How running helps me move forward through grief
The story of how Alix used running as a coping mechanism for grief
December 19, 2018
Every autumn, I get renewed joy and enthusiasm for running. The air is crisp, the streets of London erupt with oranges, browns and yellows, I can stop pretending my thighs don’t chafe when running in shorts and go back, happily, to leggings. Since I started running about five years ago, every autumn brings with it a new set of goals, a new training plan written on an old notebook, a renewed commitment to planking every day.
Every autumn, I also get hit by a new wave of grief. My mother died on 23 October 2011, an aneurysm that broke before anyone could notice, act or prepare. Ever since then my grief has evolved, lessened, changed in nature, come back to punch me in the stomach, softened.
Every autumn, running gives me new ways to cope with my grief. First there’s the processing trauma run, the one where I play in my head, scene by scene, the events of the 24 hours of my mother’s death, somehow trying to make sense of it. Then there’s the conversation run, the one where I chat through whatever has been happening with her in my head, tell her about my day, my week, my life. Finally, there’s the simply missing her run, the one where I imagine what life would be with her around, the one where I picture taking her to Hampstead Heath on a visit to London. She would have loved the Heath.
Most importantly, there are, in overwhelming majority, the not-thinking-about-it runs. The ones that remind me that while grief is a part of me, it is only one part of many. The runs where I go through the events of the day, the ones where I daydream about the future, the many, many runs where I only think about the meals I have had or will have that day.
And then, there are the runs that don’t involve any thinking at all. The runs where I’m too busy chatting and shovelling compost. The GoodGym runs. GoodGym has given me a reason to go out and run at times when running felt like too big a task to tackle. GoodGym has made me think of something else at times when grief felt all consuming. GoodGym has made me do something useful at times when there was just a bit too much apathy.
And so every autumn, I get renewed joy and enthusiasm for running, and running with GoodGym. Every autumn I revel a little too much in the sadness and the grief, but I also get to enjoy the great metaphor that running provides in forward motion, in putting one foot in front of the other. Every autumn, running with GoodGym reminds me of the joy and the privilege of putting my mind and body to something useful, to something worthwhile.