What 5 Women Learned About Life (and Themselves) Through Running
Five years ago, Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea wrote a bookÂ calledÂ Run Like a Mother,Â encouraging moms everywhere to lace up their sneakers, even when it feels like there isnâ€™t a minute to spare. In fact, especially when it feels like there isnâ€™t a minute to spare.
The two friendsÂ were delighted as the book's websiteÂ turned into a popular gathering place for time-strapped mothers-slash-runners to share advice and inspiration. Last week, theyÂ put out a new book to celebrate the spirit of that community. Tales from Another Mother Runner ($15, amazon.com) is a collection of thoughtful essays by women who believe in the â€œtransformative power of a mile.â€
Here, we share 5 crazy-inspiring epiphanies from those writers:
â€œWhen I look back, I realize running had been trying to teach me [about joy] for many years. A jiggly, leaky, excruciating postpartum run. A heaving, triple-jogger run to find some sanity. A who-the-hell-am-I-anymore-anyway, mother-of-toddlers run. An oh-shit-my-life-is-falling-apart run. A divorce recovery fun: If I can run x miles, I can do everything else ahead of me. Marathon training runs that seemed to last all day. Ultramarathon training runs that seemed to last for days on end. My-teenage-kids-are-making-me-crazy reset runs. Runs jet-fueled by breakup misery. Solidarity runs beside a grieving friend. I was always running, but never running away; I was always running toward.
All of it, every single mile, was bringing me from there to here, teaching me joy, the best part, exists right here, right now. Even when running or marriage or motherhoodâ€”three things that can wear your ass outâ€”seem unbearably hard, there is always a piece of joy to uncover. Right here. Right now.â€
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â€œAfter climbing for what feels like a year, the trail loops down a canyon and curves into wide switchbacks that cross the broadening valley. With gravityâ€™s assist, I relax into the effort. First, it simply feels less painful. Eventually I stop thinking and simply run. Iâ€™m rewarded with endorphins that remind me of how my stomach flipped the night before, when Jeff hugged me goodnight. I recall all of the excitement and none of the frustration. Itâ€™s actually quite simple, I realize. I like Jeff, and he likes me. Things will work out however they are meant to be. To be clear, this is not my natural default. Normally my monkey mind churns and worries and works against me. But this morning my arms pump, and I surge with strength.
By the time I glide home, Iâ€™ve remembered this: Sometimes the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other is all you need to see the world anew.â€
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â€œWhen I run, my mind takes a deep, yogic, cleansing breath. The rhythm of my feet creates a mental peace Iâ€™ve been unable to find anywhere else: not in church, meditation, a therapistâ€™s office, or [my husbandâ€™s] arms. On a run, choosing joy feels as effortless as blitzing down a hill. On a run, my glass isnâ€™t half empty; itâ€™s as full and refreshing as the water bottle I clutch in my hand. On a run, all those things on Lululemon bagsâ€”dance, sing, floss, travel, be happyâ€”seem like great ideas, not admonitions of what I am not inclined to do. I rarely feel worry or anguish on a run. Iâ€™ve shed tears on a run, but even when itâ€™s been in relation to a death or something similarly traumatic, gratefulness and loveâ€”not depressionâ€”brought on the waterworks.
Running, I am the person I want to be when I am standing still.â€
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â€œSince running my first 50K, everything Iâ€™ve learned about ultrarunning Iâ€™ve learned through trial and error. Iâ€™ve never worn a heart-rate monitor. I donâ€™t have a coach or a training plan, and I donâ€™t track my stats or compete on Strava or even wear a watch. Maybe Iâ€™d be a faster runner if I did, but I prefer to train from the inside: by feel, by listening to my body, by running from the heart rather than from my head, by focusing on the private joy of moving through nature on my own two feet. When I do this, I invariably run faster, stronger, farther, and happier.â€
â€œEach of my titlesâ€”mother, writer, runnerâ€”has been earned through sleepless nights, countless drafts, miles that never seem to end. Each is important, each a vital part of my identity. And itâ€™s when these titles roll into one another seamlessly that I am left full, content, inching up toward full-blown happy.
â€˜Mom, are you running today,â€™ [my five-year-old son] asks, snuggling under my chin. Iâ€™m sitting at my desk in my home office, looking out at the giant, snow-dusted spruce tree and inhaling the sweetness from his curly hair.
â€˜Yes, but itâ€™s cold out there,â€™ I say. â€˜Iâ€™m just trying to prepare myself for it, for the cold, you know?â€™
â€˜Yeah, I know,â€™ he says, nodding like a veteran road runner, as if he really does know.
â€˜You should put on a warm coat, Momâ€”and your socks.â€™
â€˜Thanks, sweet potato. I will.â€™