Celebratory Runs

Around this time two years ago, I was consumed with planning my upcoming June wedding. I was tracking last-minute RSVPS, obsessively checking the weather report, crying over tents and ice, and emailing my seamstress almost daily to see if she had finally finished my dress. The day was going to be perfect, and it truly was, but one thing was missing—running.

Running has been a staple in my life since I was 12. There are months or years when I am more consistent with my running compared to other times when I may venture out once a week, if that. Yet, running seems to show up at the big moments. I was on a run when I made the decision which college I wanted to attend. Before I accepted a new job, I went for a run. I made homes in unfamiliar locations by running through them. Running was my medicine during heartbreaks and setbacks, but it was also my celebration for accomplishments and life moving in the right direction.

It had always been my goal to run on my wedding day. In part to offset the festivity’s calories, but also to absorb the momentous day. Running would make me present, would force me to forget about the weather and if we needed that tent or not, and give me a moment of solitude to inhale the fact that I was about to marry the love of my life.

Yet, at that time in my life, I couldn’t run. About seven months prior, I had had surgery to repair a tear in my right hip. The procedure itself went marvelously but the recovery was painful and slow. I had been making progress early that winter, running in small chunks, with several stints of physical therapy a week, but somehow, I torqued my hip, likely through yoga, and my progress had been derailed. I had to completely stop running with the idea I might never be able to return to it.

Not being able to run on my wedding day was a loss I hadn’t anticipated. I cried for weeks, often bringing it up to my therapist who politely listened but was likely trying to figure out what this emotion was truly about. When the morning of my wedding arrived, I had made peace with this fact, and instead wrote in my journal and sipped coffee on the porch of our rental so excited about becoming a wife.

Three months after the wedding, I quit my full-time job (the one with the good health insurance package that paid for most of the expensive hip surgery) and started a master’s program in mental health counseling. As I began this journey to a new career and discovering a new side of myself, I was easing back into running. Before my insurance ran out, my PT had ramped up my treatment with dry needling, which worked wonders and was enough to bring the pain down. I started with three minutes of running/two minutes of walking and slowly worked my way up to one mile of consistent running, then two, and then three. By October, four months after my wedding, I was able to celebrate my 34th birthday, marking nearly one year since the surgery, with an eight-mile run.

It wasn’t long before running was a consistent force in my life again. I started training for races, adding hill repeats and track workouts into my run, and making more running friends. I didn’t run every day, but I ran most days. There was a time in the summer of 2018 when I thought I wouldn’t be a runner again, and now that I was, I was fiercely holding on to that identity.

I’ve had May 6, 2021, in my calendar for nearly three years as that was my scheduled graduation date. It was my goalpost during long nights of class, marathon paper-writing sessions, and unyielding doubts about my ability as a clinician. It was the big red FINISH line tape, and each day, I took one step closer to it.

My graduation day was not the same spectacle as my wedding, but it felt just as significant. This was a huge turning point in my life, and it noted a great deal of work and commitment. I wanted this day to be perfect, my crowning accomplishment.

Unlike my wedding day, my graduation was far from perfect. The pandemic limited celebrations and some unforeseen issues with our car derailed some of the day’s plans. However, the one thing I did get to do on my graduation day was run.

It was a short one, up and down the lake, listening to “Pomp and Circumstance” because, of course. I just wanted the few minutes to myself to take in this triumph. Running, on this day, I felt the strength pulsing through me, even on a slower run. I had come so far in three years, not just with running, but in life, as a human.

Later in the day, I got to hug classmates and professors, most of whom I had not seen in more than a year, and I took lots of photos with my loved ones. I gave a speech thanking the big players in my life, and a black hood, with fabrics of blue, green, and white underneath it, was clocked over my head to recognize my educational achievement. It was a lovely celebration, and the day was marked with that lovely but necessary morning run.

Published by The Running Therapist

A runner, writer, and therapist in training.

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