Sometimes I need to catch my breath when I'm running. Sometimes it's just living that seems to have the same effect.
Lately, even though I'm training for my first half marathon, the RunRaleigh Half Marathon on Sunday, life has left me with some pretty breathless, exhausting moments.
I launched this Runner Moms series in early March as I began training for the race. At the time, two relatives - a paternal uncle and my maternal grandfather - were ill. Within twelve days last month, we lost both.
It was the last of one generation to go and the first of another. Life seemed to stand still for a bit as I followed reports from family members about their health, prepared for the losses and made plans to travel to the Midwest to remember and honor the lives of these two hard-working, family-loving men. Both had served their country, but in different ways. My uncle was a retired lieutenant colonel. My grandpa was a retired farmer.
I was able to see my grandfather at his lake home in Indiana for the last time the day before I attended my uncle's funeral in Michigan. I treasure those few hours I was able to spend with him. I saw his huge wide smile one last time and laughed with him when he made a joke about how much he hated peanut butter.
When I left, I gave his frail body a big hug, looked into his eyes and told him I loved him. And he told me he loved me too. He died exactly a week later, almost to the hour.
So what does any of this have to do with running? A lot.
There were some hard moments as I spoke with family members about their comfort levels. I wondered how I could tell my eight-year-old daughter that she was about to lose her great grandpa. She followed him everywhere when we'd visit, helping him tend the garden or fish or watch his favorite game shows. And I felt helpless as I watched my own parents grieve.
But instead of holing up in my house and fretting about it all the time, I had an outlet. During my regular morning runs, I could forget about it all and listen to my running partners talk about their lives and kids. Or I could talk about it. The routine and training gave me something to prepare for and focus on beyond the sadness in my family's life.
And it helped me keep some weight off because, apparently, when times are tough, I like to go hunting in the cupboards for chocolate.
The travel for the funerals meant I didn't have as much time for the longer runs that I was supposed to complete as part of our half marathon training schedule. But I always made time to run. Four miles in Michigan. Six miles in Indiana. And a few miles in Asheville, where I spent spring break with my kids and dad.
In Indiana, I ran around the rural roads that my grandpa drove on for decades. Passed the corn fields, barns and cozy lake houses. It was early morning. The sun was rising in the sky. It was so quiet.
I stopped for a moment to take a deep breath. And I knew that was exactly where I needed to be.
This is the latest post in our Runner Moms series, which continues next week with a feature on a local mom running the Boston Marathon, tips for running up big hills and how to make running a family affair. Oh ... and I'll update you on my finish at the half marathon this weekend.