Finding Hope and Joy with ChiRunning In the Midst of a Tumultuous Year

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Usually, August is when I am scheduling my 22 mile runs, and feeling in the peak of my fitness, in preparation for a Fall marathon. In my shorter summer races, I am usually hoping to qualify for an award in my age category. Not this year. Until I took the ChiRunning course at the end of June with Chris Fuller, I had not run in 8 months.

I am 4 days shy of my 53rd birthday, always a time of reflection. I have and continue to be living the most challenging year of my life. I have read a lot about the sandwich generation, but I am experiencing it in a way that I wish I was only reading about, not living. After 5 years of being cancer free, my mother’s breast cancer returned, and has spread throughout her bones. She is terminal, and for the past year, I have been flying back to Canada to spend time with her, both during her good days, and to be with her in the hospital on her bad days. This past winter, one of the snowiest and coldest in Minnesota history, my teenage son, developed a profound depression. As a senior in high school, this should have been his year of excitement, being the captain on the varsity lacrosse team, earning all of the honors that his stellar academic career would have presented him. But this was not meant to be. Trying to treat this illness was challenging, since medication alone is not the answer, and there is a shortage of Vitamin D access from December to April. Ultimately, we could not fight it alone, and needed to admit him to a residential treatment center for adolescent mental health. He was unable to finish his last quarter of school, and all that those months include, primarily his graduation. The combination of my mother battling a disease, and not wanting to give in, vs. my son battling a disease that seemed to be winning, was more than a person should have to deal with. Well, that wasn’t enough. My very close friend, and confidente, passed away May 25th from a stroke. We respected our differences, and she understood that my love for running did for me what reading a book did for her. She would have been 50 this past July 30th.

So, during these past 9 months, I am grieving the loss of my close friend, anticipating the loss of my mother, and grieving the loss of what was supposed to be for my son. But what I have realized, is that I need to be healthy and take care of myself, in order to be strong and able to support both my Mother, and my son, and be available to my other children and husband. And so, I signed up for the ChiRunning class, hoping that it would jump-start my running again with a different goal. This was not going to be about speed and power running, this was going to be a step toward taking care of my emotional, physical and mental health.

I bought some new shoes, to help with my new gait and mid-foot strike, in shocking pink and yellow. With my metronome in place, I began my healing process, and hit the road. My energy has been so low, with barely any stamina, so gradual progress was my motto. I literally only ran 1 minute, and then walked for 3 minutes, for about 1 1/2 miles, often wiping my tears, due to my inability to do what was once so easy. But I knew that I needed to think positively, and be thankful for my ability to be where I was. Baby steps. Clear my mind of my worries, and focus on my form, and be fully intune with myself. I have continued to work on my form, having good days, and some less good days. Today, I ran 1 mile, stopped in order to do a minute of body sensing and refocus, and then I ran the mile back home. The last block, I decided to attempt to move into the next gear, and leaned forward a little more, and finished the last stretch strong. Okay, so I haven’t totally lost my competitive spirit, but my tears as I walked in the front door and was greeted by my husband, were tears of joy and hope. Hope for myself and my health, and hope that my son too, will be able to battle through his ultimate challenge, with gradual progress, and reclaim his health, life and future.

Thanks for reading,