The first time I felt pain while running was the fall of ’88. After going through puberty, eighth-grade gym class was not something I enjoyed. My spindly body that used to be able to cut through air while running on the playground was gone, long gone. I felt the weight of my full hips and breasts with every step around the track, and I decided that day I would never be a runner, not on purpose anyway.
I didn’t play sports in high school (because running), but sometimes after school my girlfriends and I would pull on our cute Spandex and dash around downtown, our high ponytails bouncing in unison until we hit a wall — usually after a mile or so. And by “sometimes,” I think we did this three times in six years and would visit the local Dairy Bar afterwards for a hot fudge sundae, which was the only reason I would join in. I still thought running sucked the big one, but I did it for the ice cream and conversation.
During college, I walked a lot and taught step aerobics, but running was never thrown into the mix because I believed something that is just not true: You are either born a runner or you are not, and I certainly was not.
I believed this until I was 35 and saw a beautiful woman running down the street after wrestling my kindergartner and his tantruming younger siblings into the car after pickup time. She wore black running tights, and her stride was effortless. She kept her pace as she floated up a steep hill, and as I slowed down while passing her in the comfort of my warm SUV, her smile was convincing. She loved running. She looked glorious. I looked down at the temperature display in my car which told me it was 2 degrees outside. She looked so free and crazy. I wanted to be free and crazy too. I will be a runner someday, I told myself.
My crazy didn’t come until a few years later, a month after my 39th birthday to be exact. My kids were older and no longer as physically demanding. They were in school full-time, and one day I finally decided to just start running. I didn’t just want to; I had to. I was slower than a sloth scratching his left ass cheek, but I didn’t give a damn. I wanted to prove myself wrong, I wanted to kick my own ass. I would do this.
When I was done, I felt depleted and filled up all at the same time. You might want to punch me for saying this, but it was the start of a life change, a mind change, a soul change. It was something I had needed to do for a while. I just didn’t realize it because I wasn’t ready, and I didn’t believe I could. I just had to wait until the time was right. The time was right when I decided to do it for me, because I loved myself and my body, not because I hated my reflection in the mirror.
I haven’t stopped running since that day.
Now that my kids are older, I wake early some mornings, pull on my running clothes, and stand on my front porch and watch the sunrise while the rest of my family sleeps. Only for a minute though. I greet the morning by running toward it. And when I am done with my daily ceremony, it is easier for me to get caught up in the daily chaos because I know what I have waiting for me the next day; some time just for me to be free, lost in my own thoughts. No anxiety, no to-do list, nobody calling my name.
So if you are in the trenches with your kids, with life, and really want to get out there and bike, run, ski, or do something that makes you feel crazy and free, give yourself time, and trust you will find “your thing” that you just can’t live without. And don’t sit there and say you can’t or it is too hard, because you can do it.
You know how I know? Because you are raising children, and trust me, once you do that, you can do anything.