Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Running on Empty

I was coasting through life on fumes on Sunday.  Late Saturday night, we had returned from almost two weeks of visiting family in New York.  Come Sunday morning, the kids were tired, the laundry was piled to the ceiling, my husband was gone for a rare day of golfing, the fridge was empty and so was I.

By the early afternoon, I could feel myself losing it.  I was having one of those woe-is-me days where I was only seeing the negative in everything.  Suddenly, the sacrifice and work I had put in to earn my MBA back in 2002 (when I had a 3 month-old baby) was on the forefront of my mind.  [You know it is bad when you are going back 10+ years to gather frustrations!]  I was lamenting the fact that I had worked so hard for something only to leave the workforce in 2008 to stay home with kids who were currently driving me over the edge.  I was frustrated that it is almost universally women who must make the hard choices in life regarding pursuing their career versus caring for their children.  And embittered that there was no right answer for most of us.

Needless to say, when my husband walked in the door at 2:30 that afternoon, I walked out.  With tears in my eyes.  I was doing my best to not have him bear the brunt of my frustration and I knew there was only one way for me to do that -- and that was for me to find a way to get centered.

So despite the fact that my knee has been bothering me ever since my last marathon in early June and most of my runs have been limited to a mere 3 miles, I jumped in my car and drove to Forest Park for a nice, long trail run.

Forest Park is basically a huge forest that has trails criss-crossing it that are perfect for walking, running and riding mountain bikes.  Usually, I keep my runs to one of the busiest trails because I feel safe there.  It is sad to admit but, as a woman, I just don't feel comfortable running on many of the trails in Forest Park by myself, especially on a weekday.  However, this was a Sunday and an absolutely gorgeous day so I knew there would be enough people in the park to allow me to run on a trail that usually is eerily quiet and empty -- Wildwood Trail.

Wildwood Trail...a.k.a. Heaven on Earth
I ran with no watch, no music and no goal.  Although my car said it was 86 degrees out when I started, the lack of humidity in Portland combined with the cooling canopy of the forest to create perfect running conditions.  As I flew along the single track trail, I could feel my spirit lifting.  The warm breeze dried my tears and I dropped each concern, worry, frustration and regret along the trail and never looked back.

I found myself picturing my husband at the pool with the kids (which was where he was going to take them while I went for my run) and smiling...thinking about how lucky I am to have his love and support in whatever I decide to do with my life.  I found myself grateful for the beauty that surrounds me every day and for the people who are in my life...even the little ones who drive me crazy at times.  And I found myself becoming ME once again.  I returned to my car around 9 miles later a completely different person.

Everyone has different mechanisms for coping with stress.  Some people eat.  Some people see therapists.  Some people drink.  Some people shop.

I run.

I run long distances to feel good (not to look good).  It is through the pain of running that I find serenity.  And I am filled up once again.


[And, truth be told, stopping for beverages on my way home helped a little, too!]

- Kristen