by Lisa Perky
My husband likes to say “everything happens for a reason.” I like to imagine punching him in the face, because that saying is the LEAST HELPFUL THING EVER when times are weird. I don’t say “tough,” because my life hasn’t ever been truly “tough,” I’ve just had some “what the hells?” here and there.
However, I have to admit (vomits a little in my mouth), my husband is right. ::shudders:: Those words felt horrible to type. My husband is right, but you can only acknowledge that everything happens for a reason after the storm has cleared, and you’re walking in the sunshine of the reason. There have been a few happenings in the last few years that, until recently, seem unconnected and innocuous. Now, as I sit warmed by the rays of “the plan,” I realize how purposeful fate really is, and how much running influences and prepares us for times of “happening” and times of “reason.”
Three years ago this January, a friend asked me to run a girls only 5k with her. I said yes, knowing that I couldn’t run ½ mile, let alone 3.1 miles. I’ve never been athletic (read: band kid, Latin Club President, Model UN). My family doesn’t run. My husband knew I’d be approaching the 5k with a “hold my beer” attitude, and would likely fail. Again (vomits) he was right. He suggested I try the C25K app, and it worked. Actually, it more than worked. It worked like heroin, and I haven’t put running down since. I finished my first marathon that December. Since then, I’ve finished 3 road marathons, and 2 trail 50k races.
During that first year, I also had to suddenly change careers. I had a wonderful job in research at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. I loved it. I loved the work, loved my boss, loved it all. It was a perfect fit to my life. (Un)fortunately, those jobs are funded by grants. Ours ended, and I was faced with a case of the “what next?” My degree is in English. You know the only job you can get with that…so, on to public education I went. Surprisingly, I loved this even more. I got to serve. I got to be a safe place for teens living hard lives. I got to share literature (and the occasional Tupac “poem”) as a way to decipher emotions. The kids became my world.
I still ran on my own, as I could, and even tried to enlist some other teachers for half-marathon training. On a warm Saturday in November(ish), I showed up at the school parking lot, hoping even one teacher would show up to train. None did. But just a few yards away, I saw runners. There were people aged 14-60. Black faces, white faces, smiling faces, sweating faces. I had to see what this was. It was a mentoring group for teens. (See Lone Star Running Project from my previous post). I was in. The next season, I joined.
The group serves all youth of the community, but many of our runners come from the juvenile justice system, or a local group home. And that’s where I met him. I was already a wife, and mom to a 2 year old son. I loved my job, I loved my home, I loved my family. But this guy would change all that. This guy, would change my family. Forever.
Mr. R lived in the group home. He was 16, and full of joy and smiles. I didn’t know his story, but found out he attended the school at which I taught, and I made it a point to become his “school mom”. I checked in on him daily. I talked to his teachers about grades. I watched him run and grow and laugh. He was amazing. But I knew there were truths I wasn’t seeing. Over the next few months, I learned more. I stealthily created opportunities for him to meet my husband, and our son. We patiently waited for God’s moment to present itself, and we jumped. I have never worked so furiously for anything in my entire life as I worked to become this guy’s mom.
We are a perfect family of four now, and life is amazing. I know this is all very vague, and I’m sorry, but the rest simply isn’t my story to tell. However, it goes to show that running is not just a physical activity. We’ve all said that running has, in some way, changed/saved/bettered our lives. I can say that running built my family. Three years ago, God/fate/the universe made my friend invite me to run. Three years ago, the same entity made me switch careers. While all of this was happening, a young man’s world was coming undone. God/fate/the universe was breaking each of our lives apart in order to seamlessly stitch them together. I have running to thank for that.
So, next time you’re on the road, especially after a stressful day, ask yourself: what is running preparing me for? How is this run training my heart and spirit for more? The hard part, though, is being prepared to learn the answers, and allowing yourself to jump, head-first, into the unknown.
About the Author
Lisa Perkins is a public school educator, mommy, wife, dog-lover, and pretend-runner. She enjoys sarcasm, cookies, being in the back of the pack, and sprinkling conversations with well-executed profanity. Look for future blogs, such as “If you thread the needle to pass on a 2 way single track, I’ll clothes-line you” and “It’s ok to eat pizza in the bathtub – you’re an adult.”