I had been expecting the phone call.
Knowledge is power but it doesn’t necessarily take away the sting of loss. My Aunt Mary was sick and 89 and she passed away on a Saturday morning. My mother called, followed up by text messages from my brother. I was on a road trip for work, covering the playoff run of Canisius College hockey on the outskirts of Boston. The reality of her death washed over me while I sat alone in my hotel room.
“Are you OK?” my family asked me, understanding that I would be taking this particular loss hard, that it would cut deep into my heart.
“I will be,” I replied through my tears. “Because I’m going running with Nate.”
Nate was the play-by-play voice of the Canisius hockey team and an excellent runner (let me interject that he is a Boston Marathoner which is not an easy get) and over the course of the past year became one of my best friends. We had planned to run together in the early afternoon with me joining him for his cool down miles from a long training run.
It could not have come at a better time.
I wasn’t sure what I was looking for from that run. It wasn’t even anything specific. I wouldn’t heal my heart over four miles. I wouldn’t find answers. But I knew that the run would settle me down, would open me up and would make me more comfortable with the questions. I knew that sharing that run with my friend would solidify my emotional base offering me not just comfort and empathy but a fresh pair of eyes to see through my grief. I wasn’t a new person after that run. I still had plenty of emotions to work through over the coming weeks. But I was grounded in my strength and confidence and surrounded by people who both nurture and challenge me.
This is what running means to me. For that I am truly lucky.
There are times when I end up in the fetal position on the couch — sometimes literally, sometimes metaphorically. The universe deals me blows beyond my control and I’ve made more than my fair share of poor and questionable life choices. We all have. It’s part of the condition known as being human.
But I have always had a support system to help me rebound. I have family and friends who have picked me up (sometimes literally) off the floor. I have a certain freedom that comes with education and a job which enables me to do what I love, even if I don’t love it all the time. I have discovered and cultivated confidence through running, cycling and triathlon. I have all the tools I need to create my own life and have ownership over my path, bad decisions and all.
For that I am truly lucky. Because not everyone has that safety net.
Which is why I started my project Racing for Carolyn’s House.
The campaign coincides with my training for Ironman 70.3 Princeton on Sept. 21. The goal is to raise money for Carolyn’s House, a transitional living space for homeless women and their children. Through their educational, training and advocacy services women are able to determine the course of their own lives.
Every woman should have the tools she needs for self sufficiency. Every woman should have the support she needs so that one decision doesn’t spiral downward. Every woman should be given the opportunity to find the confidence she needs to author her own life story.