In the wake of the COVID-19 chaos, I wanted to share an uplifting story about my family’s running journey. I am a special needs mom. Both of my twin boys have autism, and other various diagnoses. Our story seems unique, but in reality it is much more common than you would expect.
The boys were born as little preemies in Okinawa, Japan in October 2014. After a month in the NICU, we took our beautiful babies home. By the time they were 15 months, I suspected that they may be delayed. At 18 months, my suspicions were confirmed; the boys were diagnosed with Autism.
My husband was out of the country. My world was turned upside down. I had no idea what to do. I was completely numb, our entire world had changed. I felt completely alone on an island where I barely knew anyone. So, I did what I knew how to do. I loaded the boys into our old, worn-down jogger and I went for a run. I knew I had to process the day’s events. The miles blended together and eventually turned into my first ten mile run.
I couldn’t believe that I ran ten miles. That small victory turned a rough day into a positive one. Running was always our family’s activity. I grew up going to my dad’s races, oftentimes as early as 2:00AM. He is the ultimate runner and my example. It’s funny to think that I used to hate running. After the boys’ diagnosis, I knew I needed to make a change in my life. I decided to pursue running as that change.
During this whole time, I was a solitary runner. With all the moves, therapy, hospital stays, and constant change in our lives, I didn’t think I would be able to find a running community. It made me concerned that there wasn’t a single running group that would understand my beautiful boys and our lifestyle.
Recently one of our sons went through a traumatic experience. It was so severe, that the breakdown eventually morphed into PTSD with self injurious behavior. During this struggle, our family was emotionally and physically exhausted. We didn’t leave the house and ultimately shut ourselves in. We didn’t know if our baby would come back to us. He seemed like a shell of the little boy we knew. As a mother I wasn’t sure if we would make it. I would spend all night holding him so he didn’t hurt himself.
Getting up the morning after these incidents, I felt completely empty inside. It was like all I had left was the next step in my run. Telling myself, “just one more step and you’ll make it.” That attitude carried into helping my son. Just one more step and it will be okay. Just that one step kept me going. That running mentality forged our outlook -and ultimately our hope- that our son would make it through this storm.
That one step turned into thousands. And now our son is very slowly on his way to recovery. We still have hard days but those are the days I push myself out the door. I know I will be better for it. What I learned from this time was immeasurable. The friendships that I had made through my running journey were the ones that stayed by our sides the most. When we shut ourselves in, they came knocking. The positivity from them became positivity that I was able to bring home.
This race showed me how capable I can be when I want to. It was my first PR, and I did it with an amazing friend. Our husbands cheered us on at the finish line. It is a memory I will never forget! Thanks to running, I’ve been able to push myself to new heights. Thanks to our running community, and my family, I’ve grown as a mother, a friend and a woman. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
1. You are enough. Always remember that no matter how hard times get, you can make it through.
2. Your children love you no matter what. This was one of my biggest lessons. Our kids just want to see us happy. Our children’s love is unwavering.
3. Lao Tzu once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Don’t be afraid to take that next step in your running journey. Everything in life starts with, “That first step." Life is full of possibilities, get out there and explore yours.
4. Go to the Stroller Warriors workout. You will make amazing friendships that will help you through your hardest times. They will help you grow as a spouse and as a parent. You won’t regret it!
5. When you’re tired and don’t feel like going, go anyway. I guarantee you will feel better afterwards. These are my biggest mental battles. On the hard days, I have to push myself out of the house and onto the pavement. This gives me the time and space I’ve needed to deal with the day’s (or night’s) events.
6. Surround yourself with positive people. I am extremely lucky to have met some amazing people throughout my running journey. They have uplifted myself and my family in times of need.
7. Listen to yourself. Follow what your mind and body are telling you. This is important. Don’t doubt what your body is telling you. You know your body the best. Listen to it.
8. Laughter and smiles are some of the best medication. The times I am able to run with friends, laugh, and smile are when I feel the best. There is no replacing the therapeutic value of a good laugh.
9. Try that new running adventure ahead of you. You never know what can happen, and you might love it. You might be pleasantly surprised with how much you enjoy it. Plus, you’ll get to see how you’ve grown as a person along the way.
10. Always remember to give yourself time and space for growth. Change doesn’t happen overnight. By giving yourself space to grow, you are setting yourself up for success. This is key to sustaining yourself and your family.