Kathy Sebright

Writer. Speaker. Believer. Runner. Truth Enthusiast.


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A love like a fairy tale

Happily ever after. That’s what they say, right? You’ve found the one to live out all of your days with and your storybook ending awaits.

I was downstairs running on my treadmill late that night. Our two little boys were already asleep in their beds. My husband and I had been fighting on and off for what felt like forever. Life had turned increasingly chaotic with our son’s diagnosis, a major skull surgery, another impending surgery, and the seizures that raged on with alarms going off in the middle of the night. I was falling apart at the seams with a load of what if questions and the genuine fear I felt for my son’s life. I was no longer myself. I had become an insomniac. I was spiraling into depression. I was also having what the Doctor diagnosed as panic attacks. Sometimes I was a mess, raw with all kinds of emotions that just overflowed from my very being. Sometimes I was numb, cold, and unfeeling, this person who couldn’t even pretend or allow herself to care. It was like watching a stranger act this way. I was embarrassed by this stranger and I wanted her out of my head and out of my life, but she had such a strong hold over me. broken-glass-1391033856ZOj

My husband stood next to the treadmill as I stared straight ahead, with the steady pounding of my feet to block out all of the things I didn’t want to hear. A duffle bag full of his clothes sat at his feet. The silence stretched out between us. Finally, he threw his parting words in my direction “I can’t do this with you anymore. I just can’t.” I didn’t even look up. I didn’t even flinch.  “Ok bye” I said as I continued staring straight ahead of me, running into nothingness. He slammed the door behind him and the sound of my feet started to fade away.

He was gone. It hurt. It hurt everywhere and I had to make it stop somehow. I pushed the up arrow to increase the speed on my treadmill and felt a twinge in my stomach. My entire life was unrecognizable. I was crawling in my own skin. I just wanted to run away. I pushed the up arrow a few more times, speeding up even more as my stomach churned. I was helpless. Everything felt utterly hopeless and now I was all alone. I just wanted to run away. I pushed the up arrow once again. It was too fast. Everything burned: my heart, my legs, and my stomach. I just wanted to run away. I was going to scream, I was sure of it, so I turned my head into my shoulder to muffle the sound. That’s when I threw up. I pulled the emergency stop cord and started to cry instead. Desperate, reckless, anguish poured out of me in the form of sobs. How did everything ever get so wrong?

That’s where he found me an hour later. He had come back home and I was sitting on the hard treadmill belt, puke still in my hair, and crying hysterically. I was the vision of undone. He picked me up from my treadmill and brought me to the bathroom to help clean me up as I gripped his arm. In that moment, no words were exchanged between us. Just a simple and overwhelming act of love. A love like a fairy tale. Someone that could love me when I couldn’t love myself. Someone that could take care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself. Someone in pain themselves that could see how much pain I was in and still find it in themselves to care. Someone that would stand by me.

We both made a lot of mistakes attempting to navigate this new place in our life. Honestly, I have made the majority of them. It took me much longer to figure it out, to find myself again, and to trust the ground below me was steady enough to hold. It was and still very much is a learning process. I patched myself back up together as best as I could. I sought counseling. I attempted to make peace with all of the things I couldn’t control. I found my faith once again. We became a team, united and fighting battles together instead of against one another. We came out the other side even more solid in our marriage, strengthened by the dark road we had traveled.

Maybe that’s not what people had in mind when they said happily ever after. Maybe they meant flowers, exotic trips, and eloquent sonnets professing undying love. Maybe Prince Charming never attempted to leave in frustration to his shell of a bride. Maybe that fairy tale princess never threw up all over herself. Maybe that fairy tale life doesn’t look anything like ours. Or perhaps happily ever after meant something more, like a promise. Love for better or worse: way, way worse. Someone to hold you up in the halls of a hospital when your legs go weak. Someone to rinse your gross hair out for you. Someone that loves you even when you are sure you are unlovable and undeserving of such love. Someone that refuses to give up on you over and over and over again. Someone that will love you through all seasons. A love like a fairy tale.

