Running as Therapy: While pounding out miles in the pouring rain, I was grateful that it was raining so no one could see me cry

MARCH 20, 2014, 6:00 AM 8 Comments
Running as Therapy
By JEN A. MILLER
I started distance running in 2007 because, in the short space of six months, the person I was dating left me for another woman, I bought a house (a rash decision) and my grandfather died.

I did not handle this well. As I was helping my mother pack up her parents’ house, I found myself too drained to move and lay down on the floor and sobbed. My mother suggested I try therapy. I signed up for a 10-mile race instead.
Training for the Ocean Drive 10-Miler became my release valve. When I was running, there were no phones, no texts, no emails. On the road, work crises could not reach me. While pounding out miles in the pouring rain, I was grateful that it was raining so no one could see me cry.
When I ran, all I thought about was running: put one foot in front of the other, tackle the mile ahead instead of worrying about the entire distance to be run. I had done a few 5-kilometer races, but this was different. This time I was running five, six miles at a time, building my strength and speed until one cold March day, when I ran 10 full miles from Cape May, N.J., to North Wildwood, falling into my mother’s arms at the end.
As the recession bloomed, I kept running. I tried not to worry about everything going wrong at once — with work and with the house, which was suddenly worth a lot less than what I paid for it. Instead, I ran down one problem at a time.
Running continues to be a balm.
It was over a year ago that I broke up with my boyfriend of two and a half years, the man I thought I was going to marry. While I packed up my life to remove all traces of myself from his home, I made sure to put a copy of “Hansons Marathon Method” in a box that was coming with me, not one going into storage.
The method, developed by the brothers Keith and Kevin Hanson, is intense. The schedule called for running up to 57 miles a week. Tempo runs stretched to 10 miles. The first speed session, which came in Week 6, required running more than seven miles of intervals. On a weekday.
I can’t do this, I told myself, then drove to the library, photocopied the schedule and started training for the New Jersey Marathon, even as I kept telling myself I wasn’t good enough for such a difficult schedule: too fat, too slow, too inexperienced, too sleep deprived.
I didn’t stop, though, knocking down one workout at a time, crossing them out on the photocopy with a felt-tip pen as I went. I craved soreness in my muscles, and pain. It was both my penance for failing again in a relationship and a reminder that, yes, I was still alive and could feel something other than grief.
I refused to retreat to a treadmill in bad weather and instead ran miles in sleet and freezing rain. When I couldn’t find my running hat because it was packed into a box in storage, I ran outside in falling snow anyway, flakes stinging my eyes as I went.
I welcomed the exhaustion of logging 30, 40, 50 miles a week, because it meant that instead of worrying about what was next and staring at my bedroom ceiling at 3 a.m., I slept. Soundly.
Exercise after heartbreak is not a new idea. It’s not even a new one in my family. In 1998, after my parents’ divorce, my father lost 20 pounds just by showing up regularly at the gym. Exercise makes us feel good. Studies show it releases endorphins, increases energy levels, improves mood.
For me, the benefits went beyond brain chemistry. Running loosened my depression while giving my life structure. The hard work hurled me forward. Depression could follow me around like a sad little rain cloud, but it couldn’t rain on me if I kept moving.
“What are you running from?” my mother asked one night over dinner. I had moved in with her temporarily after the breakup.
“No,” I corrected her. “It’s something I’m running to.”
By the time I crossed the finish line at the New Jersey Marathon last May, I was smiling — something I had started to do a lot more by then. During those long, lonely miles on the road, I had started putting myself back together again.
I’m signed up to run another marathon next month, this one in Charlottesville, Va. I’m using the Hansons’ marathon method again to train. The first week of the program started around what should have been my wedding day.
The challenge doesn’t feel the same, though. I have lost my lust for crushing miles. The sad little rain cloud has disappeared. I have, impossibly it seems, moved on.
Now the miles are just miles, instead of a method to throw off the albatross from around my neck. I don’t crave the pain.
The work is still difficult: tempo runs stretching to two hours, never-ending interval sets, long runs logged on dreary winter mornings.
Running keeps moving me forward. With a gentle push rather than a shove, it’s leading me to the next chapter.
Jen A. Miller is the author of “Book a Week with Jen: 1 Year, 52 Books and a Year of Starting a New Chapter.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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