I'm not an athlete. I'm certainly not a runner unless it’s to the vending machine. As a kid, I was an annoying person who ate constantly and was thin. I had to pay that piper, of course, and later I developed better exercise habits but never ran ... that is, until I had my third daughter at 42. That little surprise brought lots of changes. I started drinking coffee. I started using birth control. And I started running.
It happened after a chance conversation with a friend who also has young children. We talked about difficulty finding exercise time. Somehow, I said I would start running with her in the mornings.
We started an early routine where we typically run twice a week at 5:45 am, and often once on the weekend, usually later. Our friendship has deepened. We know where the bodies are buried. Eight months after our first conversation, we ran a half marathon.
It was just unbelievable to me (and most people who know me) that I'd done it. I felt wonderful, and I felt positive about modeling empowering habits for my daughters. Also, running is a fantastic way to relieve stress and get emotions out, especially when you run with trusted friends. Often, I barely start when a physiological response brings tears.
It's a good thing I learned that. In January 2012, our daughter Embree, was diagnosed with leukemia, and stress and emotion became commonplace. We're in a long treatment journey. Her prognosis is good, but it's been a scary road. She's been hospitalized ten times, and I've stayed with her every night.
I quickly learned that when Embree was hospitalized, I needed to exercise to maintain my own health. I often run before Embree is awake. We developed some BAD habits in the hospital, late night TV and Nutella eating among them, and Embree sleeps late!
One day last summer, I was having an early run. It was cool, sunny and uncrowded. A carillon started playing "Let All Things Now Living" and I started singing it in between gasps. Two days later, I ran again and had a MAJOR wipeout. Big scrapes all over.
My first thought, after I hopped up and did a Pee Wee Herman-esque "I meant to do that" kind of look, was that now I could stop this stupid run. Then I decided to keep running because I wanted to go put Band Aids on my oozing wounds. I finally had to walk because I thought I might pass out.
So ... one idyllic and hopeful run, while another was painful and humiliating. Kind of like cancer treatment or, for that matter, life. You plan for one thing and get another.
Some days you can't go on, but something makes it easier. Other days you venture out and come back bloody.
Why do I run? It is a healthy and legal way to help me cope with life. Hope to see more moms out there...I'll be the bloody tearful one!
Erin Duffy is a mom of three girls in Raleigh, and a sometime attorney. She likes running but would still rather be cooking, eating, or reading!
This is the latest post in our Runner Moms series.