Long runs and black clouds

Leah McDaniel opens up about her grief and its striking similarities to a very tiring and painful long run…

Long runs and black clouds

Long runs have a way of making us take stock of things; let’s be honest, there’s nothing else to do while you pound the pavement or the trail for a few hours. Concentrating on anything except the pain and how long you’ve got to go is an art, if you can master it, and it made me think about how we cope with certain situations in life.

For me, long runs are hard. They’re physically taxing, but they’re mentally draining – it’s the constant willing yourself to put one foot in front of the other and batting away feelings of doubt in your ability to do so. You know the feeling, during the long slog to the finish, when you know how good you’ll feel when you get there, but there are still hills and headwinds to conquer first…And, I can’t help but compare that to the black cloud that hangs around sometimes.

Today marks three years since the passing of Brett, my husband, and in that time I have often felt like I have been at the beginning of a long run. A road outstretched in front of me, the need to force myself to put one foot in front of the other and keep going to the finish line. Sometimes I do the equivalent of clock watching; I count months and days since I last saw him, and I relive memories of times gone by. Time goes by slowly, like the passing of every minute for that last mile. Sometimes it’s been as exhausting as going out for a jog, the tiredness a symptom of lack of sleep. My legs are heavy and I don’t have the desire to go anywhere in a hurry, much like the day after a long run.

The similarities between the grit it takes to get around a long run, and the survival of grief are very similar and, in a way, it gives me strength. It gives me hope, because I know what’s waiting for me at the end of a long run – a cuddle from my daughter and a sense of pride that doesn’t come from anywhere else. The feeling that I accomplished something I didn’t think I could do, and the acknowledgement of the fact that I’m so much more capable than I give myself credit for.

I’ll hold on to that as I head down the home straight for today, and I’ll remember what it feels like to get through those last few miles. I’ll push on into the headwind and up the last hill, and I know that, when I wake up tomorrow, I’ll feel better. I’ll feel accomplished, and proud of what I’ve achieved.

So, thanks Women’s Running, and thanks #BigMarathonChallenge for helping me to keep on running through long runs and black clouds, it’s appreciated.


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