Growing up, our family was always very active. We swam, hiked, biked, kayaked, and really took advantage of everything that there was to do, outdoors in southern Maryland and the surrounding DC/MD/VA region.
By the time I graduated from college, I was running three miles every other day. But, really at the time, I was doing it for weight management. I was doing it because society was telling me that I needed to do it to be “physically fit.”
It became apparent early on in my child’s life that running would probably not be in the cards for a while. Being a new mom is tough, especially without family to come over and watch your kiddo while you are doing simple things like a shower, going to the grocery store, and running.
Over the last 10 years of my son’s life, I always thought about running again but never seemed to be in the right space and at the right time to start it up again.
Last summer, I decided to take my son on a 3-day camping trip to Upstate New York to see one of my favorite bands perform at a legendary venue called Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Center (aka SPAC). Upstate New York in early Fall, is quite dreamy. I had attended culinary school there and really wanted to experience that with him for my 40th birthday, just us.
I had just buried my dad the week before in Maryland and had come home from a solo cross-country road trip a few weeks before that. My family was begging me not to go, but I’m a type A organizer, and to be frank – if there are plans already set, there really aren’t many things that would come in the way to warrant changing them. Truth be told, I was really looking forward to the space, the one-on-one time with Gray, and a new adventure. I need those things to be able to reset and relax. So, we went ahead with the schedule. The night before we left, I got a call from our landlord reminding me to pull in the pool furniture from outside. My mouth was on the floor, “what do you mean there is a hurricane in the Gulf?” I said. Her response was “just go turn on the tv.”
Oh no. Thinking about what else might possibly go wrong this summer was beginning to take on a full spiral at this point. It was 11 o’clock at night and our flight was at 5 am, at this point – systems were still in forwarding motion, so I pull the pool furniture in as directed and went to bed.
The morning after the concert, we woke up in a tent on the side of the Hudson River. It was gorgeous and everything that I had hoped it would be. But, it only took a few moments for my attention to be directed to my phone blowing up.
“All flights in and out of New Orleans – Cancelled,” it said. “Major transmission tower is down.” Oh no, the hurricane.
Our only option was to drive 3-hours to Connecticut where my sister lives with her family. Coincidentally, my mother was there visiting (she lives in Florida).
The first few days were interesting. This had been the most concentrated time that my family had spent together in one year since well, probably before college.
Grayson and I didn’t even have many clothes, or really any toiletries since we had only packed for a 3-day, very quick, camping trip. My nephew was getting ready for his first day of school, and everyone still had to work, together, in one house.
Then, Hurricane Ida hit Connecticut / New York. The very small town where we were staying was flooded, including my sister’s basement.
Needless to say, tensions were high – for everyone. Because in addition to all the above, everyone in our household began getting sick with a fever and cold-like symptoms. We were all dropping like what felt like flies. The silver lining? Thank goodness it wasn’t Covid. Just pure exhaustion.
It’s funny what you hear in your mind when you are going through tough moments. For me, all I could hear was this one word, “run.”
But how could I run? I didn’t have any sneakers or exercise clothes with me.
I remember that very stressful moment like it was just yesterday – where all I could do was pull up Uber on my phone and request a car to take me to DSW. When I arrived, I found ONE pair of sneakers in my size. Just ONE. “Oh well,” I thought, these will have to do. Onward.
Next door was a TJ Maxx. Isn’t it so handy that they are next door to one another? Sure does make it convenient in this situation now, doesn’t it? The next thing I grabbed on my shopping list was an exercise outfit and even stopped at the CVS on the way home for some toiletries. I was on my way, to running. It was happening.
When I returned to the house, it was empty except my mother was sitting at the kitchen island with her laptop and a glass of wine. She opened her mouth, and I stopped her. I said, “please, just give me one more hour – I have to go for a run.” I think she had been waiting to hear those words come out of my mouth for the last 14 years. She even cracked a smile.
I had never experienced a “rock bottom” moment in life, but in hindsight, I am certain that this was one of those moments in time that I will never forget.
After a quick change, I bolted out of the front door. I have no clue how far I ran that day. I ran until I couldn’t anymore. All the way to town and back and then some. All I could feel was this freeing sensation. And to be outdoors, in nature, in the fall, in Connecticut. Nothing and everything made sense to me all at the same time, and it felt good.
Due to storm damage, we had to take baby steps to get back to New Orleans. After 10 days in Connecticut, we flew to Florida and stayed at my mom’s house for another week. Gradually, making our way home.
In Florida, I found myself running a few times that week. Still not really knowing how far I had been running. And when we finally returned to New Orleans, I didn’t stop. Instead, I bought a smart sports watch to track my distance.
After school had started up again, I carved out time for it right after carpool dropoff. Sometimes listening to a podcast, sometimes a book, sometimes music, and sometimes nothing at all. Sometimes I’d take our dog Wella, sometimes not.
As time went on, I realized that it was time to make a shoe investment. I was beginning to take it seriously and found myself wanting to learn about running. What kinds of shoes do you use for running? What are things that make it easier to run?
Running outside is free so realistically I could afford to splurge on a good pair of sneakers. But I also told myself that I wasn’t going to buy new sneakers until I had made the commitment to myself to continue. I needed to commit.
As I dug in, it became a family affair. My son started coming with me to the park on the weekends. I kept driving myself to accomplish mileage based on how I was feeling. How many miles did I need to run to be able to navigate life at this point? I realized at some point on this journey that I wasn’t running for the physical benefits, I was actually running for the mental benefits. And as it turns out – for me, it’s at least 6 miles.
Grayson and I decided to do the St. Patrick’s Day 2-mile race along Metairie Road together. We ran it together with a few of our friends. It was a special moment in time for us, it was.
Then a friend suggested that I run the Crescent City Classic. Just saying those words seemed like a ridiculous idea. But I was curious, so I visited the website, and printed out the training schedule. As it turns out – I was already running the distance of the 10K! So, I committed, and I did it!
What I have learned along the way has been immeasurable. I have learned so much about myself, my body, and my health. Most importantly though, I think it is this one space where I am completely in control. I decided to do it. I do it. And I do it for no one else but me. I make up my own schedule and give myself grace when I can’t get to it in a day. I am completely in control in this one little space of my life and let’s be honest, as a mom – we have to take those spaces whenever we can find them.