Originally posted at http://53riverbankrun.com/blog/roadwarriors/2014/01/20/breaking-through-the-wall-2/
They call it hitting the wall. It’s that terrible point in a race/run where complete and utter exhaustion overwhelms you, your legs become anchors threatening to drag you to a standstill, and every bone in your body screams at you to give up and collapse on the ground right this minute. In March of 2012, I sprinted head first into the wall so hard it dropped me to my knees and I didn’t know if I would ever get back up again.
One cold March morning, I found my (previously healthy) 1 year old son Emmett, unconscious and seizing wildly in his crib. This one seizure would change the entire course of our lives. Suddenly our life was full of hospitals, scans, tests, medications, therapies and a slew of Doctors trying to figure out what was wrong. Watching my son suffer turned me into a different person. It cast me into a deep, dark despair that I had never known before. It made me question everything I had ever believed in and everything I thought I knew about myself. It broke me, over and over, relentlessly until I was a hollow shell of a person, a mere shadow of who I used to be.
For the first time in almost 9 years, my heart wasn’t in it at all. I didn’t want to run anymore. However, I continued out of pure obligation because I was going to be pacing for the Fifth Third River Bank Run for the first time that year. I forced myself out the door day after day regardless of how little I had slept, how long I had been at the hospital, or how heavy my legs and heart were. I didn’t enjoy a single step of it and I felt like a traitor to the sport I had once lived and breathed with such true passion and joy.
Light at the end of the tunnel came almost 2 months later, on the day we scheduled Emmett’s first surgery. My legs complained about the strain after the 3 hour car ride home from the hospital, but I found myself wanting to run away to my home away from home. I bolted down the road, running faster than I normally would but it wasn’t enough. I pushed harder and demanded more until my lungs burned, my heart pounded wildly, and against my will tears streamed down my face. I kept pushing until I was vaguely aware that I had started screaming, a terrible anguished noise that frightened even me, its owner. I stopped and crouched down in the deserted dirt trail trying to catch my breath and calm myself down but it was no use. There was only pain and fear and it was pouring out of me like sweat on a hot summer day. I could either fight it or let it go, so I jumped back up and started running again – screaming, crying, and praying all while I punished my legs into oblivion. When I returned home, my legs shook underneath me, but I felt just a little bit better. Maybe I was not irrevocably broken. Maybe I was going to be ok…
As I continued to run, I felt the life slowly surging back into me. It came up from the road itself, seeping into my shoes, until it was radiating throughout my entire body. Running gave me back the will to fight. I was running to feel strong, brave, and whole. I was running for my son Emmett and to give validation to his life, his struggle, and his suffering. I was running because I loved it once again and I couldn’t get enough.
Running has given me something to cling to on some of the worst days of my life. On the day of Emmett’s first surgery, I ran on a treadmill in the hospital for the entirety of his surgery (7 hours and 26 minutes) while he had his entire skull broken apart and put back together correctly due to a birth defect called Craniosynostosis. I stepped off that treadmill with delirious pride and hope that overpowered the fear. On the day of the worst diagnosis to date, the news about his brain, I took off running for hours until I had to come walking home, exhausted, sore, and hungry but still not defeated.
I truly believe that running heals; it is cathartic, empowering, and real. Whatever you are trying to overcome, whatever you think you can’t do – you can. The answer lies with in you and your refusal to give up. You have the power to keep getting back up and keep charging that wall head on until you are through. Keep running, keep pushing back, and I will see you on the other side of the wall.