Believe it or not, until I was at least 20 years old I couldn't stand running. In any sport I played growing up, I complained endlessly when we had to run! The fact that I usually came in close to last probably played a role in my dislike of running. In my mid 20's I ran two to three times per week, no more than four miles at a time, to stay fit. After the birth of my second daughter, when I was nearly thirty years old, the switched was flipped, and running became an integral part of my life.
I don't talk a whole lot about the parts of my life that don't pertain to running, mainly because those of you who do read my blog come here to read about running. I have been married for almost 18 years, have two daughters, ages 13 and 11, and three dogs. Yes, you read that right. Three dogs. Don't judge me!
If you follow me on Instagram I have made the occasional mention of my youngest daughter having special needs. Olivia has a rare chromosome deletion called Interstitial 6q Deletion Syndrome. Quite a mouthful, right? Basically, she is missing 35 genes in the long arm of her 6th chromosome. This has resulted in epilepsy, low muscle tone, scoliosis, and cognitive impairment. This does not prevent her from talking a mile a minute, singing, dancing, and giving the best and most frequent hugs.
So let's backtrack. When Olivia was six weeks old, she was hospitalized with a common virus called RSV. It was a scary time in the PICU and I'm pretty certain I didn't sleep for five nights as I stood over her making sure she was still breathing. During that hospital stay, I went home to shower and really just take a break. While I was home I hopped on our treadmill for a short run. I'm not exaggerating when I say it was life changing in terms of stress relief and my overall outlook. Olivia recovered from RSV, and as the months went by, it became apparent her path was not typical. It was a scary time. You have this idea in your head of what your life is going to be like, what your kids are going to be like, and suddenly the plan is not being followed. Running was a large part of my sanity. Although I do have some of my best ideas while running, it also enabled me to not think at all, just move and breathe, and it was exactly what I needed at that point in my life. I decided to train for a half marathon, and the following year, in 2008, I ran my first marathon, finishing in 3:31 with absolutely no idea what I was doing! I was hooked. At that time, you could qualify for the Boston Marathon in late October and still register for the following spring. That's exactly what I did. I ran my first Boston Marathon in 3:27, and now, over 20 marathons later, I ran a 3:04 this past fall at Indy Monumental.
It actually took several years before we knew exactly what was unique about Olivia. It was a real struggle for me to accept what every doctor we saw told us - we would likely never have a diagnosis. I'm a very nosy person and not being able to know the truth was so hard to accept! In time, I did make peace with it, but it took MANY years.
I've had a lot of time to adjust to being the parent of a child with special needs. I'm no longer that mom who is struggling to accept reality. I love the life I have been given. I won't lie, it's not all sunshine and rainbows as some portray, but what parenting experience is?? If I could change anything about this experience, it would be for everyone to be able to see my daughter like I do, for the amazing and beautiful little girl she is, inside and out.
So I guess I can give Olivia credit for helping me discover how much I love to run. It's now just as much a part of me as breathing. And someday that could change, but for now I'm really enjoying the ride!