I started running nearly ten years ago. It has never been anything that I really enjoy and the habit comes and goes. I’ve sworn it off plenty of times in the past and mostly just walk now because of injuries, but if I get overwhelmed, stressed out or excited, I find myself out there running again.
When I get started on a run, I know immediately if it is going to be a good one or an awful one. It only takes me a few tenths of a mile to know whether or not I will get to the end of three miles and decide to push through for just a little longer or if I my legs will feel like they are full of concrete where every step is worse than the last.
But there is something about my feet pounding the road and pushing my body, heart and lungs to go when they are screaming at me to stop that keeps me addicted. When the run is all over, the world looks like a different place and whatever was dragging me down before is behind me, left out there on the pavement.
I used to think about what I would do when I was done to pass the time while running. I thought about what I would eat later when out on my long marathon training runs. Running through the snow or ice meant I would dream for miles about taking a warm shower and putting on wool socks when I got home.
I have spent hours on treadmills watching television shows and running around the indoor track at the UA Little Rock gym while strategizing about work. When I am happy, I think about all of the things I am grateful for and on days when I am sad, I think about all of the people who can’t get outside and run – a la M’Lynn in Steel Magnolias at the cemetery after Shelby has died.
It is no secret that my family is a supporter of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. They monitored me and Ellie while I was pregnant with her and saved her life and heart when she was born. We were inpatient there on-and-off for the first year of her life and are back there often for appointments. We count the doctors, nurses, therapists, specialists, administrators and fellow patients and parents we met there as dear friends. We owe so much to ACH and have even started an endowment in Ellie’s name to benefit plans for the new Heart Institute at ACH.
Today is the second annual Race for a Healthier Tomorrow 5K that benefits the hospital. The race was postponed this year because of the pandemic and eventually became a virtual event. Registrants were able to go by and pick up race packets this week and were encouraged to get out and run today.
I thought about skipping out on it this year – I am nursing a foot injury that I am beginning to think is just old age – but Ellie changed my mind.
We pass ACH every morning on our way to school. I hop on the interstate right before the hospital exit and when we go by, Ellie waves and blows kisses. Yesterday morning as we passed, I remembered that I needed to go pick up my race packet.
I started to think about what it was like to wake up at that hospital every morning. I thought about rolling out of the scratchy bed sheets on the pull-out sofa underneath the gale-force arctic-wind blowing air conditioner vents. I would get up just before daylight to sneak into the tiniest shower with an even tinier shower curtain to cry and ready myself for the day before the doctors started rounds.
I could almost smell the breakfast in the cafeteria while I remembered what it felt like to thank the night shift as I said “good morning” to day shift on my way to find some coffee or all the times I used to think about the things my family and I would do “if we ever get out of this place” while I looked out the windows and watched the cars go by down on this same interstate.
Because of ACH, there are so many things that I get to do now that we are out of that place. I get to change Ellie’s diaper and tell her to stop turning the knobs on the stove. I get to watch her and her brothers roll around on the floor and wrestle until one of them starts to cry. I get to wipe her nose and put bandaids on her scrapes.
I get to take her to school and watch her make her own way and live her own life. I get to watch her dance with her daddy every night when he gets home from work. I get to be the recipient of so many messy kisses and big, tight, strong growly bear hugs.
I get to rock her when she wakes up from bad dreams and I get to play with her while she takes bubble baths. I get to do so many things that so many people who have walked in and out of those same hospital doors wish they could do.
For more information or to donate to the ACH Race for a Healthier Tomorrow, click here.