On the 1st of January this year, like millions of other people, I went for a run. But for me, it wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. My husband was very ill. Terminally ill. He was in a lot of pain, and it was only going to get worse. Things had been hard for a year, and they were about to get a lot harder. So I began to prepare myself. I knew that in order to be anywhere near the wife and mother I was going to have to be over the next months, I would need something for myself. I chose running. I didn’t know that it was going to save me.
I have run, on and off, over the years, but never managed to sustain it for more than a few months. I’d also never got to the stage where I came anywhere close to enjoying it. It was always a painful slog. 1st January 2019 was no different. I half ran/half walked a couple of kilometres and returned home red-faced and out of breath. But a couple of days later, I did it again, starting the Couch to 5k programme, which builds your stamina up gradually. And I began to look forward to those pockets of time, just half an hour or so, where it was just me and my heartbeat and the thud of my feet on the pavement, with no energy left to think about anything else.
I know more than most that being able to get outside and move your body is a privilege denied to many, and I won’t ever take that for granted. My husband used to love to run, but he could barely walk to the end of the road this time last year. I think of him often as I pound the pavements, and it makes me more determined than ever to stay fit for as long as I’m able.
All through those last, terrible months of his illness, no matter how bad things were, I ran. I grew to treasure the opportunity to just be me, to inhabit my body, to think of nothing but inhaling and exhaling. One foot in front of the other.
I still don’t think of myself as a “proper” runner. I don’t care how fast I run. I don’t have a special watch or time myself at all. But every other day or so, I put my trainers on and I run. Five miles, usually. Some days it’s harder than others, but I never have to “make” myself go. I want to. I actually get annoyed if something crops up that means I have to miss it. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve sustained any form of exercise for a whole year, and I know why. All those other times, I was doing it to try and lose weight. Exercise was essentially a way of punishing my body for not being the shape I thought it ought to be. This time, it’s a reward - not for my body, but for my mind.
So yes, I’ll be going for a run today, finishing the year as I started it. I used to wonder, when my husband was so very ill, how I would cope when he died. It turned out to be quite simple: I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Love this. I started running to lose weight. But soon grew to enjoy the way it made me feel inside more than how I looked on the outside. I am sorry for your lose but you have proved to be a strong woman and love how you have overcome this hard part of your life.
Jonathan Purvis , 31 Dec, 2019
So inspiring, Laura. Running has the ability to block out so much, doesn’t it - possibly cos it’s so damn difficult! But, I’ve found, it also helps create space in your mind when you’re stressed or anxious too. I’ve had an on-off relationship with it over the years and also did 5K (several times) and a 10k. But I think the trick is to get out there and enjoy it rather than set really difficult goals that make it a chore. It helped me massively when my moods were low and dealing with tricky teens and the menopause (a perfect storm of a combo!) and am so pleased you’ve found something you can do for yourself that helps. After running half an hour three times a week, I haven’t run for almost a month and have been dreading it because of the fitness I must have lost but you have inspired me to get out there again. Thank you.
Eleni Kyriacou , 31 Dec, 2019
Neither a word too many, nor too few.
Sylvia McEwan, 31 Dec, 2019
I have always done some form of exercise over the years be it Running,Gym, football or to earn a living digging,sawing,lifting for my work and have been lucky and fit enough to be able to do so but after we did the 10k run in September this year to raise money for the Hospice that cared for Michael which by the way I really enjoyed doing again and thought I would go on to do more 10k runs but I haven’t, I seemed to have lost the motivation since then,I have had bouts of depression/sadness over the loss of my brother leading up to christmas that has held me back generally, i know it shouldn’t. your words Laura are an inspiration to me to start running again,get out there,the thing that I love doing,that kept me fit, that clears my head,that used to motivate me for other things in life,just needed this kick up the backside.Thank you.
Andrew Burgess, 31 Dec, 2019
I run too. Not well, not elegantly, not quickly, not often enough at the moment. But, although I’ve done other things like aerobic classes and gym sessions, running makes me feel better than anything. Something about being outside in all seasons, connecting with the outdoors always lifts my mood. I’m glad you’ve found it helpful, Laura.
Sarah Smith, 31 Dec, 2019
I love running. I’m rubbish at it but I keep at it because it’s my headspace. Can’t get anywhere close to imagining how tough this year has been for you & the boys but if running helps then keep at it.
Fee Horne, 31 Dec, 2019
Thank you for writing this
I am starting 2020 in the same way you started 2019 and I know i need to find a way to care for myself to enable me to care for and support my husband and children through what we have ahead of us.
I’ve never really enjoyed running but I do think I will give it a go after reading this!
Louisa , 25 Jan, 2020
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