My dad was a runner. I don’t know if he still is because we haven’t spoken in many years but when I was a little girl, my dad trained for marathons and I rode my banana seat bike alongside him. This time with my dad was time away from our house -- a place where alcoholism, infidelity, molestation and neglect ran rampant.
My parents divorced when I was 10 and that amazing time with my dad ended. When I was 13, my dad went to jail. Mom was drinking heavily, taking pills and working two jobs, so she wasn’t around much. After some years of getting into my own trouble with alcohol, I got sober when I was 18 and started running. That same year, I began having symptoms of PTSD that was directly connected to harm my dad caused when I was a child. I stopped talking to my dad after I called him out for what he did. Therapists suggested we talk it through and over the years I tried that, but it didn’t really stick. I said my goodbyes, moved on with my life and had no contact with my dad. My heart was well-protected.
I kept running.
I’m almost 50 now and still run. It's evolved from road to trails, more distance, better pace, more commitment. It’s something I do for myself because I love it. I also know that my identity is very tied to running and that I become obsessive about it. If I don't run "enough," I'm bummed at myself. If I don't run and eat "too much," I'm pissed and feel fat. For those reasons, I took 30 days off from running to see what would come about for me. It was a spiritual experiment, to have the guts to not run and let the feelings emerge, whatever they were.
Here’s what I realized: I wanted to feel close to my dad and tried to achieve that through running. It always dragged me down a little, because the connection didn't come -- it fell short. I wanted to let it go of the hope that running would bring me closer to my dad. I needed to grieve and move on so I gave it all to God, cried about it, talked about it, wrote about it and I feel free.
Today, I decided to run some trails, on the 30th day of my anti-running streak; trails that recently burned in the Malibu fire – my home trails – and it felt SO GOOD! I’m so glad I took this time to feel sad about my dad and let it go, to gain a better understanding of why I run. I run because I love it.
Two years ago, I wrote my dad a thank you note for all the things he taught me as a child. Soon after, I found out he was in jail again. I never heard from him. I am still so appreciative of what he taught me, how he passed on a love of running to me and that I’ve passed on to my daughters. Not everything that happens generationally is painful or awful, to be remembered with sadness—there’s so much good, even when circumstances aren’t ideal. Feel it, cry about it, laugh about it, and keep running!
The house in the background is my early childhood home. I just noticed that the blinds were closed mid-day...and I’m outside, where I felt most comfortable and free.