There was a time that when I ran, I ran alone. It started by accident, really. When my collegiate tennis career was over, I needed something to keep me active. I had always enjoyed running and had cheered my dad through marathons as a child. “Sure,” I thought, “why not run a marathon?” On a whim, I signed up for the 1999 Chicago Marathon, printed out a beginner’s training plan, and set out to run my first race ever. Yep. That’s right, my first race ever…a marathon. (Not something I would ever recommend!) I was 23 years old and my friends had no interest in running with me, especially while training for a marathon. So, I ran alone.
For a long time, I didn’t know how to run other than alone. I thought endurance running was supposed to isolating, time for reflection and self-examination. By suffering alone, I thought I would become stronger, more independent. And perhaps I did. The only time I ran with others was during a race, when all I wanted to do was finish as fast as possible. This mentality isn’t very conducive to making new running friends. So, I continued to run alone. But deep down, I envied the groups of people who gathered at the finish line to drink celebratory beers together.
This pattern continued for many years, until LIFE reared it’s ugly head and tossed me a curveball: a broken marriage. Surely I could run away from that on my own, too. It’s always worked in the past, running away from things that I don’t want to deal with, covering them with the cloak of “Serious Training”. Of course running will save me now, when I needed it the most! But with a broken marriage came a broken spirit, which inevitably led to a broken body. A body that refused to run. With no running, no marriage, and no family within 1,000 miles to help me with the day to day, hour to hour challenges of my life, I was left to run alone. But this time, I hit the wall.
It was at precisely this moment that I quietly stumbled upon a pack. A pack of strong, steadfast women who loved and accepted me despite my brokenness. They taught me to trust the pack to walk beside me while I was too broken to move and unable to run. With their support, I forged a new identity that put faith, love, family and forgiveness before everything else.
Healing takes time – lots of time – and things that have been broken are often never the same once they are put back together. For me, this is great news! Through my healing process, I was able to find gratefulness in ways I never dreamed possible. I chose to put the pieces of my life back together one piece at a time in an order that made me stronger than before. I believe that the marathon is a great metaphor for life: You can't change the mile behind you and you can't conquer the miles in front of you. You can only run the mile you are presently in and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. But now I know that I don't have to run alone.
These days, I’m so very grateful for my ability to run. I am grateful for an amazing pack of women who support me not only in running, but in life as well. I’m grateful for my reconciled marriage, a healthy family and supportive network of friends. I may never run the Boston Marathon or ever break my current PB. And you know what? That’s fine by me! My life is full of joy and I don’t want to miss a single minute of it worrying about the right gel flavour or negative splits or if my Garmin will pick up satellite reception. Now, I strive to be mindful of the past, hopeful for the future but always living in the present. My goal is to use my ability to run to bring health, happiness and inspiration to others around me. Join me on this journey of finding gratefulness in daily life and being present in the moment to enjoy it.