Growing up, I was never a runner. I played sports, mostly soccer and basketball, and my idea of running back then was running towards a ball; running towards a goal. It wasn’t until I moved down to Tennessee and I started putting on the newlywed weight that I decided to give running a try. I don’t enjoy going to gyms. Finding the motivation to get dressed and drive to a gym, all to work out and then come home seemed a waste of crucial time that could be spent doing other fun things. Running, however, was cheap, quick, and effective – all that required was a good pair of running shoes – and just stepping out the front door. As with all things, before I started running, I read books about working up to run longer distances, and before I knew it I was able to work up to running 5-6 miles at a time. Not only was I able to run farther and farther, I was finding that I actually enjoyed it.
This newfound hobby of mine took a short break after getting pregnant with Will. I started out continuing my morning runs, but once the nausea and fatigue set in, I took a break. By the time I felt like I had energy to give running another try, I was too far along in my pregnancy and felt nervous about starting back up again. I also started grad school shortly after having my first baby, and between going to school and taking care of a newborn baby, I had my hands full. Running took a backseat for awhile.
I’ll never forget the day I started running again. It was the very next day after I graduated from my master’s program. I was tired of having no energy, I felt flabby and sluggish and wanted to feel like myself again. After a few weeks of struggling to get through a mile, I slowly started to gain my strength back and was able to start adding more mileage. It was then that I decided to train for a half marathon. It was a bucket list item of mine, and a goal to focus on. Having had no job prospects after graduating with my nurse practitioner degree, I was feeling frustrated in that aspect of my life, and running helped me cope with the stress and uncertainty I was feeling.
Shortly after I decided to train for this race, it was becoming more and more evident that my mom’s health was failing. She had been battling stage IV breast cancer for almost three years at that point, and the tumors in her spine were beginning to cause a lot of pain. By Christmas, she had been hospitalized twice for pain management. In January, she started radiation to try and alleviate the pain the tumors in her spine were causing, and by April we found the cancer had spread to her brain. Two weeks before I ran my race, my mom entered hospice care.
Running not only provided stress relief, it also provided a sense of control. I couldn’t control the cancer spreading through my mom’s body, but I could control how far I ran. It provided a great distraction. I also took the opportunity to raise money for breast cancer research. My mom spent years of her life supporting breast cancer research, and it was my turn to fight for her. My mom was able to cheer me on as I ran my half marathon for her, and less than a month later she passed away.
Now when I run, I feel her presence with me. When the sun shines through the clouds, I imagine her cheering me on, watching me from above.
Just this past Saturday, my friend and I ran the Nashville half marathon. This was the second half marathon I have now completed. I wore the same pink shirt I wore when my mom saw me run, and this time I attached a sign that read “In Loving Memory of Mom” to the back of my race shirt. The sun was shining, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, and I knew my mom was there cheering me on. I was proud to run this race, and the one before that, in front of my kids – I want to be a strong mother for my children, just like my mother was to me.