Life, Loss, and Girls on the Run

imageRecently, I watched a video of a man named Jim Willett speaking about running and cancer. Except, what he said wasn’t about cancer or running. Not really. It was about words and actions and the mental games we play with ourselves but overall it was about living. After I watched the video, I thought about running and what meaning and place it has in my own life. It has become a saving grace, my version of grief in action, a coping mechanism, an outlet for anxiety, my time to be in nature.

See, like Jim Willett who came to running after hearing the words, “You have cancer.”, I also turned to running to cope with a devastating life change. The loss of my only child. A little girl so loved by her father and me that the loss of her left us feeling broken and destroyed. Sadly, time does not stop with loss. No matter how tragic and no matter how unfair the circumstances, life does not slow down to give you a break and allow you to catch your breath. No. Life goes on around you while you are left trying to find the strength to stand upright and somehow put one foot in front of the other.

After Mallory died, there were a number of evenings that we sat on our patio around our outdoor fire pit. I don’t know if it was simply something to occupy our now empty, sadly quiet evenings or something to stare at when words failed us… I am not certain what drove our need for those fires but they helped us get through the early days of intense grief. Around those fires sat friends and family members that offered us love and talked about our sweet girl and her life. One evening a discussion that took place around that fire turned into something more than just a discussion.

Our friend, Katy Simmons, listened to us talk about the “some days” of what we would like to do eventually to honor our sweet kid. She listened and wondered how she might make that happen for us. Fast forward about three months and Katy contacted me and told me that there is a group in Little Rock called Girls on the Run and that they’d like to talk with me about naming their one mile fun run for Mallory. I was awestruck that people who didn’t even know us wanted to do such a generous thing for us. For her. A lunch was scheduled with my friend and the executive director and the chair of the board of directors. Plans were made and all of a sudden, this amazing organization that never knew my kid was planning to use the biggest event of their year to honor our child.

I made up my mind that since Girls on the Run was doing such an amazing thing for us, I should try to run the Mallory Mile. Secretly, I had always envied friends that ran but never had the confidence to believe that I could actually do it. I loved to walk for exercise but I never believed my body could adapt to running. This seemed like a great time, THE time, to challenge that belief. And I began to train. At first, I could not even run for a full minute without thinking I was about to fall over or possibly cry. The goal of the Mallory Mile kept me motivated and by the day of the event, I was able to run that mile! Over the last year, I have run seven (7) 5k races and even ran my first 10K in March of this year! To say that running has saved me might be an overstatement. But it doesn’t feel like it. Running has helped me cope. It has given me an outlet for excess energy and anxiety. It has kept me in better physical shape than I would be otherwise because taking care of yourself is hard when you’re grieving. It has been an important part of my grief journey and something that I likely never would have discovered without Girls on the Run.

Girls on the Run is such an important organization.  Yes, they are a running program but their goal is so much more than running. The following is taken directly from their website:

We believe that every girl
can embrace who she is,
can define who she wants to be,
can rise to any challenge,
can change the world.
Can.

And, y’all, that’s a mission I think the parent of every girl can get behind. We want to raise smart, strong, healthy girls who can grow into smart, strong, healthy young women! As I prepared for race day with girls on the run and learned more about their vision of “..a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.”, I realized that Girls on the Run was all about many of the things we attempted to recognize and encourage in Mallory’s personality. Individuality, empathy, strength of character, compassion.

I began to compose some words to speak before the first Mallory Mile. I planned to talk about something our friend Deah Chisenhall created for us based on things she knew about Mallory’s personality. It was simply called “Love Like Mallory” and I realized the words from Love Like Mallory perfectly encompassed what Girls on the Run is all about. The program is designed to inspire young ladies to be leaders with open hearts that spread their own unique brand of light. They encourage girls to stand up for what is right and to embrace the differences they see in themselves and in others. The very mission is how my husband and I had been raising our daughter. We had been encouraging her individuality and that little flair for what was uniquely her.

Girls on the Run has become even more dear to me over the last year. Not only have they honored us by naming their fun run after Mallory, I have seen the daughters of friends, family, and neighbors participate in and benefit from this amazing program. In fact, I was lucky enough for my young cousin to allow me to be her running buddy for her graduation 5k this past fall. It was fantastic! (Love you Ruby Claire!!!)

This May 16th, we ask you to join us at Two Rivers Park at 9am. We would love to see all of you out there to walk or run the Mallory Mile with us and then stay to cheer on this spring’s class of amazing girls as they cross the finish line of their graduation 5k!  For more information, visit the Girls on the Run website by using the link below:

http://www.gotrcentralark.org

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