 


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“She put on a lot of weight”

I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a couple of years on the fourth of July. It was hot and humid here. My sweaty hair was stuck to my face. My brave little boy was in my big yellow double running stroller, the strap tied a bit too tightly around my arm digging in. My oldest son was running behind me with my husband. I was surrounded by an amazing group of people out there representing the church we attend, showing love for our community by passing out a few thousand popsicles in the parade. My face was flushed red from the heat and the exertion of running to keep up while pushing a nearly 100 pound load and simultaneously handing out popsicles with one hand while the other steered the stroller. I handed this person a popsicle, smiled, and offered a short, but enthusiastic, “Hey there!” As I turned away from them to continue, I heard ever so faintly “she put on a lot of weight.” I felt my face flame up with embarrassment. My pulse quickened like it would for an impending physical attack. I was stunned for about half a second before I realized there was no time to dwell on this. I had to keep moving and stay with my group even though I wanted to know so badly if there was going to be more to this conversation about me. FB_IMG_1436225638817

I sat with it for 2 days. I didn’t say a word to anyone about it, not even my husband, because I was embarrassed. Because I felt ashamed. Because most of all they were right. I mean yes, they were right. But in those short few seconds they saw me, they didn’t really see me. They chose to see just one thing. My weight. Not me. They only saw my weight.

I wanted to go back and tell them. All the things they didn’t see, that is. All the things they couldn’t even begin to understand. All the things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. All the things I have overcome to be here today, standing in front of them happily offering them a popsicle. All the times I almost didn’t make it. All the ways I have struggled and failed and got back up again anyhow, refusing to let that be the way it ended. So yes. Yes. I have gained weight. And it would be so easy to make excuses and justifications. This is what insomnia can do to you. This is what it looks like when you watch your heart and soul – your child suffer from unimaginable pain. This is what long term, chronic stress and worry looks like. This is what someone that has been on the edge one too many times looks like. But it wouldn’t be the whole truth. The whole truth is I have done this to myself. That’s the whole and embarrassing and painful truth. I have struggled and I have done the very best I have been able to over the years and this is where I have found myself. I have tried and tried and tried. I really have. And when all else has failed, when I have prayed and ran, and wrote and read, when I have cried and screamed and still felt the world spinning out of control in front of me, I have turned to food for comfort. And just because I have put on this weight does not make me any less of a person. It does not mean I am not worthy, not interesting, or not important.

I wanted to go back and tell them more. Like how I just ran 100 miles two weeks ago, for the third time. And while some would attempt to diminish these accomplishments because I was not “fast”, I stand proud knowing the truth of the matter. It takes a level of endurance and grit I never knew I had to run for a day and a half straight. It takes a hardened will, a determination to go forth despite the burning pain, the deep ache that settles in all of your bones, the beaten down body, and the discouraged mind. It takes dedication and passion. It’s all about heart. It’s a feat of strength, not just physically but mentally. And just because I have put on this weight does not mean I am weak, out of shape, or unhealthy.

I wanted to tell them all of this and more. I wanted to make them see how much more I am than someone who has put on weight. But the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it seemed. Why does it matter? Why do I care what these people think of me? Why do I look at myself in the mirror more critically after a mindless comment someone made by the side of the road? Why do we let people do this to us? Who is anyone to judge you or me that way? Why do we dismiss a compliment so easily but let an insult stick to our ribs?

So I came to a realization and that is I need to be a better friend, to myself. The next time I look at myself in the mirror before I leave, I will not throw in a biting comment about how I look. The next time I am discouraged that I cannot zip up my favorite pair of jeans, I will not berate myself. The next time I hear a less than flattering comment about myself,  I will not let it take root in me. I will not give it the satisfaction. I will dismiss it the way it should be. I will love myself more. I will look at myself the way a friend would. If I would not say it a friend, I will not say it to myself. As we all should. I will cut myself some slack and acknowledge that I really have done the best that I could. I will believe my own words. I will know that I have not failed anyone and that I am not a failure myself.

I will honestly and truly treat myself like a friend would. That’s what I want for you too. I want you to see yourself for how amazing you are. I want you to see that it does not matter if you are a few pounds heavier than you want to be. It does not make you any less beautiful. What makes you beautiful is you. Who you are. Not some arbitrary number. Not the way your critics may see you, but the way the ones that love you see you. What an amazing thing that would be FB_IMG_1430562952849– to finally see ourselves the way our loved ones do. The way we should be seen. That is the hope. That is the goal.


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An upward spiral

Today is the day – it’s time to run for 24 hours at the inaugural Upward Spiral 24 Hour Endurance Run!!! It’s awesome for a so many reasons. My friend and running partner Adele is directing the whole thing. It’s something she dreamt up. It’s raising awareness of depression, bullying, and self-harm. The name? Upward spiral. Instead of downward spiral like so many people use to describe depression, like I’ve used to describe the darkest moments of my life. It hits close to home and it IS close to home, literally. Like 10 minutes away close. And it’s free! Absolutely free. How much more could you want in a race?

