How running has helped me grieve

On Tuesday, July 26 my life changed forever.

It was a normal evening at our house. My husband, Scott came home from work like he always does. We had dinner and after we played outside with our three boys. We got the kids bathed and ready for bed, said our goodnights and settled in to have a little parent time and watch a show. Scott played hockey every Tuesday evening with a team that he had played with for many years. As we were watching Big Brother he remarked how he didn’t feel like going that evening. However, not one to let his team down, he kissed me goodnight and set out just after 9 p.m. for his game.

Just before midnight the doorbell rang. My first thought was: “really Scott, did you forget your house key again?” I looked out the window before opening the door and saw a police car in the driveway. I ran downstairs and opened the front door to see two policemen and a friend from Scott’s hockey team sanding on the porch. They asked to come in, but I said ‘no – just tell me what’s going on.’ The came in and I heard words I would never in a million years thought I would hear. Scott had had a medical emergency. The paramedics tried their best to save him, but he died.

After that, all I remember was screaming and falling to the floor. I thought ‘this has to be a bad dream – this doesn’t happen to our family – it’s not real. What am I going to tell my boys?’ The rest of the night was a total blur.

After getting home from the hospital where I got to see Scott for the last time, I stayed up all night reading about children and grief. How to tell them that their father died. How do you explain to a six year old and two three year olds that Daddy isn’t coming home? It was terrible, but I told them the truth. I told them that God only takes the best people to heaven and because their dad was such a good man, he had to go early. I answered their many questions “why? What if you die? Who will take care of us? Can I sleep in your bed now to keep you company? Can we have homemade pancakes for breakfast”. I’ve learned a lot about the ways that children grieve and it comes and goes at very strange times. They are so literal and their main concerns at that moment were sleeping in my bed and what to have for breakfast.

The next couple of days saw many friends and family members come over to bring food, play with the boys and to help with funeral arrangements.

Friday was the visitation. I knew I had to run - I needed to do something that felt normal. I needed to do something to help me make it through that day. So Friday morning, I ran. I cried. I ran. I cried some more.  I’ve always said that everything just seems better after a run. Don’t get me wrong, my life was still turned upside, but I felt better, I felt like me, if only for those 45 minutes, I felt like me.

The visitation was packed. Over 700 people came to pay their respects to Scott. Throughout the day, several people said to me ‘make sure you keep running’ and ‘don’t give up running’. People that know me know how important it is for me and for my mental health. Running makes me a nicer person and a better mother. Scott used to say to me, when he could tell I was frustrated or losing patience, ‘maybe you should go for a run sweetie’. I would go for a run and I’d be back to myself again.

I wasn’t sure if my sister Katherine and I would be able to continue with our running group, Mums Who Run, after Scott passed, I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to leave the house for group runs. But one day when out on a run I realized that Scott would not want me to give up on the group. He was so proud of Katherine and I for starting this group and bringing people together to share with them our love of running. He knew running was, and is, my passion.

Two weeks after Scott passed away we started our fall running of clinics. We also ran the Creemore Vertical Challenge on August 6 – a week after Scott passed away. I was very lucky to have a great group of friends, and my sister, there to run it with. My parents, brother in law, niece and my three favourite little guys were at the end waiting for me. With a couple of kilometers to go a monarch butterfly flew right beside us, I knew it was Scott’s way of saying ‘I’m so happy you are still running, you need this.’

Quite often when I run on my own, I feel very close to Scott. I can feel his presence, it’s hard to explain but I know that he is there.

The 2016 Hamilton marathon was bittersweet as Scott and I were planning to run in it together. Katherine, a close friend of mine Shannon, and I ran a PB that day. I know Scott helped me through that race. I hurt for the last 7km of the race. I wanted to stop, I wanted to walk, but I didn’t, not once. I turned on my music and every single song that was connected to him came on through my headphones. I cried off and on over those last 7km. With about 200m to the finish line my friend Kathryn handed me a sign that said ‘this one’s for Scott.” I made sure to look up to heaven and thank Scott for the 3:57 marathon that I never thought would happen. He used to always say, ‘I think you can run a sub 4 marathon”, I’d tell him ‘no way, never’. Well I hate to say it, but once again he was right.

Running is more to me than just exercise.  It clears my mind. I’m a nicer person and a better mother. It makes me a stronger woman physically and especially mentally. I have tried going to support groups and grief therapy, but to be honest, I feel a heck of a lot better after a run. Running is my therapy. I know I’m not done grieving and I probably never will be. I know I’ll continue to have good and bad days, but on those bad days, I’ll run. Because I know that after a run, everything will be just a little bit better.


Winter Running Wrap Up

Last month was the end of our Spring Running clinics with the ladies completing their goal races. Training through the winter brings many challenges and these women persevered through some pretty harsh conditions. For many of our 10km and half marathon ladies it was the first time they had trained through a full winter and it was so awesome to see their smiling faces ready to go on some very, very dark and cold winter mornings.

The coldest run of the season!  

The coldest run of the season!  

The most rewarding part of coaching a run group is watching runners grow and seeing how with every kilometre their confidence increases. The best thing you can hear as a coach is ‘I never thought I would be able to do that – but I did!’

Sandy with her kiddos after completing her first 10km race!  

Sandy with her kiddos after completing her first 10km race!  

Over the last few months our running mamas completed their first 10kms, their first half marathons, their first Around the Bay races and their first marathons! Sara and I were lucky enough to be there for some of those races and we were so incredibly proud to see how far these women have come since we started at the beginning of January.

Shannon and Kathryn completing their first Marathon in less than ideal weather conditions.  

Shannon and Kathryn completing their first Marathon in less than ideal weather conditions.  

When Sara and I started this group, our main goal was to create a running group where women support women and where everyone feels comfortable to join. Whether you are just starting out, or you have run 10+ marathons, all our members have something in common: this is our time. Most of us are working mothers with crazy, hectic lives and on most days we are lucky if we get five minutes to go to the bathroom alone. With this group, we (and all our members) know that every Wednesday nightand Saturday morning we get at least an hour to ourselves. No little hands sneaking under bathroom doors, no diapers to change – just the pounding of the pavement and the laughter of good friends.

Beautiful morning out on the trails

Beautiful morning out on the trails

We can’t wait to start our trail running clinic this week and our 10km, half marathon and marathon clinics on August 3. We hope to see some new faces as well as those we have come to know over the last year. Happy Running!