I broke up with my boyfriend of 7 ½ years on September 2, 2013. Labor Day. That whole weekend leading up to that day I wrestled with the decision. And I woke up early on that Monday and my heart skipped a beat. I had to do it that day. So I did. I wasn’t prepared for the ramifications to follow…and at that moment, if I knew how much it would have hurt, I wouldn’t have done it. But I am glad I did.
I have never experienced so much pain, numbness, grief, sadness and depression in the days to follow. Everything required so much effort. Getting out of bed, brushing my teeth, showering…even breathing. Learning new routines everywhere I went. I would step outside and everything just seemed gray. It was hard.
At the same time of the breakup, I was training for my very first marathon to happen on October 6, 2013…a little over a month out. I didn’t even know what each day, each hour would bring…let alone trying to run 26.2 miles in a month. It now seemed impossible. In fact, a day after the breakup, I saw my running shoes piled in the corner of my apartment and couldn’t even imagine how I would find the energy to put those stupid shoes on, let alone set out for a run.
But I was committed to my marathon training group, and the first Saturday run post breakup five days later, I knew I had to attend. So I got out of bed that early Saturday morning, still feeling numb, and drove to meet my group. I remember the day clearly. It was sunny and hot…and feeling the sun on my face was one of the best feelings I had felt in days. For an hour and a half, I didn’t think about my broken heart. I thought about running and putting one foot in front of the other and the sweat pouring down my face. It felt good to feel. I talked to someone about different kinds of coffee for a good 20 minutes. I don’t care about coffee. But it was a distraction. And after the run, we all stood around talking in the parking lot…and in the back of my mind, I didn’t want to leave that parking lot because going home would be too painful. But I did. As I drove home I was at a stoplight and experienced a fleeting moment of clarity where I knew I was going to be alright. It was brief, but it was there.
Training for that marathon saved my life. Not in the sense of if I didn’t do it, I would have died. But that group kept me going. For the next month to follow, I got up every Saturday morning and ran with that group. Yes, there were days I didn’t want to get out of bed. Days where I didn’t know how I could keep going. But the thing I love about running is that anyone can do it. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are, you just do it. And that’s what I did. When I ran with that group, I wasn’t judged. I wasn’t judged for staying in the relationship too long. I wasn’t judged for maybe what I should have done or should not have done. I had my own identity…just a girl training for her very first marathon, like many others in my group. In the days and weeks to follow, my broken heart healed very slowly. And when the day of the marathon came, it was bittersweet. It was weird to not have him there on the sidelines cheering me on, but I felt at peace. I didn’t need him. And that was a huge revelation. I came up on mile 26 over the hill and could hear the cheers of the crowd. I got chills up and down my spine and a lump formed in my throat. Sure, I wasn’t healed but this was a small step in recovery. I crossed that finish line with a huge smile on my face. It was surreal. And all I could think about in the back of my mind was “You’re going to be alright.”
Today, four months later, I am still healing. And I am still running a lot. My non-runner friends think I am crazy for how much I enjoy it. But for me, it’s not always about losing weight and burning calories. Running has made me view the world differently. I now see beauty in so many things I didn’t see before: the way the sun hits the lakes, the joy on small children’s faces as they are being pushed by their parents in their strollers, and even the dogs who drag their owners on the leash with a giant stick in their mouths. Running is a constant in my life. Something I can always count on. And that itself is a small step in healing with each new day. Because as they say…life is a marathon, not a sprint.