When I do long runs like these, I always like to set 3 goals for myself. It’s good to have a backup plan because having 3 different level goals ensures I always have something to focus on even if my original plan falls to pieces.

My #1. goal is to hit 100 miles! It’s a lofty goal, seeing as how it would be exactly 5 hours and 44 minutes faster than my previous 100 mile finish, but this is all indoor on a track, which takes away a lot of the unknown factors that tripped me up last year.

My #2. goal is to hit at least 70 miles. If something goes wrong and I end up walking a lot, I should be able to at least hit 70 miles. A plus side to doing a lot of walking is I’ll be able to visit with all my awesome crew that is coming out to support me.

My #3 goal is not my own. If I blow up big time out there somehow and can’t possibly go on, I want to do everything in my power to help others succeed. I will do what I can to help my friend Adele complete 100 miles. I will stick with my friend, and forever cheerleader, Kelly attempting her longest run yet – 3 hours! I will step outside of myself and find people struggling and that look like they could use some help and then step in.

Regardless of what path I take, what goals I meet or can’t meet, the woman that finishes the race is not that same as the woman that starts the race. I’ve lived it many times to know how true it is. It will be true today. It will be true tomorrow.  Why exactly? Because of Hope. Braving the journey and letting it go. WIN_20150220_075239


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The running contract

Originally posted at http://53riverbankrun.com/blog/roadwarriors/2014/03/19/the-running-contract/

watch9 years ago, I signed my life over to running. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but it turns out I neglected to read a lot of the fine print in the contract. First of all, running would demand some crazy hours from me. It wouldn’t be long before my wake-ups went from 7 am (Pre-kids of course! These were the blissful days before I had children that I used to think 7 am was actually early, but I digress) They went from 7am to 6 am to 5 am, and thankfully stopping at the earliest of 4:30 am all in an effort to beat the sweltering summer heat, fit 14 training miles in before work, or squeeze a run in on an over packed day. To accommodate all this ridiculous early morning stuff, I would now need to go to bed early, much earlier than everybody else my age or in a general 15 year span give or take. Forcing myself into bed not long after my kids went to bed made me feel very old and very lame, but there is no use lamenting a wasted youth. I’ve got 2 car seats, a purse as big as a diaper bag, and randomly find myself singing Veggietales songs because let’s face it – my youth and cool factor has been gone for awhile now. I begrudgingly subscribed to these new sleeping habits in order to better myself and better my running.

Then, there were the bananas. I hate bananas. Absolutely hate them. Always have. The taste, the texture, the slimy peel… how very unlucky for me that they are running’s super fruit. Need energy? Grab a banana. Muscle cramps? A banana will fix that. Getting tired during your run? Have another banana. For a runner, the banana is practically the cure for whatever ails you. And so I learned to tolerate bananas. I hid them in smoothies, mixed them up with big spoonfuls of peanut butter, and every so often, managed to eat one with my stale quartered bagel after a hard race. Running made me care more about what I put into my body, not just with bananas but other foods as well. Turns out pizza and ice cream are not a good pre-run meal, but post-run…well, that’s another story. bananas

But then came the scariest part of it all – the running clothes. The synthetic spandex and polyester type fabrics, the curve-hugging wicking base layers and tights – all of that stuff would weasel its way into my closet. And I’d wear it, out in public even! Up until that point, I had spent my entire adult life avoiding those kinds of clothes. Standing at 6 feet, with shoulders wider than most men my size, calves that will always be too big to be zipped up into a pair of tall boots, and 2 kids via c-section – as far as I was concerned, spandex had no business in my life or in my closet. Spandex with its unflattering, clingy judgmental statements, highlighting every extra cookie, every failed sit up, and putting me awkwardly on display like that one time I went to the beach right after I had a baby. Why would I do that to myself? Why would I wear these things? I learned to let it go, to love myself, and see with clearer eyes what I am capable of. I learned to be proud of who I am and embrace the gear even when I was afraid and very self-conscious in it. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. But can I still run an incredible amount of miles? Yes!

