I believe in running through the pain.
Five years ago, my mom’s suicide brought me incomprehensible pain. I was strong, I knew, but too weak on too many days to feel right about my place in the world. I was not yet 30, and knew my mother wouldn’t be there to see me married, give birth or take part in joys large and small in my life. My joys, I felt, would be mine alone.
Two years after her death, a small cache of money was found in my mother’s forgotten savings account. My brother and I, her only heirs, split the amount evenly. And I decided $200 would buy running shoes and pay a race registration fee. I decided I would run from that hurt using that forgotten windfall to honor her.
It was an apt metaphor for my need to escape pain. There was too much of it, and it was an impossible competitor, always sneaking up on me and beating me.
This idea of escaping on my own two feet let me imagine a sense of solace. The opportunity to focus considerable hours actively doing nothing, was even more appealing.
And so I joined a local running club and signed up to run a marathon. Among the group of experienced marathoners and half-marathoners, I was the only one who couldn’t run a mile on our first training run. It didn’t matter to me. I’d lost so much already, witnessed the hurts of my family in the years since my mother’s lonely suicide, it was obvious to me I wasn’t winning the race to outrun pain or any other competitor.
We met three days a week for short runs in town and long runs through the Wyoming prairie. I walked many of those miles. I ran a lot of those miles. I collapsed exhausted at home, grinning wildly and confident that if I could run 12 miles, I could run 13 and if I could run 13, I could definitely run 26.2 miles.
After each run, long or short, I felt strong. Not necessarily stronger than the day before, but I’d discovered on those miles of gravel and blacktop a reserve of strength and in the early early morning quiet a crucial sense of peace when I needed it most. I found that reserve and peace in me.
On Sept. 25, 2005, I completed a Boulder, Colo., marathon in a time undesirable to those who care more about controlling hours than enjoying the minutes we do have.
I’ve run ever since, a 10 K here and there. A half-marathon last year. Always I return to one idea: I’m at the finish line and I can keep running because I am that strong.
I still cry for my mother. I still cry for me. I run so we might both be able to beat back the pain.
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