Before I got pregnant with Prince, I was a runner. I had run two marathons, two half marathons, an olympic triathlon, and countless smaller races (5k, 10k, etc). I loved being an athlete. Running was my way of relieving stress, and running was part of who I was. I ran until I was eight months pregnant with Prince. Then one day…I stopped running.
When I stopped, I told myself it was because I was too pregnant, but it was more than that. I had become depressed because my relationship with Luc was confusing and scary. Earlier that year, I had signed up to run a marathon with my sister (it was going to be five months after Prince was born). I ended up flaking. Shortly after Prince was born, when I learned that I had been living with a murderer, I started the most intense and emotional fight of my life. For the next 15 months, I fought to try and save my son’s life.
Those of you who have been following my blog know that I lost the battle to save my son. After 15 months, Luc killed my son Prince. When this happened, it was the worst part of what had been a painful two years. I was devastated, and I knew that my life would never be the same again. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about how much I love my little boy, and how I wish he could be here with us. Dealing with the reality of this loss left me feeling further away from the woman I once was.
I have often heard that the best revenge you can have on someone (especially a psychopath) is to live well. Since taking a bat to Luc’s private parts doesn’t appear to be an option, living well is what I must attempt to do. Those of you who have been entangled with a psychopath know how easy it is to look in the mirror one day, and not even recognize yourself. I had gotten to that point. I was about 60 pounds overweight, my hair was horribly damaged (it actually had started to fall out due to stress), and I realized that I no longer did many of the things I used to love.
While my daughter is an incredible source of happiness, I realized that in order to truly have my revenge I needed to get my whole life back together. I needed to get back to doing things that made me happy and relieved my stress. So, I got myself a new pair of running shoes, strapped Stela in the BOB stroller (with the infant carseat insert, of course) and ran.
Similar to childbirth, getting back into running shape was painful. Unlike some women, I never enjoyed pregnancy. Getting fat, getting kicked in the ribs, and watching your extremities swell on the daily wasn’t ever my idea of enjoyment. (Note: I am not ashamed to admit this – it doesn’t make me love my children any less.) While I love running, running as an out of shape post-pregnancy mom was not glamorous.
The first run was torture. I felt every one of those 60 extra pounds I had gained between my pregnancies. Luckily, Stela was along for the ride on most of my runs. While pushing a heavy stroller is no picnic, her smiles helped me remember why I was enduring all the pain. The extra stroller weight also made running without the stroller feel so much easier.
After a month of some short runs, I realized that in order to get that piece of me that I had lost back – I needed to sign up for a race. I needed the experience of lacing up my shoes on race morning, hearing the starting gun, running through the crowds of equally as nutty folks, and crossing that finish line. In a moment of confidence, I signed up to run the DC Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon. The race was only 4.5 months after giving birth to Stela, but I figured, ‘I have some muscle memory – I will be alright.’
In the days leading up to the race, I would be lying if I didn’t admit I was a little terrified. Ok, maybe I was a lot terrified. It had been four years since I had run an endurance race (the last one being June 2010, DC Olympic Triathlon). Since DC has experienced an unusual amount of snow this winter, I hadn’t even been able to train to the level that would have been close to enough. All these factors aside, however, I wasn’t about to flake this time. I needed this race.
On race morning, I got up before the sun and made my way to the starting line (Constitution and 14th street to be exact). As I nearly froze standing in the Porta Potty line, I wondered if my boobs were going to explode before I would be able to pump or get to Stela in order to breastfeed. In the end this seemed like a silly concern compared to the actual physical monster of a race I had before me.
After what felt like being stuck in a pack of hungry cattle, corral 28 was finally released to start the race. Adrenaline got me through the first five miles. Then, my entire body began to remind me that it hadn’t been long enough since I had given birth to a child. ‘What am I going to do,’ I thought frantically. I needed a plan.
Running Goddesses From Kentucky:
Just as I was losing hope that I would ever finish the God awful race, I spotted two women who looked as though they were having a blast. They were both dressed in St. Patrick’s Day attire, but I was really drawn to the fact that they seemed as though they had a brilliant plan. One of the women had a stop watch that beeped every minute reminding them to walk.
When I heard the beep, and realized that they had a plan, I jogged over to ask them about it. Likely seeing that I was struggling, they asked me to join them. I owe miles 6-11 to these amazing running Goddess’. They told jokes and stories – and they fed me pretzels. Sadly, around mile 11, I hit the runner’s wall. For anyone who doesn’t know what this means, let me explain briefly: Have you ever been punched so hard that your entire body feels it? If the answer is yes, you have experienced something similar to what it feels like to hit “the wall”. It is possible to run through this feeling, but it takes a ton of mental strength and distraction. Needless to say, when I hit the wall I had to wave the two running goddess’ on so that I didn’t slow them down.
Those last two miles were the hardest miles I have fought for in all of my years of racing. With every step, however, I realized that living through the trauma of the past few years has made me mentally stronger than I ever was before. I was running this race to prove to myself that I hadn’t lost myself during the battle, but what I learned on the run (during the most difficult time) was that I am now a better version of myself.
Most everyone can look at something in their life and have pity on themselves for it. For me, it seems so easy sometimes to sit and cry about all the terrible things that have happened in the past four years since I met Luc. What isn’t easy, however, is finding ways to move on. I wasn’t physically ready for this race. I drank too much water, ended up depleting my electrolytes to a dangerous level, and almost bought myself a trip to the emergency room.
The last 30 seconds of the race, however, were amazing. I felt the last four years flash before my eyes, and it seemed like a moment of incredible closure. I realized that I will never be the woman I once was, but I am hopeful that I will look in the mirror one day and realize that the woman staring back at me is better than the woman she once was. She is better for having survived the storm. She is better for having run through the pain, and made it to the other side.