Runners are often asked, “Why do it?” Especially in my case when it means getting up at 5am for half the week. My answer, “Nothing makes me feel as strong or empowered.” But for me to understand why that is, I have to look back to when I was at my weakest and most out of control.
My second son Oscar was ten days old when he was admitted to hospital because of a dangerously high fever and breathing problems. My husband and I were instantly whisked away into a room full of six medical staff while Oscar was given blood tests, a catheter, a chest x-ray and a lumbar puncture. Tubes were wedged in his nose and he was put on oxygen for four days. Every time they took him off I begged, “please, let him be okay” only for him to be placed back on. I spent five long, scary nights in hospital not knowing if he would survive.
Looking back this event might have triggered post-traumatic stress disorder. I can’t say for sure though because I struggle to talk about it, even to doctors. The months that followed were awash with guilt and fear. Barely a day went by I didn’t randomly burst into tears. I spent hours in bed, searching for solace in the bottom of ice-cream tubs and packets of Tim Tams. I knew something had to change when the weight was piling on and I didn’t have the energy to kick a ball with my toddler.
When I saw the Facebook ad for Boobs on the Run I mentioned it to my sister who convinced me to join. It wasn’t easy. I attended two runs and quit. Then I joined again the next term. My run leader Aoiffe suggested we go running together in the mornings. We would make the plan the night before and, unlike the night runs, I felt too guilty to cancel last minute, especially if she had woken up at stupid o’clock to meet me.
Eight months later and I’m running 3-4 times a week, including night runs, and my energy has come back in spades. Now I always have the energy to kick a ball with my son. Best of all, I am surrounded by a group of beautiful and supportive women who bring me more joy than they could ever realise.
I also try to run by myself once a week because that’s when I plan out my day or week or month or life. That’s when I tell myself kind thoughts and come to terms with the sad ones.
I used to believe I ran to escape the dark feelings but running is more than just forgetting. When I’m pounding the pavement it reminds me I can push through guilt, shame and fear. I run because it gives me the strength to accept who I am and empowers me to be the best me.