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Emily Morrison Emily Morrison
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Running: survival of the sanest

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I took up running after the births of my first two children. Initially, it was a way to drop the baby weight. My torso felt longer than ever before, and none of the shirts I owned covered my midriff. Clearly, this was unintentional. After two kids and 20 extra pounds, every top in my wardrobe looked like a Britney Spears belly-baring tee.

While bathing our 6 month old one fine day, I asked my husband, 'Honey, do I still look hot to you?' I just felt frumpy. Head to toe, who is this woman who has let herself go? Moi.

He replied, 'Yeah, you're cute, for a mom.'

I can hear your shocked gasps, faithful readers, and let me tell you, I gasped enough for all of us. Oh, no, he didn't! Oh, yes, yes, he did. It was a blow to my fragile body image and just the incentive I needed to put foot to pavement. I wasn't going to settle for 'cute for a mom.' I wanted to be 'hot for a wife.' At the very least, it would be nice if my abdomen didn't continue to look like I was four months along.

I had read somewhere that running is the best exercise. 'If you want a good workout, have zero time or money for a gym membership, then go for a run!' At first, the idea was laughable. When would I run? Where would I run? My driveway? What kind of crazy lady runs in her driveway for exercise? The more I thought about it, the more brilliant it became. Remember what they say about insanity, genius and the fine line, people. I decided I could run up and down my driveway five times before collapsing behind the minivan (strategically hiding from the view of my 'My middle name's athlete,' husband.)

I know what you're thinking. Only five laps? Living in the hinterland as we do, our driveway is 1/10 mile long. Running one mile without stopping felt like a marathon. Heck, I couldn't even run a lap in high school without becoming winded, so 10 (oh, who am I kidding, 14) minutes of dragging ass in the driveway felt athletic to me. I tried to make it out to the front yard at least four times a week, but it wasn't easy mustering up time and energy. In the past, after a few months on a stair-master, I would feel like I had mastered the fine art of stair climbing and thus move on to that other fine art: couch sitting. I just didn't want to lose steam before I even began to boil.

I found out pretty quickly that if I ran as slowly as a three-toed sloth, I could often add a lap. I may have been running a 14-minute mile, but I was doing it. And I kept doing it. I began running to the first mailbox to the left of the driveway, the first mailbox to the right and then back to the house. Mailbox by mailbox, run by run, I gained more confidence in myself as a runner, woman and a wife.

But trying to sculpt my post-baby body back into bodacious shape wasn't just about becoming more attractive for my husband. I didn't really need to make the love of my life love me more. Traveling the gravel was about making me love me more. We women are so busy giving everyone else time and energy, we convince ourselves that it's selfish to save any for 'our' 'selves.' As running became less of a physical strain, I realized that if I couldn't do this for myself, there would be no self left to give.

One child, two marathons, and six years later, running has saved my selfhood. Whatever the day has in store, I beg, borrow and steal time from the clock to strap on my sneakers. Some days I don't get any further than the front yard, but you know what? I'm perfectly happy being the crazy lady who runs in her driveway. At least I'm not hiding behind the minivan anymore.

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