Here’s the first on what I hope are many guest blogs from my wife Laura. I hope you all love it as much as I do.
Take it away Laura.
If you want to run a faster mile, half marathon or marathon, ask Steve. If you need a strategy to achieve a BQ, ask Steve. If you have any sort of question on how to make yourself a better runner, ask Steve.
Running for me takes on an entirely different purpose; and one that I didn’t even realize until quite recently.
I’ve been running for over 10 years. As a collegiate field hockey player, running made me better at my sport. It made me faster on the dribble, faster to the net, and faster to recover on defense. Running was always a supplement to field hockey.
Senior year of college, my mother died unexpectedly. My Dad called me at six am one morning and told me ‘Mom died’. At first I thought he told me that my dog died. I had to ask him again. She died of a massive heart attack. We didn’t even knowhow she died for six months. We had to wait for toxicology reports to tell us. She wasn’t sick and I never knew I’d need to say goodbye the night before when I talked to her on the phone.
With the help of my friends, I packed a few bags to head home. I still remember this. I packed running clothes and threw my sneakers in too.
Being at home was a whirlwind and the time carried that sensation you see in the movies after a soldier takes cover close to a bomb. You can see, but everything around you moves in slow motion and you can’t hear anything. It was an incredibly sad and overwhelming week. You’re happy to see your family and the people you love together but you make a million wishes that it wasn’t happening and that everyone would go home. No one’s died. There’s nothing to gather for. I was restless and crawling out of my skin. I couldn’t sit still.
I’ve always been an over compensator in social situations. I’d rather I be uncomfortable than anyone else. I was falsely put together during services and when anyone talked to me about my Mom. My world had literally come to a screeching halt and I was politely thanking everyone for coming and making small talk. On the inside I was SCREAMING.
How could this have happened to me? Why did this happen to me? Did anyone else feel like their insides were on fire and nothing could be done to put it out?
One morning after a night of literally staring at my ceiling, I put running clothes on and snuck out of the house for an early morning run. I ran probably 3 or 4 miles. Nothing drastic changed. But I felt a little calmer.
During that week home, I probably ran another 2 times. Again, it didn’t do anything resembling healing, but I felt like I could sit still. It made me feel better in those few miles.
After college, running became my thing. I religiously ran 5 times a week. I’d keep a journal of my runs, where I’d gone and how long I went for and how I felt during. Running became something to focus on. I admittedly became very obsessive with getting in those 5 runs and would often cancel social commitments to get them in. It just gave me what I needed. Some may call it a running addiction but to me it made me feel whole and normal.
Fast forward 11 years and I’ve run ten marathons, countless half marathons and many, many other races. I’ve spent so many early Saturday and Sunday mornings hitting the pavement for 10, 15 or 20 mile runs training. I’ve crossed the finish line running an amazingly fast (for me, and probably a fluke) 3:37 at Disney. There was also a dismal 4:21 this past April at Boston. It was a death march. Every step I wanted to quit.
In July, after a two week vacation with Steve where I went to the gym almost every day but only ran twice, I had an epiphany. I was sick of running. I hated getting up early to run, I hated every step of my run and while I did feel better after, I would already start dreading the next run. I felt like I was spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere.
So I quit. I decided I would give up running for at least a few months and joined a gym where I started spinning and lifting weights. The classes were hard and I felt gutted after getting through a challenging weight workout.
But something was off. I was mad; I was anxious; I was in a permanent bad mood. I had also gained weight which as some of my closest people know, sets me off like nothing else. I was in a bad state. I also suffer from serious anxiety, something which has been a part of my life for the past eleven years; maybe not a coincidence. It is something I’ve dealt with and worked on and most of the time I have it under control. However, after I ‘quit’ running, it came back with a vengeance. Suddenly the couch at home was the only place I felt OK.
One day I didn’t have time to go to the gym during work and wanted to get in a workout so I put on my running clothes and headed out for a short run. I hated and loved it. I hated it b/c it was hard. I had taken some time off and surprised to see how quickly my endurance had gone down, even with spinning workouts. But, oh, how I loved it. I had 40 minutes to think about what was bothering me, why I was feeling off, what I needed to do to get through a massive project at work. I thought about how someone had pissed me off and was able to tell them off in my head. I thought about our dog’s epilepsy and how anxious it made me. I thought about my Mom. I thought about a time the five us sat around the dinner table together at our house in Mansfield and we made my mom laugh so hard that she had mascara running down her face and she just could not stop laughing. I thought about how I wished she was around for Christmas, she loved it so much (I secretly listen to Christmas carols in my car all year round because it reminds me of her). I thought about how much I missed her and what I’d tell her about my life.
So one run led to another run which led to another one. These aren’t long runs. These aren’t training runs with time goals in mind. These are purely therapy runs.
I realized what was missing that made me such a miserable person. Running is the one hour per day where I don’t focus on anything else but myself and what’s going on in my life. If I have a problem at work, I think it out on my run. If I’m mad at someone I have an imaginary conversation with them where I verbally berate them in my head and then I feel better. I think about my family. I also think about my Mom, a lot. It’s my medicine.
After my Mom died, my Dad became very emotionally unavailable. I can’t blame him; he had just lost his wife of 34 years. But the day my mother died felt like the day I lost both parents. It was also the time I discovered running. Running saved me from a hugely dark time in my life when I was by myself. Initially it gave me a distraction; something to focus on. But it became my church and my family.
Running is an amazing sport. You have the ability to work to achieve huge goals with marathons and races. It makes you fitter, healthier, mentally sharper. But it also has the ability to be your therapy, your friend, your savior. It’s your church at 8am on a Sunday morning. Maybe I’ll see some of you out there, attending the church of the pavement. Happy running.