The Feeling of Freedom

Gasping for breath in the cold morning air, I ran (as well as I could) along the 1-mile cross-country course our PE teacher had set for us.  We rarely ran for that long of distance in PE class, and I struggled to finish, my lungs burning with each breath.  I enjoyed being outdoors in the bright sunshine, but the running part?  Adamantly not.

The limited times we ran in PE class, plus the times I left late for school and had to alternate running with walking–while carrying all of my books and my clarinet–a mile to school to try and avoid being tardy for my first class, were my main experiences with running in school.  I remember neither fondly.

Yet I loved to walk.  I often walked fast, not only because I ran late most of the time, but also because my family walked a lot–to the store, the library, post office, to catch the bus, and my dad walked super fast, and I had to keep up.  I remember trying to relax and let my legs flow as fast as they would go.

In college I took several fitness classes that I enjoyed so much better than PE in highschool.  I took walking–I got credit for walking regularly! yes!!!–tennis, and aerobics.  I never learned tennis well, but I loved aerobics (it was the late 80s-early 90s, so what do you expect!?).  And after college I joined a women’s gym with my mom, and I took step aerobics there.  We also used the treadmill (for walking), the StairMaster, and weight machines.  I enjoyed it so much!

At that time, at around 24 years old, I wanted so badly to get a “flat stomach,” and I wanted to get muscles, and, thanks to Oprah finishing a marathon, I began to want to run one, too.  I slowly started running on the treadmill, mixing a little bit of running with the walking that I had been regularly doing.  But then my journey to start running came to an abrupt stop! I got pregnant, and I had read that you shouldn’t take up something new like that while pregnant, so I stopped trying to run.

I kept up exercising, though, and exercised at the gym throughout my pregnancy, walking on the treadmill, using the StairMaster, and using the weight machines.  I also did aerobics at home using a video of Denise Austin’s pregnancy workout.  I think I found it on YouTube! You’ll be so happy I shared this with you:  Denise Austin – pregnancy plus workout (1990).

I had my daughter at age 25, in 1995, and having a new baby was the hardest, and most wonderful thing, I had ever experienced.  After my baby was a little older, I went to the gym for awhile, but I decided it would better for our family for me to take a break from going to the gym, and so I stopped.

As time when by I had 3 other children, and I got busy with life, being a stay at home/unschooling mom of four, and didn’t “officially” exercise much after that.  We’ve always enjoyed keeping active as a family, though, and through the years my main exercise was chasing my kiddos and going for nature walks with my family, and we still go for nature walks each week!

But as my kids and I grew older, I thought, “I want to do more.”  So about 5 years ago, in 2013, we joined the Y, and it was a major turning point in our lives. Our lives started to be filled with activity!  One thing my kids and I did was start taking swimming lessons.  Then a couple of us started using the weight machines.  Then I thought about the goal I had, inspired by Oprah, before I became a mom to run in a marathon, and I thought now is the time to start working on that!  I told my coach, “I’d like to run, how should I start?

So, at age 43, I began working on the goal I had when I was 24.   My first step, as suggested by my coach at the Y, was to run a couple minutes and then walk a couple minutes.  I went to the park and tried to run around the lake with my kids.  They were all so much better at it than I was at the time! At first I struggled running even a minute!  And I remembered how much I hated gasping for air.  But I kept at it, and in 2016 I did my first marathon!

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Finishing my first marathon

I enjoy other fitness activities, swimming being one of the things I love, and using the weight machines is fun (by the way, I have never gotten “muscles” or a “flat stomach” yet haha!). But running is what I’m most passionate about.  Running helps me feel free! Before I took up running I used to have a nightmare where I would try and run, but I couldn’t get anywhere, my feet were like lead. But I can’t remember the last time I had one of those dreams! I feel like each time I run, I’m beating my nightmare.

Also, as shy as I am, I love the community found in running.  It’s so fun being around other runners and talking with them, hearing their stories, being inspired by them, and hopefully encouraging them as well.

And I truly love being in races, especially trail races.  I’ve found training for races helps me better focus on meeting my running goals.  I love the challenge of doing new things, whether that be going longer distances, being in a relay race, trying to beat my personal best, running on new terrain, or even participating on the volunteer side of things. I love to volunteer and encourage other racers.

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Finishing one of my first trail races

Running has been such a good thing for me. It has helped me feel more confident, more strong, more capable.  I love how the Bible talks about running, and how it’s a metaphor for life.  These verses about running are two of my favorites! Hebrews 12:1 encourages me to keep going, even when it’s hard, when it says, “.  . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” And Isaiah 40:31 provides me with hope and and courage!

but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

I’ve always loved those verses, but now as a runner, I feel like I really get them, understand them, in ways that I didn’t before.   And their words touch my heart and fill me with gratefulness.

My dad says he’s seen a change in me!  And he’d love to run, but he’s had heart problems his whole life, so he can’t run, and now he’s older and walks slower than he did when I was a child trying to walk fast to keep up with him.  So I think he likes to see me run.

I can’t tell you how happy I am that I’m able to run.  I want to run as long as I can, until I’m as old as possible.  But right now I’m trying to enjoy being in the moment, the beauty around me while I run, the feeling of the fresh air blowing against me, the rain pelting in my face, or the sun shining so brightly.   It makes me feel free! Freedom, that is what I most love about running–the feeling of freedom.

About Jeri Carr

I'm a SAHM & have been married for 26 years. DH and I have 4 kiddos, age 22 down to age 13, and we are unschooling-ish, AP parents who strive to use Grace-Based Discipline. I have been vegan for 16+ years for ethical, ecological, & health reasons. Also, I love to run and swim. I've done one 50k and would love to do another one in 2018. I'm a Nuun and Skirt Sports Ambassador.
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