Why We Run Wednesday: Kathleen

Kathleen Eugene.jpg

Why do I run? Well, that’s a loaded question! Everyone runs for a reason, even if it doesn’t seem “profound.” Some run simply for health, some for weight loss, some to compete, some to run away. Everyone has stories and struggles beneath the surface that we may never know or understand. I wouldn’t say my story classifies as profound, but it means something to me – so here goes: 

I run for my health. 

As a registered nurse, I observe definitions of “health” across a very broad spectrum. I’ve learned that age is truly just a number, and health is immensely related to the way we treat our bodies. I’ve recently recovered from an injury that was a huge hit to my spirit. I couldn’t run, hike, climb – let alone sit, walk, or do my job without pain. I cancelled races, missed out on outdoor adventures, and felt that my PNW summer (the main reason I push through the difficult winters) was ruined. It was a huge lesson in empathy for my patients who have debilitating injuries, surgeries, and/or disabilities that prevent them from doing the things they love. I’ve realized that as long as my body is capable, I’d better use it! As I’m finally on the tail end of recovery, I’ve learned to appreciate my body and treat it well. 

Easier said than done, right? I think the keys to success include finding an activity you enjoy and committing to consistency. I’ve discovered that running brings me joy, and Cascade Run Club has been my key to consistency. Amidst a crazy busy schedule, I treat my workouts like appointments. Running with friends makes the miles fly by – it’s so fun! But even when it’s not, my CRC friends are there to encourage me. 

I run for my sanity. 

Fair warning – it’s about to get personal! I’m learning the value of vulnerability and sharing my soul, if it means it could help even one person. I struggle with how to share this or how to describe it, but I basically forfeited five years of my life to a controlling, mentally and emotionally abusive relationship (side note – if you are struggling with this, please read this book). I’ll spare you the gritty details, but what’s relevant here is that I wasn’t “allowed” to go to the gym, wear form-fitting activewear, or even run outside in my own neighborhood. I became a shrunken, cracked, caged, unrecognizable version of myself. It was a dark and confusing time, and my self-esteem and identity were completely destroyed. When I finally became free of that relationship and began rediscovering my independent self, it felt so good to exercise! I worked out a lot of angst through weight lifting, HIIT, and feeling powerful and in control of my own self. 

Unfortunately, I swung to the opposite end of the spectrum. I became obsessed with tracking my workouts, calories, macros, weight, progress photos – anything and everything that I could control. I ended up with an eating disorder and a re-shattered self-esteem. My wake-up call came when I was pulled over for excessive speeding and the officer asked if I was headed to work or class, and I admitted, “No, just to the gym.” He asked incredulously, “Is the GYM worth a $500 ticket?!” He thankfully let me off with a warning, but I realized how unhealthy my thinking had become when my initial thought was “Yes! I can’t miss my workout!” 

I had to break away from that obsessive cycle, so I lifted less and started running again. I had forgotten how good it felt to move and push my body’s limits this way. I started out with 20-30 minutes on the treadmill, added on a mile or two per week, and started loving the feeling of setting and accomplishing new small goals. I began running outside, and I loved the feeling of the crisp air, the wind on my face, and the feeling of freedom. A huge weight had been lifted, and the “runner’s high” was real! Running has given me back my sense of self, strength, and feeling alive; it’s even given me a healthier relationship with food. I don’t track a thing! A helpful mantra has been to be kind to my body (here and here are a couple of books that helped me). I’m motivated to eat better, to fuel and respect my body, yet I’m also able to give myself flexibility – I’ve put in the work, and I know a treat here or there won’t make or break me! 

I run to discover. 

Running has opened a new world to me. I’m constantly discovering new things within myself and the world around me. I love to run when I travel; I discover places and things I never would have seen otherwise! I notice and appreciate life’s little moments that are often overlooked: a grandpa and grandson playing ball, and sweet older couple holding hands on a walk, a new mom nervously gearing up for her first run after baby, a paddleboarder with his little dog struggling to stay aboard, sunrises and sunsets that have literally dropped my jaw. It’s amazing what you can discover on a run outside! 

I’ve always been very goal driven, so running has been an awesome journey of discovering myself, my capabilities, my limitations, and my goals. I constantly hear my dad’s voice telling me, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” And now I believe it! I’ve accomplished every single running goal I’ve set, even those that I didn’t actually believe I could achieve (i.e. sub 4-hour marathon debut!). I finally feel strong, capable, and worthy. Next goal: PR at the Chicago Marathon! 

I run for connection. 

Connection has been an unexpected discovery that deserves its own recognition. I strongly believe that connection is a huge part of what it means to be human. Running has helped me discover a level of connection I never realized existed. It sounds silly, but I feel like a better human! Maybe it’s that runner’s high, but I’m kinder to everyone around me. This has also translated to my career, as I’ve been able to think more positively, accept more challenges, and chase new goals. I’ve been humbled by the support and encouragement provided by my husband, family, friends, and colleagues. I’ve made amazing new friends through my running club, experienced the electricity and support of the racing community, and even found connection over running while on international mission trips. I’ve seen my friends fight their own battles and crush their goals. I’ve had the privilege of helping other runners reach their goals, whether through pacing them, or them chasing me! Cascade Run Club has shown me how running can be a powerful means of human connection, and I’m so thankful to be a part of this community.

Cassandra Lowery4 Comments