What 5 Women Learned About Life (and Themselves) Through Running
Read inspiring stories from a community of women who encourage each other to lace up their sneakers—especially when it feels like there isn’t a minute to spare.
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 isnât a minute to spare. In fact, especially when it feels like there isnât 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 âtransformative power of a mile.â
Here, we share 5 crazy-inspiring epiphanies from those writers:
âWhen 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 motherhoodâthree things that can wear your ass outâseem unbearably hard, there is always a piece of joy to uncover. Right here. Right now.â
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âAfter climbing for what feels like a year, the trail loops down a canyon and curves into wide switchbacks that cross the broadening valley. With gravityâs assist, I relax into the effort. First, it simply feels less painful. Eventually I stop thinking and simply run. Iâm 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. Itâs 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, Iâve 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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âWhen I run, my mind takes a deep, yogic, cleansing breath. The rhythm of my feet creates a mental peace Iâve been unable to find anywhere else: not in church, meditation, a therapistâs office, or [my husbandâs] arms. On a run, choosing joy feels as effortless as blitzing down a hill. On a run, my glass isnât half empty; itâs as full and refreshing as the water bottle I clutch in my hand. On a run, all those things on Lululemon bagsâdance, sing, floss, travel, be happyâseem like great ideas, not admonitions of what I am not inclined to do. I rarely feel worry or anguish on a run. Iâve shed tears on a run, but even when itâs been in relation to a death or something similarly traumatic, gratefulness and loveânot depressionâbrought on the waterworks.
Running, I am the person I want to be when I am standing still.â
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âSince running my first 50K, everything Iâve learned about ultrarunning Iâve learned through trial and error. Iâve never worn a heart-rate monitor. I donât have a coach or a training plan, and I donât track my stats or compete on Strava or even wear a watch. Maybe Iâd 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
âEach of my titlesâmother, writer, runnerâhas been earned through sleepless nights, countless drafts, miles that never seem to end. Each is important, each a vital part of my identity. And itâs when these titles roll into one another seamlessly that I am left full, content, inching up toward full-blown happy.
âMom, are you running today,â [my five-year-old son] asks, snuggling under my chin. Iâm 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.
âYes, but itâs cold out there,â I say. âIâm just trying to prepare myself for it, for the cold, you know?â
âYeah, I know,â he says, nodding like a veteran road runner, as if he really does know.
âYou should put on a warm coat, Momâand your socks.â
âThanks, sweet potato. I will.â