It’s nearly the start of running season again. While the temps haven’t fallen just yet, my time spent pounding the pavement has increased dramatically as I ramp up the mileage for that first half marathon. The Hero Half Marathon is almost here, and already I’m having dreams about it. Some good, where I cross the line with a PR (personal record). Some are awful, like last night’s where I’m at 9 miles in and snakes start chasing me. I was recounting the dream to my husband when he stopped me and asked me a really great question.
“Why this?” he asked, genuinely curious. “You have a full time job, you’re a mom, you take care of everything at home, you write. Now you’re telling me your four hour a week hobby is giving you nightmares. Why are you still doing it?”
I was kind of taken aback. Why am I getting up at 4:30 a.m. four times a week? What compels me to run until my legs actually ache, long before the sun comes up? Don’t I have enough on my plate as it is?
But as a mom, I’m sure you well know, so much of what I do is for other people. I can look at my waking days and the vast majority of time is spent doing things for everyone else. Packing lunches for my daughter. Folding my husband’s laundry. Working at my office. All work I love, mind you, but all for someone else.
Running is mine and mine alone. It’s time I spend investing in myself, pushing my boundaries, and clearing my head. I hate the phrase, “Running is cheaper than therapy”, because there is truly no substitute for good mental healthcare. But for me, it is time where I clear my thoughts and work out much of the stress in my life so it doesn’t carry over into other areas. I am most effective throughout my week when I take that time to consciously pour into myself.
I run because I like the way I look when I do. The number on the scale never moved much for me, but how I look and feel has totally changed. I have muscles for the first time in, well, ever. I don’t look like a body builder, but I see strength when I see my legs in the mirror. I don’t have a six pack, but I still run in just a sports bra because dang it, I like myself, and I don’t like heat strokes. I’m good with me, and I don’t have to cover up to feel secure – much to my mother’s chagrin.
And it’s completely changed my relationship with food, where I see it as what it truly is: fuel. It’s not calories that I will have to make equal out at the end of the day, but instead what I need to take care of myself and my body. Heck, I’m even drinking 96 ounces of water a day, something that a year or two ago seemed like an impossible feat.
Running has connected me to a whole amazing community I had no idea existed when I moved to Northwest Arkansas seven years ago. Every runner I’ve met is truly and genuinely kind; I’ve never met a runner on the trail who didn’t say, “Good morning,” even if it is an hour before dawn. I’ve made friends with fellow mothers where we pass the miles by commiserating and celebrating motherhood. I’ve made friends with runners who don’t have children yet, that remind me of all the things I am besides just mom. I’ve never felt judged for my pace or for missing a run. Instead I’ve found grace and encouragement and enthusiasm, something I now try to bring into my personal relationships, and give in copious amounts to myself.
So how could I run with all I have going? Quite simply, how could I not? I’ll never be a gold medalist, or likely even first in my age division at a big race. But what I have found instead is infinitely more valuable. I have found a strength in me I didn’t know I had, a grace for myself and others I didn’t think I was capable of giving. And now, when I look at my daughter and say, “You can do anything you set your mind to,” I can say it with the conviction of having done it for myself.