Running Away

The pain you feel from loving an addict is severe, there is no sugar coating or sweet surprise end, it is just what it is – misery. There is no comfort, there is no closure, it is just pure agony. I channeled my rage into running. I ran, he said he’d divorce me if I ran, I ran. He said he’d divorce me if I ran 50 miles, I ran. He said he’d divorce me if I ran 100 miles, I ran. I ran away from the pain, I ran away from the anger, I ran from every emotion I had no control over. The empty promises, the lies, the loss of trust, it all broke me down and I ran away. 

I actually believed in the beginning of my “running away” (back in 2013), that he would see the medals or my negative splits or my busted knees with a podium finish as something to value in me. He didn’t, if I didn’t finish first, I might as well have been last. I trained harder and harder, I lost so much weight I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror anymore. Every PR I earned is now just another memory of me trying to get someone’s attention that no longer cared. Someone’s attention that didn’t deserve my own. I had lost sight of what my own worth was, and that those PRs and podiums and new distances were for me and me only. 

I moved into “my running” deeper and deeper, into the ultras, adding buckle after buckle. I was trying desperately to manage a full-time business I still own, two kids, three dogs, and a house that felt like it was crumbling under my feet. I tried everything I could, but as the years passed, everything got harder, and watching my children suffer was the worst. Finally during covid, I sustained a significant injury keeping me from running even while races were canceled. I tried to go back when I shouldn’t and found DNF after DNF, I knew I couldn’t run but my heart craved it. My soul needed that escape from the reality I faced day in and day out. 

Now that the divorce is done, the move is finished, how do I pick up the pieces and run again? My mindset is different, my life is different, my home is different. I can barely find a spoon in this alien kitchen, how can I find myself to run for me? Not to run away from pain, but to run for me? I have closure from a horrible situation, so what do I run away from now?

I question if I only ran to escape pain or if I actually ran for myself. I didn’t know the answer, and that scared the crap out of me. Did I run for him? Did I run to prove something? Did I run as therapy? I had no clue. So the real question is, why do we run? What engages us to not only go for a casual couple of miles, what makes us toe the line of 100 milers? Is it pain we are escaping, or is it just pure love of our deranged sport? The sport we have to explain and justify to loved ones and relatives who think we’re crazy. Do we love it as much as we say or are we the addicts? Are we denying our own loved ones to pursue the coveted buckles? 

I struggled heavily with this, being blamed for everything – believing it, was the worst part. I believed I was some crazy addict that was leaving my children for my own selfish goals. I believed I failed my marriage. I believed it all. All of the things people were whispering about me, I believed.

During my divorce, I was constantly pegged as a “lunatic” for running these giant distances. It was a pivotal move for him to use this as collateral of my psychosis. When in my reality, I was just trying to achieve something I didn’t think my body could do. I was trying to push the limits of myself to see what I was capable of. This in turn made me a “lunatic.” This word was repeated over and over in front of anyone that would listen to him, friends and family I had known all my life, that looked at me like I was crazy. While I stood next to a known drug addict who just needed “reform,” no I was the crazy one… This has made me question everything. This has made me wonder what I had done. 

Was I the crazy one? Was I putting my children in danger by going to these extreme races and distances? Was I abandoning my duties as a mother by taking time for myself? 

Codependency is evil, and can make you believe the cruelest of things about yourself to justify other’s bad behavior. It is a disease, it eats away at you at night and makes you question every choice and every race. However, realizing that what I was doing wasn’t hurting my body, but feeding my soul, it was making me stronger. How could I be a good mother without making sure that I, myself, was taken care of as well. 

The female archetype from where I was raised followed these rules:

  1. Take care of husband
  2. Take care of children
  3. Repeat 1 and 2 

Well… throw in a giant drug addiction and a woman who is an overachiever and boom. FAILURE. My husband was morbidly addicted to anything he could get his hands on, drugs, alcohol, gambling, other women… you name it. I stood fast and did everything I could, and YES I CAN FINALLY SAY I DID EVERYTHING I COULD, but it wasn’t enough. I was still to blame, everything about me, but especially – the running. It was said with such a negative connotation it still makes me cringe to say “my running.” It took years and I mean YEARS to accept that “my running” wasn’t to blame. People make choices, and the choice I made to deal with the pain was to run. I didn’t become an alcoholic, I didn’t resort to pills, I ran. And I ran my ass off. I ran to avoid conflict, I ran to avoid pain, I ran to find myself. 

But now, as the dust settles, as the children start to find normalcy in a new home and a new world, do I still run? If I have “run away” from all of my problems, do I still have reason to run? Yes, because running wasn’t cast out of some dark shadow but exacerbated from it. Running wasn’t my escape, running was my answer, and it was my therapy. This therapy never ends, it only morphs into whatever fuel you give it. As I embark on this new journey in a strange place, I still run. I don’t run to escape. 

I run for peace now. 

I run for me.  

Emily Rials

Emily Rials

Emily Rials is a trail runner, mother of two, and a business owner in Cypress, TX. She started running in high school track focusing on sprint distances and after having children decided to move into endurance running. She owns a Telecom Company in a largely male dominated industry, and was named the first female Master Certified technician in the USA for select Phone System platforms. She also enjoys hosting group trail runs in Huntsville State Park to bring more people out to enjoy the beautiful trails and community.

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