how running became my therapy

It’s no secret that when I started running more seriously in 2015, I had a real love/hate relationship with the sport. I grew up swimming competitively, and I convinced myself at an early age that I was incapable of running. The hatred of running and resolve that I was not able to run just festered through the years, and even when we ran for dryland in college, I was awful. Fun fact: if you convince yourself enough that you suck at something, you will suck at it.

But when I completed my NCAA eligibility, I was technically done with swimming and retired at the ripe age of 22…leaving me with a giant athletic void that I struggled to fill. Sure, I’ve competed at open water swimming since then, but training swimming as a working mom with children is incredibly hard, and I needed a different outlet. After having Spencer in 2014, I decided that I would try to run; but for real this time.

image courtesy of joe viger photography

We set an original goal of doing our first half marathon in 2015 – the Lake Placid Half Marathon. And, we did it. I went 2:38.10 with about half the training I probably should have done, but I was inspired. We entered our second half marathon – the Empire State Half Marathon – in October 2015, when I was 14 weeks pregnant with Porter. I dropped 28 minutes and went 2:10.17. I was hooked, but pregnancy did a number on my psyche and my fitness, and I pretty much lost it all again.

After having Porter, I decided to get down to business, and I entered the lottery for the 2017 Chicago Marathon in late 2016, and I received an entry. This past year, I finished my third and fourth half marathons (NJ Half Marathon and Lake Placid again), and I did my first marathon in October. If you ask me today if I love running, I’ll heartily say yes – which is a far cry from where my running journey started.

I’m sure you’ve all heard that exercise releases endorphins, and it does. I love working out, but running never came easy to me, and I think that’s why I’ve ended up loving it after all these years. Running is a physical and mental challenge. I went from being unable to run a mile to running nearly 5 times a week because I chose to, and that’s made all the difference.

One of the best things about running is that anyone can do it. I know, I know…people will argue that, but it’s true. Barring physical ailments, anyone can do it. You don’t need a gym membership. You don’t need fancy gear unless you’re training seriously (and even then, it’s somewhat debatable). You don’t need to go anywhere except out of your door. And, better yet, you get what you give with the sport. Put the effort in, and you’ll get more out of it – in spades. When I run, it’s just me, my watch, and the great outdoors (or the dreadmill). I can choose to watch my pace, or I can choose to run for fun. And, I can truly say that I’ve never regretted a run.

I can get out there in the worst mood, bogged down by work, stressed and overwhelmed, and I can finish with a clear head, a new focus, and a peace in my heart. Moving is the answer to everything for me, and when anxiety takes its toll, running beats it right out of me. The same goes for depression. Give yourself the gift of movement, and your body will thank you tenfold. Yes, running is hard. Yes, there are a lot of days that running doesn’t seem like the answer, but 99% of the time, it is – at least for me.

Have you found a sport or outlet that does this for you? I’d love to hear!