My Feet Have Taken Me So Far
By Amber Hadigan
My feet have taken me running on carriage trails next to the Hudson River, where the Headless Horseman is supposed to haunt at night.
My feet have taken me through cow pastures in Amish country, where an old woman in drab clothes complimented my bright tie-dye running pants. I was running on my 40th birthday.
My feet have taken me to the shores of Lake Champlain, where sleet pounded my face as I relished every sting and every footfall.
My feet have taken me over boardwalks along the Atlantic Ocean, where the sunrise peaked above the water and exploded with colors and the smell of the salt air reinvigorated my soul.
My feet have taken me over rivers and under tunnels, through the woods, through all four seasons and all types of weather. I’ve run 26.2 miles in the rain, proving to myself that I could do something difficult, completely exhaust myself, and yet never did I fly so high.
My feet have never let me down, even when I broke a bone on my left foot. At that moment, my feet were telling me to take a break, put them up, and rest.
My feet have taken me to the depths of my own despair, as I try to run out my problems, such as when my best friend died unexpectedly. I felt lost and alone, and all I knew to make me feel better was to run, as if running would help me lose the feelings I was having. But I couldn’t outrun the guilt for not seeing him in a while, and I couldn’t outrun the sadness I felt, knowing I could never show up at his doorstep unannounced anymore and be welcomed, no questions asked, no matter what I needed. I was able to pound out my emotions, one step at a time, on the pavement. I cried and I ran. And in the running, I was able to heal an open wound in my heart.
In running, I learned to feel what I feel, accept what is going through my body and my mind, and move forward. Because in running, there is no stopping. At the very least, I still have to make it back home.
My feet have brought me joy. When I wake up upset, depressed, or unmotivated, I know that I can lace up my shoes and run up the road. There is something about the feeling of freedom I get when I run. It reminds me of childhood: wind through my hair, running just because I can, no rules, no one telling me what to do. It meant something to me when I was eight years old and it means something to me now.
But the most important place my feet have taken me is into the recesses of my own mind. When I run, I exhaust myself both physically and mentally. I have to dig deep into my soul, to find that strength that I never knew I had.
Picture this. It’s one hundred degrees outside and the sun is beating down. There are about 1,000 people at the starting line, getting ready to run a half marathon. There is no shade. We are running next to corn fields and pastures where cows and horses graze. Race organizers contemplated canceling the race, but, in the end, let people make their own decision if they were capable of running in the heat. I had driven four hours and put money on a hotel to run this race. The Road Apple Award was on the line. I had to run (and at some times, walk).
From this run, I learned strength. I learned that if I dug down far enough, deep enough into my soul, I could complete something. I could persevere against the greatest difficulties. I learned to train my mind.
Another time: It was forty degrees and raining the morning I was due to run my first full marathon. To me, that is the worst intersection of two weather types: cold and wet. But, I said that I was going to run a marathon, and I was bound and determined to finish. I was miserable at times, but my feet did not fail me. They carried me over hills and through parks, along paved trails through the park and over a freeway overpass. And when I ran through the arches of Hartford, Connecticut at mile 26, I knew I had done something amazing.
Through running, I had made new friends, people I never would have met if it wasn’t for the camaraderie of running. I raised money for the local SPCA and the group fundraising ran together. I met one of my favorite running buddies this way.
I have met some awesome people at races. In my first marathon, I ran from mile 18 to the end with a man named Fred. I started talking to him on the course, and he helped me through those last 8 miles when the wind and cold beat me down and my fingers started to swell. He cheered me up when there was no chocolate left at the candy aid station at mile 22. His picture hangs on my wall next to my medal.
I’ve met fellow Moon Joggers at different races, and they have always inspired me to push myself harder than I thought was possible.
Because of running, I was able to meet one of my idols, Meb, less than a week after his historic Boston Marathon win in 2014. He taught me perseverance. When I met him, he could barely walk because of the blisters on his feet from the race, but that didn’t stop him from running, or from meeting his fans and high fiving everyone at the start line.
My feet have taken me over two thousand miles, through countless pairs of shoes and socks. They have lost toenails and gotten blisters. They ache more often than not, but they have never let me down. They tell me everything that I need to know about life. My feet have taken me into darkness and into light. My feel have introduced me to friends and even strangers that have enriched my life.
But most important, my feel have taught me so many lessons. I have learned that pain is only temporary, but the pride of completion lasts forever. I have learned that I am stronger than I ever thought possible and that I can push myself through almost anything; I just have to choose so. I have learned that there are still loving, caring people in the world. No matter where I have run or raced, runners have been the most supportive people I’ve met in my life. I learned that a high five from a stranger can make a long run a little easier, and to smile at someone as I pass may motivate that person to keep going when they want to stop. I have learned that to control my body is to control my mind. I have learned that friendly banter with a stranger at the starting line of a race helps calm my pre-race jitters, and probably theirs. And I have learned that people have used me to pace them during races and thanked me. I didn’t even know I was helping.
And, most important, I have learned that I have inspired people by my running. Several people have told me that, because of my posts, pictures, and stories, I have inspired them to run. One of my oldest friends is now completing 5Ks on a regular basis. Another friend entered a half marathon after seeing me post about the joys of running on Facebook. My husband, though not a runner, was inspired to swim across the Hudson River after he saw my joy at doing something physical.
I have learned that I do matter, and that my actions can inspire. I have learned to be a role model, when all I need to do is run.
I have learned that staying moving is better than standing still.
Amber Hadigan is a professional freelance writer, singer/songwriter, creativity coach, runner, and a student of the human condition. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Transpersonal Psychology from Sophia University in 2004. She was a track rat in school, but stopped running for almost 25 years before taking the sport up again in 2013. Since then, she has devoted herself to becoming the best runner she can be. Amber lives in Hyde Park, NY with her husband John and two cats, Sobe and Scrappy. You can find Amber online at www.amberhadigan.com or email her at email@example.com.
Please check out Amber’s book on running, 95 Tips to Win the Mental Game of Running in paperback and Kindle, available at: http://tinyurl.com/jyd33f7
**All walkers and runners are invited to join Moon Joggers! If you have not signed up for MERCURY RISING (one of the paid registration options) do so now and you’ll be able to save 25% on our virtual races in 2016! (Use code RUN2MERCURY to save 20% on MERCURY RISING)