Through the years that followed, Running became an entity in my head and heart. The “r” gained a capital letter status, officially designating Running as a proper noun. Running became my anchor in the midst of chaos, my sanctuary, and something that set my soul on fire.
Fast forward to my adult life as an Army wife…
There’s a word in Hebrew that I feel encompasses much of my emotional state over the past 15 years. I even have it tattooed on my wrist. “Qavah” – to wait, look for, hope, expect. Passionate patience. I have waited and hoped through 11 combat deployments over the years. It became my habit to sign up and train for a marathon during his time away. I needed the physical intensity and cleansing power of Running to help quell my anxiety and fear, but it also became a tangible way for me to qavah. I could physically chase my running goals while my heart looked for my husband's return home.
Even though I had the experience of 10 previous deployments under my belt, our first deployment as the parents of 2 young children introduced new anxieties and fears. When my husband left, our daughter was 4 and our son had just turned 1. I was intimate with my BOB Duallie by then, but I couldn’t see how I could continue my tradition of running a deployment marathon.
About a month into the deployment, I felt mentally adrift. I looked at the calendar and the months ahead looked like an endless march of minutes and hours to survive. Just survive.
Enter Providence. During a Stroller Warriors run, I learned that most of my running tribe was set to run the Marine Corps Marathon in October. I remember thinking “Maybe? Could I really figure this out?” Buoyed by a sense of community and support, it felt possible in that moment to train for and run the MCM that year. It felt possible to fulfill my need for a physical challenge to anchor the intangible, passionate pursuit in my heart.
I registered. I wrote out my training schedule. It definitely wasn’t always easy. Sometimes it was downright miserable. There were days when I questioned why I was doing it. There were nighttime long runs on the treadmill when the kids were sick, stepping on at 10pm after they finally went to sleep and finishing at midnight. The first time I ran 15 miles with the Duallie, I nearly gave up on the whole idea. It was humid, the kids were raging by mile 11 and my body felt like it was giving out. But I had 2 Running Angels with me, who, refusing to hear any argument from me, took the drenched stroller from my sweaty hands, and gave me time to recover my senses and determination. I was so blessed during the training cycle – I had an entire group of Stroller Warriors who did incredible things to help me, though each and every one would insist that it was nothing. They took the Duallie on hills, and stayed back with me when I lagged. They talked me through the inevitable melt downs of my two stroller-bound training partners, and even stayed with the kids at a playground so I could finish out the last few miles of the longest long runs stroller free. These women will never know how much they helped me, and how much they gave me what I needed.
The rhythm of the training cycle brought back the sense of focus I had been lacking through the first weeks of the deployment, and I found that I was able to do more than just survive. The Saturday morning long runs became special events for the kids and me, my daughter in particular. She would go to bed Friday night and ask if we were getting up early to “run in the night with the running ladies.” Two and half years later, she still talks about those runs and how she misses them.
The final Saturday long run of the cycle was a 22 mile haul. The kids heroically endured 16 miles in the stroller before escaping to the playground with an absolutely amazing fellow Warrior. As I finished that last long run, I full felt the impact of what we had accomplished. I buckled the kids in their car seats as I felt a sob building in my chest. I turned and looked at my daughter and choked out “Thank you. Thank you for doing this with me. It means so much to me.” She, of course, didn’t quite understand my intense emotions, but replied “You’re welcome Mommy. Don’t cry, it’s ok.”
Because of a carefully scheduled R & R, my husband was able to be at the marathon and, as is his habit, he positioned himself and the kids exactly where I needed them most on race day.
The last mile building up to the iconic finish of the MCM is lonely – no fanfare, no shade…just a straight road that seems endless. Something to survive. That is where I saw them, waiting for me on the side of the road with the beloved Duallie, and my Soul leaped. Everything that we had pushed through, the miles, the sweat, the tears, all the minutes and hours spent waiting, hoping, pursuing…it all built to that moment. I ran to my little family, my whole world, knowing that passionate patience is not to sit by passively, idly counting seconds. It is to qavah, to actively strive toward the goal of my heart, pursuing that which sets my Soul on fire.
Jamie D. is a 23 year running veteran with 3 children (ages 7, 4 and 3 months) and has been a member of Stroller Warriors ® Fort Belvoir for 6 years- volunteering as a workout leader and leading weekly speed workouts on the track.