And so here I am – exhausted at 5 am, unceremoniously stuffing myself into a pair of spandex capris, eating a banana out of sheer obligation, and heading outside to where it all makes sense. And why? Because it only takes a few minutes to remember why I am doing this. It only takes a few minutes to realize that it is all worth it. Every run, every mile, and every race has the power to transform. I have transformed my life mile by mile, many different times over the years. Running has kept me from drowning, healed my broken heart, been an outlet for grief and loss, and saw me through fear beyond words. So I will keep running, forging ahead the road in front of me, because that is where I belong. If you love what you are doing, then that is all that matters, contract or no contract.


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Breaking through the wall

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. IMAG0242

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. Kathy_Sebright_1982

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.


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Cloudy skies ahead

Originally posted at http://53riverbankrun.com/blog/roadwarriors/2014/07/16/cloudy-skies-ahead/

black-cloud-hiWe’ve all been there before. It’s the run that takes away nearly all of your hard earned confidence in a matter of minutes. It’s the run that makes you feel like the slowest, sluggish, most out of shape person that has ever attempted to run. In a single word – it’s excruciating. The first question that comes to mind is what’s going on. A runner’s brain tends to be logical, methodical, and usually operates within a definite have a problem, find a solution mentality. But sometimes, into the most logical part of that brain sneaks the black could. The black cloud is powerful; it can overtake even the most self-assured runner if the conditions are just right. It seeks out fear and doubt and amplifies it in your mind. The black cloud makes you feel like a failure before you’re even done trying and before you’ve even had the chance to fail. The black cloud is not above shaming you for every decision you’ve ever made and for every failure (legitimate or not) that you’ve ever tried to bury and forget about. Yes, the black cloud sees it all and uses it all to hand out its harsh judgments without mercy.

Welcome to the deep, dark recesses of my mind just last week. It was Saturday morning and 24 miles were on the schedule. I am training for my very first 100 mile ultra marathon in September. I am not a stranger to the ultra marathon but this 100 mile race will be by far, the longest I’ve ever attempted. Anyhow, back to Saturday morning: less than 2 miles into my 24 mile run and it became clear that this was going to be one of those excruciating runs. The black cloud pushed its poison into my mind immediately and didn’t let up for the next 22 miles. The black cloud wiped out every accomplishment I’ve ever had. The black cloud brought shame and guilt with it and told me if I lost these last 20 pounds, it’d be much easier to run. The black cloud went for the jugular, taunting me for being selfish and for spending so much time on running when I could be at home with my kids and judging me for spending so much money on running shoes when I could be setting it aside for my son’s medical expenses. The black cloud was sure I would never, ever, in a thousand years, be able to finish 100 miles. I mean, I was struggling terribly just to survive these 24 miles and I wasn’t even a quarter of the way there. When my resolve was weakened and I was truly wondering if I’ve gotten in over my head, the black cloud mocked me “Let’s just leave these kinds of feats to the real athletes, shall we?”

I put on my angry face, gritted my teeth, and obsessively watched my Garmin move slower than I thought was even possible. At one point, I took it off and jostled it around a bit, sure that it was broken. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily for me, it wasn’t broken; I was just going that slowly. I scolded myself, I threw myself a big pity party, I got good and mad about not being able to do what I wanted to do, and yet I didn’t give up. I dug deep, I held on, and I pushed through it. As my driveway came into view, I was overcome with emotion. I started to cry from sheer relief at being done and also to be rid of that hateful black cloud. Once I was done running and thinking clearly again, I realized with some embarrassment that the hateful black cloud is me. There is no escaping her. Secretly (or not so secretly anymore), I’m afraid that I can’t do it. I’m afraid that I’m not good enough, not fast enough, not thin enough, and not disciplined enough. And I won’t ever be able to stop that voice in my head until I can give myself some credit for the past and believe that I really can do whatever I set my mind to. A friend gave me a wonderful magnet from Fellow Flowers that says “And when she realized she was brave enough, everything changed.” It’s a great reminder about the power of our own voice. FF

Running has a way of bringing out the very essence of life in each mile like that. There’s no escape from who you are and what lies beneath the surface. So this is what I want you to do if the black cloud comes for you. Just for right now, just for this run, and just for today, shut down that black cloud. Be proud of yourself even if you are not where you want to be. Be proud of what you can do even if you aspire to do more one day. Remember where you have come from, what you have survived, and what you have done in order to get here. Believe that you have done the best that you could given the circumstances, know that you have made mistakes but learned much from them, and realize you are always progressing towards something better. We choose what the voice in our head has to say to us – make it something worth listening to.

