When I was going through a divorce, people asked me why I decided to take up running.
Of course, I had all the right answers: it made me feel empowered and gave me something to do with unoccupied time.
But the truth was you can’t run and cry at the same time.
I used to think it was all about breathing. When you’re crying, your breathing is labored. And when you’re running, your breath is incredibly important. I stood by this philosophy…until today.
I hopped on my Peloton bike and programmed a 15-minute Low Impact Ride to warm up for a 20-minute Climb Ride. “Fifteen minutes,” I told myself. “That’s all you get to cry.”
Though my divorce was finalized nine years ago and no longer made me cry, today I had a new heartache.
Monday, April 17th, is Marathon Monday in Boston, Massachusetts. And this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing.
To say this event is emotionally charged would be an understatement. I felt a range of emotions watching the news earlier this morning as they covered One Boston Day. Remembering those who passed away and recognizing those who were injured makes my heart hurt. On the other end of the emotional spectrum, the stories from One Boston are inspirational because they really show how much can be accomplished when people come together.
I’m also personally reminded that I’ll never be able to run the Boston Marathon, or any marathon, again.
A car accident in which the other driver crossed the double yellow line and hit me changed that. And I’ve mostly accepted it years later, but as grief tends to be, it’s complicated, and emotions I thought I had dealt with bubble up again. Suffice to say, I surpassed my 15-minute time limit on the bike still a little tearful.
I was into the Climb Ride when I noticed I was able to add on resistance numbers I never dreamed I would be able to handle post spine surgery. Could it be that after years of rehabbing my body I may be stronger than I was before?
I started to shift my thinking and instead of feeling sorry for myself I started to feel proud and relieved. Relieved that I ran the marathon when I could.
In 2013, I was seven months pregnant with my son and out on a run when I heard about the bombing and vowed to run the marathon for all the people who no longer could. Just two years later, I was fortunate enough to be able to do so.
I kept thinking over and over during my training runs about how quickly life changed for the people impacted by the bombing and how fortunate I was to be able to run it for charity.
Then it hit me. The reason we can’t run and cry at the same time doesn’t entirely have to do with breathing—it’s because when we run, we run with our heart first and our feet second.
If our hearts are tangled up with fear, anger, or sadness, our feet have to take on all the work. And that’s just simply not how to run.
As I unclipped from the bike, I finally recognized why the Boston Marathon has become so special for so many people. Because in Boston, we don’t focus solely on the tragedy, we focus on the good that can be done in the aftermath. And everybody knows it’s how we handle bad situations that matters the most. We might just surprise ourselves by how strong we become as a result.
That’s why those who run Boston run with their whole hearts. That’s why the Boston Marathon is not only known as the toughest marathon, it’s known for the runners who break records because they put their heart first and their feet second.
To everyone out there running, whether it’s a marathon or down the street you live on, remember heart first, feet second. And you’ll be amazed by how strong you really are.
And always know that if you put your whole heart into it, you can overcome any battle you’re facing.