Whole Life Magazine

June/July 2013

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Page 41 of 43

backwords HOW RUNNING HELPED ME HEAL T wo years ago, when I was 27, my life turned upside down. My beloved mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and seven excruciating months later, she passed away. To this day it still hurts to write those words, let alone say them aloud. It's not that I'm in denial; it's just that I'm still trying to navigate living in a world in which I can't turn to my mom. The yearning I feel for her is still insatiable. But to my friends, coworkers and the outside world, I'm doing just fine. In fact, considering I am dramatic by nature, some might say I'm doing surprisingly well. So what's my secret? I guess I could draw on the old cliché, "That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger." To some degree, it's true. Because when my world crumbled and I lost the woman who not only gave me life but also taught me how to live, I had no other choice but to go on. Yes, there were many, many days when I wallowed in selfpity and others when I picked fights with those I knew would be there for me no matter what. But each day I forced myself to get out of bed and do whatever that day required. I knew my mom would have wanted it that way. And with time, things got easier. Suddenly, I found myself laughing with friends without feeling guilty, or driving home from work without bursting into tears. Life somehow felt a little lighter. It was right around the one-year mark when I noticed my grief was no longer consuming me; my sense of self was slowly emerging. This was also when my determination to start 42 running came about. Now anyone who knows me would say this was a lofty goal, because I've always been vocal about how much I despised running. I hated that huff-and-puff feeling and found it miserably boring. Back in high school when we had to do the mandatory mile, I would do three laps instead of four. But now I was inspired by a charity race benefiting pancreatic cancer research, in which a group of friends and I formed a team honoring my mom. The majority of us walked the 5K, but several on our team—my boyfriend and a friend's mother included—chose to run the 10K. When the race was over, I noticed the runners were positively beaming. They made it look rewarding and effortless, and I wanted in. So I signed up for a 10K two months down the line. Considering I could barely run a mile, it was, to say the least, ambitious. On my first training day, I jogged around my neighborhood and came home feeling pretty swell. I figured I had run a good three miles and was already almost halfway to my goal. My boyfriend asked what route I had taken and then broke the news: I had gone only two miles, which meant that I was running nearly a 15-minute mile. Clearly I had my work cut out for me. We devised a plan so that I wouldn't hold up the entire race at the finish line. He took on the role of coach, and each week mapped out a new run for me, gradually increasing my mileage. I forced myself to wake up at 6:30am and run three miles twice a week; considering I wasn't a morning person, this was huge. Saturday mornings were dedicated to longer runs. Soon I found myself planning my weekends around those everexpanding runs, forgoing that third cocktail so I could shave a few seconds off my time. I didn't let anything get in my way—not the occasional hangover and not even a trip to San Francisco. As I ran, memories of my mom came to mind—some happy, some sad. But at last I was able to let myself feel them for all they were worth, and then let go. When the big day finally arrived, I gave it my all, not just for myself but for my mom and for everything she had taught me. Crossing the finish line was gratifying. So gratifying, in fact, that the following day I signed up for a halfmarathon. Looking back, I realize that running was more than just a fitness challenge for me. It was—and still is—an outlet for me to process all of the gut-wrenching emotions I've experienced these past two years. Finally, I am able to reconcile with the past and truly live in the present. Photo Top: Precise Moments Photography By Kristin Viola wholelifetimesmagazine.com FINAL REDESIGN WLT-5-27-11pm.indd 42 5/28/13 11:13 AM C

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