 

 


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An ode to my treadmill

Originally posted at http://53riverbankrun.com/blog/roadwarriors/2014/06/04/an-ode-to-my-treadmill/

photo (2)Oh treadmill, you get a bad rap. People hate you. And they don’t just hate you; they hate even the thought of you. They don’t even know you and they wrinkle up their nose in disgust. They call you names like dreadmill or hamster wheel. They seem to be offended at your mere existence, that anyone would ever *gasp* consider running on something like a treadmill. I remember a time that I was like them: the haters. I wouldn’t go near a treadmill unless there was some sort of freak lightening storm going on outside. Better to be outside and run free than cooped up inside going nowhere. It didn’t matter the conditions, I was always, always, always going to go outside. But our relationship blossomed out of a mutual need to run and maintain my sanity while being tethered to a single room.

It all started with a pregnancy. I know it wasn’t a great first impression. I was carrying a heavy load of baby, wearing a pair of non-maternity capris that were stretched to near capacity, with a cookie in each hand dropping crumbs all over your new, shiny treadmill belt. I wanted to keep running outside, but my husband began to fear my water would break 4 miles away from the house and there’d be no one around to help me. I agreed to run on the treadmill whenever my husband couldn’t run with me outside. I hated it at first, but then I had to admit, it was kind of nice. It was convenient to be only 12 steps away from the bathroom at all times. No one openly stared or disapproved of me while I was on the treadmill. No one asked me if I needed help (as if that would be the only reason a pregnant woman would be running down the road) and there was a limitless supply of cold water and snacks at the tops of the stairs.

Then my first baby boy came and I relied on you even more. I ran for a few minutes at a time in between flying up and down the stairs to check on a crying baby at nap time. Up and down the steps I’d go with the baby monitor bouncing on my hip. I’d run up the stairs, feed him, lay him down, run back down the stairs, and jump on the treadmill. The screeching cries would start again almost immediately. I’d run back up the stairs, change him or rock him, lay him down, run back down the stairs and jump back on the treadmill, and so would go those workouts as a new mom: my run interrupted 10 times in 10 minutes. Sometimes I’d give up on running completely and just strap my baby boy to the carrier on my chest. We’d walk slowly on the treadmill together, the familiar movement and hum of the treadmill belt lulling him to sleep. Some of my fondest memories are on a treadmill with a sleeping baby on my chest – the exhaustive daze of newborn parenthood overridden by my overwhelming love and awe at this little person I had made. Looking back, it still wasn’t a real good representation of myself even then, but I still felt like a rock star on that treadmill. I was still sporting my maternity yoga pants (that sadly fit much longer after I wished they wouldn’t), my hair hadn’t been brushed in 3 days, and there was baby spit up down the front of my shirt that I’d already changed twice. But I was free to run, even cooped up in the basement and while I was technically not going anywhere, I was surely moving. When another baby came and I began juggling kids, work, and running – I relied on your steady availability even more at all sorts of crazy hours of the day.

Now brace yourself, here is where it gets a little sappy. Sure the treadmill had been convenient before, but I didn’t love it by any means. The first time I ever felt the true depth of my appreciation and near love for a treadmill was on June 20, 2012. It didn’t matter that the conditions outside were perfect, I wasn’t going further than 5 feet away from this building, not even if my life depended on it. I was standing in a tiny windowless room, 3 hours away from home, on the 10th floor of a children’s hospital, teeth gritted, and tears streaming down my face. I wanted to run away. I wanted to throw things and smash them up against the walls. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs until it all went away. I was filled with so much raw, nervous energy that my hands shook as I reached to press the big green start button. And there it was as the treadmill belt began to move – I was free. Even cooped up in that room going nowhere, there was life and hope and freedom. I could run. I could feel my body pull itself together to weather this storm, to absorb the shock, and carry on somehow. I cried tears of relief that I had something so simple and so amazing to cling to. For exactly 7 hours and 26 minutes, I ran and I was free even while chained to that treadmill until the call came that my son Emmett had made it out of surgery. He was ok. He was alive. He was in recovery. I could see him. I stepped off that treadmill full of gratitude and hope. The treadmill kept me grounded and kept me going when I thought it was impossible. photo T E

So the moral of the story? I don’t know. Be nice to a treadmill today because you never know when you’ll need one tomorrow. Or something like that.