I woke up one morning with an urge to run like the wind. I wanted to put my body into top gear and feel it come alive.
Many years ago, my husband Andy and I ran kilometre after kilometre, every evening after work. I remember rhythmically pounding along the footpaths, my feet flying, my arms pumping, my hair lifting in the breeze, thinking I could run forever. It was a wonderful, exhilarating feeling.
And I wanted to feel that way again. But it had been years since those running days. Of course I was a lot older. Could I still run?
There was only one way to find out. I put on my shorts and running shoes, and headed down to the park at the end of our road. I imagined running effortlessly around the football field. I was going to be amazing.
I threw my water bottle onto the grass. I took a deep breath. And then I ran. But before I’d gone more than a few paces, I was huffing and puffing. There was a huge pain in my chest. My legs felt heavy. Oh my! Running was a lot harder than I remembered. I crawled back home and collapsed on my bed. Blood pounded in my ears. My breathing was ragged. I was certain I was going to die.
“What a stupid idea that was,” I moaned to myself. “I’m much too old for running. If I don’t die today, I’m going to let myself slip into an inactive old age.”
Of course I didn’t die. My husband revived me with a cup of tea, and eventually I felt able to get up off my bed. When I appeared in the kitchen (looking for some breakfast), I was greeted by my youngest daughters: “We heard you went running, Mum! We think you’re wonderful. Can we come running with you tomorrow?”
“I’m wonderful?” Instantly I forgot all the pain I‘d just endured. I also forgot my vow never to run again. I smiled at my girls and said, “You can come with me if you’re up early.”
The next morning I was back at the park… and the next and the next… It was hard work. It was painful. Lot of times I wanted to give up. But I didn’t. Days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, and eventually I ran 5 km without stopping. You should have seen the grin on my face. It was huge.
So what kept me motivated through that long hard struggle to get fit? The encouragement of my family certainly made a difference. They kept telling me how fantastic I was, and how well I was doing. They ran with me. And I kept my eye focused on the end result: I wanted to be able to run a non-stop 5 km. I kept imagining myself telling people, “I’m a runner!” I knew how good I’d feel once I’d achieved my goal.
Well, I have been a runner now (for the second time in my life!) for about three years. I am fit and healthy. I can now fly along like I did in my younger days. It’s still an exhilarating feeling. That would be reward enough for all my hard work. But I’ve also discovered other benefits to being fit.
I’m an older mother. I’m well into that post-baby stage of my life. My youngest child is ten. My oldest is married. This could be a difficult time for me. Babies and toddlers have disappeared. Lines and wrinkles have taken their place. That’s a bit depressing. I could yearn for my younger days when I had little children, and a more youthful face. But I don’t. You see, I love being exactly where I am in life. And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact I am fit.
A few mornings a week I head down to the bush tracks at the end of our road, together with four of my girls. Gemma-Rose is ten. Sophie, Charlotte and Imogen are teenagers. We run about 5 or 6 kms and when we have finished, I say, “Good work girls!” We high five each other and we grin. I look at my daughters as we stroll home side-by-side, and my heart overflows with love. I think about how fortunate I am. My girls and I have an extra special bond: we run together. We are The Team.
Yes, I am enjoying my children just as they are. I don’t wish they were still babies and toddlers. But do I wish I had a younger body anyway?
I suppose it would be nice not to have lines and wrinkles. But I have found something that takes my mind off my ageing face. It’s something I have control over still: my fitness. Our bodies are rather remarkable. They are capable of far more than most of us realise. We don’t need to slip into an inactive old age. No, we can delight in strong muscles and strong hearts however old we are. We can race through our middle years towards an older age at a blistering pace. And so that’s what I’m doing, challenging my body further and further.
This morning, I was running along the main fire trail, which winds its way through the gum trees close to our home. It’s a fairly easy run to begin with, but the return trip is all uphill… up and up and up, over rocks and sand. I used to hate that hill. Now I love it. I have decided that not only am I a runner, I’m a runner who loves climbing hills. Do you know why? Because those hills are a challenge and when I make it to the top, I feel so satisfied. My legs feel strong. And I am sure every time I get to the top of a hill, I become a little stronger mentally too.
Running has certainly changed the way I think about myself. I’m strong. I feel can do anything. And that’s much better than feeling old, wouldn’t you agree?
Perhaps you’ve been thinking about becoming a runner. What’s stopping you? Could it be the thought of all the hard work ahead of you? It’ll be worth it! If you have enough determination, you’ll soon be flying along, feet pounding, arms pumping, enjoying that exhilarating feeling!
I am an Australian wife and mother of eight. I love writing and blogging, and have written two books (so far!) ‘Grief, Love and Hope’ is the story of my son who died as a baby. My first children’s novel ‘The Angels of Abbey Creek’ will be available in a few days’ time! I’m a runner and love running up hills which is just as well, because life is full of them! I blog at Sue Elvis Writes and Stories of an Unschooling Family.