some peace through my running knowing my angel is with me.

  2. Laurie – Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m a mother runner who always has my angel riding on my shoulder. I was thinking the other day how I would like to find someone to make me a running tee shirt with an angel on my back left hand side of the shirt. Kylee somehow keeps me going on my runs. I know she is with me each step I take. I lost my 1st daughter to Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia. ( you can learn more about CDH at http://www.cherubs-cdh.org/ ) She was with us for 1 day. I’ve been a runner since middle school on and off. But since losing our daughter ( 12 years ago & 4 other kids later – they are all healthy) Running has taken on a whole new meaning/level for me. I also do it for the connection with Kylee. I had to start running inside on the mill with all the other kids at home. I’ve been able to start trail running & It’s like something beautiful has happened to me on the trails. I feel closer to her than ever. I also have a running buddy who joins me. My 2 year old Elodie ( coach curly ). When I can I take the other kids out to run with me at different times. This week I took my son ( 8) with me on an 8 mile run & I was a mush ball. I felt Kylee with us the whole time. I saw my son get lost in his own thoughts on the trail. I can’t explain the feeling that comes with running & having her with me. I’ve read all the other posts & I can relate to them all. Once again, I’m so glad I found this group. Keep up the great work other mother runners. You all are fantastic. Long live a good run to help keep me sane & on my toes for all the other people I need to support each day.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing. I have a beautiful baby girl and a wonderful son. Your story reminds me if nothing else…do not sweat the small stuff. I hope to be an inspiration for others on my journey to fitness and you are now my inspiration. Thank you!

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. I can relate in some ways as I began my distance running career shortly after my daughter was diagnosed with a kidney disease for which there is no cause or cure. I run to let go of the unknown and that which I can not control. When I feel like I can’t keep going, I think of her struggles and push through. I run because I can.

  5. Laurie, as another mother runner (who also lost a child, my son passed at 7 months old, 13 years ago) I understand what it’s like to feel connected to her when you run. I didn’t begin running till 2 years ago. When I am out pounding the pavement, I can feel my son beside me. It’s my time with him. I have 2 other children (a son and a daughter) who love running as much as me (whenever I do a 5k, they do the fun runs!). I’m running my first 26.2 in May, and I’ll have my little guy with me, along with my husband and kids. 🙂

  6. I’ve been a runner since my freshman year in college. Running got me through the deepest, darkest time of my life 13 years ago after our second child died after living for only 4 hours and 17 minutes. I had had a C-section, and I remember the doctor telling me to wait for 6 weeks at the earliest before trying to run again. I lasted 2 1/2 weeks. I needed to run in the worst way to help me understand this grief I was in. I barely made it to the end of the block, but I felt like I had taken the first baby step to becoming “normal” again (because after losing a child, are you ever really normal ever again?). We went on to have a third child, who is 12 and is healthy as a horse, but it’s my daily runs that I treasure because that’s when I get to “catch up” and chat with Christopher.

    Thank you for writing this post.

  7. When my first daughter was born they told me she wouldn’t live through her first 48 hours and the first time I’d hold her was after she had passed. Miraculously she pulled through and is now 19 years old, but sitting alone in the hospital watching her body fight and planning her funeral will always be ingrained in who I am. I’m so sorry for your loss and grateful for your example and attitude. I don’t pretend to know why things happen but I do feel a tremendous amount of faith that everything’s for a reason.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story. I had 3 friends lose their babies (2 stillborn, 1 at 11 days old) and it so devastating. I think running a marathon on your daughters honor is a beautiful tribute.

  9. Laurie, I’m a fellow mother of a stillborn baby, and I just want to say how wonderful it is that you are appreciating all the gifts that Brienna has given you. I, too, touch my necklace with my child’s name on it when the going gets tough. It really works, doesn’t it? My best wishes to you!

  10. Thank you for sharing your story, Laurie! My 3rd daughter was born stil in January 2009 and I started running three months later. It was the one thing that helped me truly heal. Wishing you much peace.

  11. Well… you have made this man, hard bit rascal that he is, tear up. And yeah, I am sure your Brienna was running with you. She’s your angel running mate.

    Excuse me while I spit on the floor and talk of manly things now. Thanks though, for reminding me of our family that we will join in eternity. And that’s what Earth is all about, n’est pas?

    You keep running Ms. Laurie. Brienna loves running with you. You will raise her in the millennium and have every second and every day with her, had she been here with you. But she will never have to experience the pain and horrors of this time on Earth.

    Take good care,
    Rascal

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