Why not pick up an old hobby while in the midst of moving chaos?
Now, most normal people would probably think that now, our last dwindling month in the Greatland, is probably the least logical time for me to try to start running again after a 7-8 hiatus. Yet, somehow, it just felt right. So, a week or two ago (admittedly, time is kind of a blur of boxes and deadlines at this point), I dug out my running shoes, bundled up and laced up, and hit the road.
Maybe it’s because I finally turned to Hashem while on a road over 8 years back, nearly collapsing in grief and finally ending my stubborn rebellion, begging for help.
Maybe it’s because it’s my brother’s yahrzeit, his passing 8 years ago today and the way I dealt with his last fight with cancer was through running.
Or, perhaps it’s just that the weather is getting nicer and I’m looking forward to having more sidewalks that are friendly to run on.
Whatever the reason, I was back out on the road, huffing and puffing in the cold air with Sam the dog as my faithful companion and my daughter sometimes joining me. The rest of the family has always thought my enjoyment of running kind of odd. My husband can’t fathom actually being eager to get out and sweat out a few miles and especially wonders why I’d rather exercise outside in a running skirt and leggings, with a nylon tichel over my hair when I could work out in the privacy of our home much more comfortably…if I must work out.
The first time I began running was in 2008.
My daughter was just two years old and my marriage at the time was failing. I had no idea a year later I’d be divorced and meet my current husband. I just knew I felt trapped. I felt trapped in my life, my marriage, in a recession, and in my own body which had put on weight after two pregnancies. Running was an inexpensive way to get out of the house and once I got over my body’s initial resistance to the idea, it became a way to be free…at least for a little while. Now I recognize that it’s very similar to what I feel when I’m davening. There’s a sense of time standing still and it just being me as a tiny individual, rather than me as a job title, or a mother, or a wife.
In those runs, my mind would spill out words as if praying, but without any specific address to mail those prayers to. I was still angry at Hashem and we weren’t on speaking terms. I didn’t know that He was still there, patiently waiting for my stubbornness to ease. I also had no idea that my life would take twists and turns to help break me open to the point my stubborness was shattered. My feet pounded the pavement and I delighted in the way my body adapted and how my life seemed to become easier in at least some small ways, like chasing after toddlers. Running helped rebuild my self-esteem from an abusive marriage and I really do think running helped give me the courage to leave the first time my ex finally hit one of our children.
If I could run miles, certainly I could move a few.
I ran through my Grandfather’s death, my divorce, struggling to pay my bills, and through the news that my brother’s cancer had returned. Even after I collapsed inwardly, a sweaty mess bowed, hands on my knees and blinking up at the hot Florida sun through sweat and tears and finally acknowledged Hashem and begged Him to help me, I still kept up my runs.
Ultimately, it was finding greater freedom in my life that took away my desire to put on my running shoes. I became happy, meeting Mr. Safek and our lives became blessed with so many joys that I didn’t want to miss anything for the amount of time it would take to put in a few miles. Now, with the stress of the move and my kids increasingly having lives of their own, I feel the call again to run and get into better shape so that I’m ready for whatever life might throw at us and whatever adventures await us.
A couple of days ago, as I ran with Sam speed-walking by my side, I thanked Hashem over and over for bringing me and my family full circle, for the kindness of helping us take a longer path with some amazing views and for all the ways that He has helped to shape us.
Now, I don’t run to escape my problems as I did then. I run toward my hopes and dreams and I also know that even without footsteps or paw prints near mine…I’ve never run alone.