To understand my love affair with running you must understand how I became a runner. Here goes…..
I have always been a lost soul and knew there was something different about me compared to all my friends. My American dream did not included a husband, kids, house, work, and the white picket fence. My ambitions included just me and the random people I would meet along the way. I dreamed of moving place to place, experiencing new and different environments, cultures and life. I wanted to live and see as much as I could before my life came to an end.
Long story short, as I was graduating high school I received a phone call that would change my life. My best friend was killed in a car wreck. I had no idea how to cope, so I kept moving forward. I enrolled in college and tried to stay focused, it was one of the hardest things I had encountered. My freshman year was spent extremely intoxicated. I was lost, sad, and confused. I woke up one morning and realized I could not continue on this path. I was forcing myself to go to college which I was not prepared for, I was paying for classes I rarely attended, and I had no clue what major I wanted to study. My mind was too foggy and my heart too broken to focus on everything I did not want. Shortly after what I refer to as my “awaking,” I explained to my parents I was not ready for college and I needed to find myself (thank God I have understanding folks).
I thought New York City would be the best place for me to “find myself.” I was not moving to become famous but I was moving to be completely uncomfortable. To live with strangers, figure out a new city, and find out what I truly wanted. My mom helped me pack and rented a big yellow Penske truck. Her and I began my big city dream. My mom is a very strong and extremely understanding woman. Now that I am a mother I can not image dropping my daughter off at Penn Station and leaving her. I moved there shortly after 9/11 which meant there were a lot of officers, soldiers, dogs, guns, and people. Here I was a young 21 year old freckle face girl from Kentucky standing in all the madness. Everything was moving around me and I stood still as I watched my mom board her train. I was alone for the first time in a long time. No alcohol to hide behind. Just me.
My mom wrote me a lovely letter on her train ride to the airport. I still have it and read it often. Instead of scolding me over the choices I had made recently she told me how proud she was of my independence and determination. Wow, someone was proud of me? I wasn’t even proud of myself, nor did I like the person I was turning into.
While in New York I met a beautiful man at a night club, I was too drunk to remember the name or what part of town I was in. All that matter was I was no longer alone. I found someone out of the 6 million people on the 12 mile island. This man seem to want all the things I wanted. He had no plans to marry and he just wanted to live an exciting life. He helped me mark off things on my bucket list, like eat dinner on the top of a building in Time Square, ice skate in Central Park, pick blueberries, visit the Pocono mountains, see a Broadway play, go to a Phillies game, and so on. He was helping me figure out what I wanted. It was truly exciting.
After a couple of years in the Big Apple I had to sadly return home to deal with some family issues. My family was falling apart piece by piece and I was 800 miles away having the time of my life. I felt too much guilt to stay so I returned home. I will never forget my mom arriving in front of our brownstone with the big yellow Penske truck to take me home. I felt emptiness, darkness, hopelessness.
The New Yorker and I decided to continue on with our relationship. We each flew back and forth every month to spend time with one another. We knew I would be moving back up there, eventually. With time are connection began to grow further and further apart. He started his own life and it did not include me. I was enraged with emotions. I had lost another important person in my life, how can this keep happening to me? I grew more depressed with each day and I rapidly began to loose weight. The pounds were falling off so quickly I did not notice how gaunt I appeared. I was nothing but bones, I lost all contact with my friends, I only left the house to work, and I hugged my phone in hopes the New Yorker would call. He never did.
After months of tears I woke up with anger! How could I allow another person to make me feel this way, turn me into something I am not, WEAK?! I pulled out my bucket list, it was time to do something for me and it had to be big and impressive. I saw, “Run a Marathon.” It was the perfect way to get over someone. All the long training hours would occupy my mind and I could say I finished an entire marathon. That day I Googled training schedules and found one that lead me on my path to finishing my first marathon.
I began training for the 2005 Chicago Marathon. From all my research I found it was a great first marathon. The course was flat, lots of spectators, lots of fellow runners, a big expo, and it was not too far to travel. At first training was tough, it was long hours and it left me feeling weak and defeated. After a while it felt amazing, liberating, extraordinary. For the first time I was taking care of myself. I was not self destructing, I was picking up the pieces and putting myself back together. I thought of my friend who had passed away 4 years before my training began, the great experiences I had in New York, my family, college, life. I thought for hours on my long runs. I never found answers but I found clarity.
I enrolled at the University of Louisville, I went to class, I studied, I worked, and I ran. I had little time to be social because I was so focused. All I wanted to do was run. I graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Sports Administration and Exercise Science. I was finding my place in the world all because I started running.
An so my affair began……