This Sunday, I will be running the NYC Marathon, my first in my home city.
I am by no means a competitive runner which is why people often shake their heads when I mention a 22-mile run in pouring rain and ask why?
It’s a tough question. Running is a funny thing for me. I have done it, albeit slowly, for 23 years and yet I am never sure why I do it besides that I have to get home somehow. In reflecting on the question, I’ve come to realize that this answer is indeed true, but for a deeper reason.
17 years ago I chose me over hiding and stopped drinking. I was 20.
Young, I know. My first drink was at age four, a sip of scotch at a cocktail party. I can still taste it. The second the warm burn hit my lips, power surged through my veins. It was like a switch was flipped, everything that was wrong with me was all of a sudden right. It was on fire. Amazing that at age 4 I already thought something was wrong with me. As a highly sensitive kid, with deep emotions and empathy, I didn’t know how to manage my emotions or create boundaries from what people wanted. So I was unfailingly nice, smart, the good girl. And I was angry, unappreciated and misunderstood inside. So I drank to fix it, to fix myself.
Fast-forward 16 years, past bravado and bad choices. I lost my grandmother and started looking for a better way.
I ran myself sober, choosing the NYC pavement over scotch to figure out how to value myself instead of search for value outside of me. Running was an act of faith that there was a better way. It was choosing me. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew I had to keep going. I prayed a simple thank you for 90% of each runs because I didn’t have anything else constructive to think. My ego would get me all tripped up. Of course the endorphins helped and it worked. But I was forcing it. The best thing about it was how good it felt after I was done.
Fast forward another sober 14 years and my kidney failed, paradoxically during my “live life” tour to celebrate the life of my step-father after his passing. Brokenhearted, I surrendered. Not at first of course. Actually I fought it kicking and screaming for months in a black hole of tears. But I finally surrendered to being vulnerable, to life turning out not at all like I had hoped on many dimensions as a single corporate slog of 34. Barely able to walk, I dreamt of running free.
When I started running again, looping the reservoir that first time back after surgery, I realized running free meant not forcing it. For some reason, I was able to see that I had to stop forcing it in running before I saw the parallels in my career and my personal life. I no longer needed to run to overcome something. What my body wanted was to run in joy.
So I ran into the silence of the woods or the sirens on my block, feeling the slightly off rhythm of my footfalls, gratitude for the strength in my body to carry me forward, and quite often a state of joy. Listening, I followed my gut to a new career, an amazing man and a deeper peace than I have known.
This marathon, my 3rd, is for joy.
Thank you legs. Thank you dirt and pavement. Thank you NYC. Thank you me.