This I Believe

Laura - Canton, Michigan
Entered on October 4, 2006

Running From the Troll

Running is an event so powerful it can shape a life. The simple act of putting on a pair of shoes (Saucany girl myself- cute ones, white with a little yellow trim) and going outside, alone, quite, running. It can change your world.

I do not look like a runner. I am not tall and leggy. Very plainly put, I am short and somewhat hippy, pretty much Mom-shaped. In fact it was my shape that pushed me to run in the first place. My family had several pictures taken at an Easter brunch, eight months after my second son was born. I was mortified. I could not get over just how bad I truly looked. I had never really taken the time to look in the mirror. Now here it was in front of me, photographic evidence and graphic it was!

I had always been a relatively healthy person, but with two pregnancies in 22 months, I had put on a lot of extra pounds. I also felt myself losing my balance; things were not the same this time around. Was I so off the mark? Most books and T.V. shows have pictures of happy, glowing moms, ready to face anything life can hurl at them. I was never that good at dodge ball. It seemed that I was overwhelmed and under rested. They have names for this I learned … Baby Blues or Post Partum Depression.

I did not feel “depressed”. I had an image in my head that depressed people can’t get out of bed and don’t eat, are ill-tempered and bitter. Pretty much the grumpy troll under the Billy Goat Bridge, came to mind when I thought of a depressed individual. Not me, chubby mom of the most beautiful boys in the world. What did I have to be depressed about? I did not fit the bill; I had everything anybody could ever want. But still felt sad for no reason and that would lead into feeling stupid for being ungrateful which would lead right back around to feeling sad. What a vicious cycle. I did not understand that slowly I too was becoming that troll under the bridge.

I started to talk to a girlfriend, Christine, about everything that was going on in this new life as a mom of two and all the changes I have felt. I really didn’t know where to start. She told me she had a very similar experience and that running really helped her get out of her slump. Well, how about that? I could kill two birds with one stone here, multitasking at its finest. Slim down and chase away the troll at the same time. I’m in! “When, where, how often, what time? I’ll be there.” I said to her.

Her response to me was, “Run 3 to 5 times a week, more if you feel up to it or if you just need a break from the craziness.”

Christine set me up with a make shift schedule and gave me a copy of The Complete Book of Running for Women by Claire Kowalchik. The first day out there, I ran for a grand total of three minutes. What have I gotten myself into? How could I have asked a lawyer for running info and a schedule? Was I bound by any kind of contract to continue this torture? I called her up, and my “coach” as she was now referring to herself, gave me a pep talk about fat mom-jeans and bon-bons. The rest is a blur, but I got the point and I also got back out there. For the next few weeks, I walked and ran a little more each time out. By the end of that month, I had run my first nonstop mile. Oh, what joy and confidence that first mile brings! I had done it, so simple, but monumental in my world.

The task of putting one foot in front of the other seems so simplistic. I see my kids run all of the time, usually followed by shouts of joy, laughter and giggles. Running is a natural progression for children, lost on many adults. Running, in fact, does lead one to laugh more and can even lead to giggles if you let yourself enjoy the moment. This simple act of putting one foot in front of the other can build strength, confidence and better body image. I have found running to be very therapeutic in chasing off the ugly troll of post partum depression. This simple act of running has shaped me into a healthier person both mentally and physically.

I am not a fast runner. No records will be broken when I step out of the door, but we all know that slow and steady wins the race. The race against stress catching up with me. The race against letting myself go. The race to regain confidence lost to self doubt and negative thoughts. The race away from the ugly troll of post partum depression. I am still in this race of a lifetime.

I sometimes think about my talk with Christine and how much she helped by sharing her secret with me. Long ago, I wrote down her insight in bold black lettering, “Run 3-5 times weekly, more as needed”. I went so far as to put that note into my “unmentionable” drawer, as my mother would say. We all know what I mean, the drawer that contains the first things on when we get out of the shower and the last things off when changing into pajamas. I go to that drawer when I am most vulnerable, bare and unprotected from the creative layering many of us have mastered. I go to this drawer when I have to accept what I may feel, when I have let myself down and not gotten out to race the troll that day or feel the satisfaction of a job well done in winning this leg of the race. I never go a day without seeing this note, my constant reminder to run.