Today I am very pleased to host a guest post by Sophie Walker, author of Grace, Under Pressure: A Girl with Asperger’s and Her Marathon Mom. This is a great read and I highly recommend it. So without further ado, here is Sophie Walker on “Four Ways Running Has Made Me A Better Mother.”
When my daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 8, we were both in trouble. No one seemed to understand how to help and I felt overwhelmed by the task of finding the support Grace needed. I felt as though I was failing her.
I decided to train for the London Marathon, to show solidarity with Grace — whose daily struggles often felt like an endurance test — and to raise awareness of autism and find the strength I needed to help my daughter.
I ran all 26.2 miles of one of the world’s biggest races, and found a way towards happiness for both of us. Running showed me ways to be a better mother.
One: Running lets me escape from my problems
I realise this doesn’t sound like the advice of a winner. Given the option to Run Away or Stand And Fight, taking the former seems morally weedy. However, since having children I have discovered that strategic retreat and further consideration of the matter at hand is often a sensible option. (Having a child with autism means I get nowhere when I adopt a rigid attitude: my child is much, much better at saying ‘No’ than I am.) So when our voices are getting louder and the walls seem to be closing in, and the answer seems far away — I put on my trainers and leave.
Two: Running lets me work things through
Running away from a problem often sets me on the road to a solution by forcing me to think about something else. Instead of the beat of the question in my head I must concentrate on the rate of my breathing. Instead of what’s fair or unfair, what’s been promised and not delivered, what’s appeared unexpectedly or what has gone bad, I must focus instead on pushing my legs forward. This often demands intense willpower. Sometimes it involves pain. The emotional and mental stuff gets shunted into a far corner, and when next I look, it has usually gained a different perspective. What appeared unsolvable before a run often looks very different afterwards. And if not –
Three: Running gives me the strength to keep going
The challenge of getting over a hill — a real one — teaches me how to surmount obstacles in other parts of my life. When I feel as though I’m failing, or faltering, I remember the hill that I got over on Thursday or the extra mile I managed on Saturday. I remind myself of the run I did in driving rain, and the one when it was so hot I thought I would faint, but didn’t. I remind myself that I am strong. Running has helped me to build up a strong core that holds me together tight. Because I run, I know I won’t fall apart.
Four: Running reminds me who I am
On the days when I feel like life is passing me by; on the days when the laundry basket seems to be a bottomless pit; on the days when I look along the train carriage of commuters like me and wonder if this is how it feels to be an ant or a worker bee; on the days when I feel like everyone is asking things of me and no-one is seeing me – on these days, I remember: I am a runner. And I stand taller.
Sophie Walker is the author of Grace, Under Pressure: A Girl with Asperger’s and Her Marathon Mom. Visit her online at http://authorsophiewalker.com or on Twitter @sophierunning.
Based on the book Grace, Under Pressure: A Girl with Asperger’s and Her Marathon Mom © 2013 by Sophie Walker. Printed with permission of New World Library www.newworldlibrary.com
About Brian Leaf
Brian Leaf is author of the yoga memoir, Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi: My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness. You can find him online at www.misadventures-of-a-yogi.com.