Monday, February 15, 2016

Run 140 miles in her shoes

I am a woman. I am a mother, daughter, midwife, therapist, survivor, and runner. Most recently, I've become emersed into the world of substance use disorders.

I'm an advocate for maternal wellness and looking at maternal health and mental health as a social justice issue. I'm a survivor of a pregnancy mental health complication, eating disorder, PTSD, and running has been a key part of getting to know who I really am and what my purpose in being is. 

I survived postpartum anxiety after the births of each of my three children, the last of my three hit me the hardest, and led me into a downward spiral of battling an eating disorder that was destroying my life and health. Through my own recovery process I ended up with a degree in mental health, and was naturally drawn to pregnancy and postpartum mental health because of my training and professional background in the birth field. 

Part of the reason I am so passionate about helping mamas be well and feel well both mentally and physically is because I know that a nation of untreated mothers is leading to a nation of sick people and social dysfunction. Fixing our maternity care system and supporting motherhood is the fundamental power of a healthy and loving society. 

As I have become a professional in women's issues I've been drawn to addressing addiction as a complication of  childbirth. While there is a lack of research and data in this area, studies that are available suggest that accidental drug overdose and suicide are the leading cause of maternal mortality. 

On February 11th I embarked on a journey to raise awareness and support for identifying and treating mothers at risks and shedding light on the problem of maternal addiction. Utah ranks number 8 in the nation for deaths related to drug overdose. I decided to join forces with Addict II Athlete and run 140 miles around my neighborhood.

The journey was transformative for me, because the cause of creating safry nets for motherhood is my passion. Throughout my journey, no amount of pain or discomfort was greater then my desire to run 140 miles and finish on February 13th. 

The conditions I was running in were an erie parrallell to the damage that is created by not treating mothers. I woke up to the worst inversion air Utah has ever seen. I ran for 2.5 days in air that was not advisable to breath. The toxic fog brought on challenges that I had to work solely with my higher power to move through.

It was 8:40 am in the morning on February 11th, and I set up my aid station and donation tarp in front of my house. With a bit of intrepidation I tied my shoes, took a breath of the fog filled air that felt searing to my lungs, and took my first lap around my .45 mile block. With each lap the air and cold settled into my lungs and skin and I accepted the fact that these conditions were not going to change. 

Day one was full of more breaks, and I finished my first 50 miles around 1am on Friday morning. The cold humidity and toxic wetness made every part of me want to stop, but I knew I had to get to mile 50 if I was going to finish by Saturday night. I got a few hours of sleep, and woke up to a fog that was twice as thick and heavy as the day before. 

Wanting to delay my start, hoping that the fog would lift, and finally with a push from my coach, Lisa Smith-Batchen, I made it out the door again by 8:30 am. Thursday's miles had mostly consisted of running about 45 of the 50 miles around one specific block. By Friday morning I realized that I needed  to extend my course in order to avoid fixating on the comforts that my home provided. If I was to finish and stay on track, I needed to run further away from my comfort zone so that I would rise above the discouragement and easy ability to stop. 

Other than a few laps, with Brandie and Jason Hawks, Judy Sumsion, and Joal Lyons most of my first 80 miles were done alone. My neighbor Michelle Willmore kept coming by to check on my progress and see what I needed.
Around mile 75  I felt alone, and I started to feel discouraged and the weight of the task became heavy. It was right at that moment that a crew of individuals from Addict II Athlete started showing up right when I couldn't mentally take it on my own anymore. The support changed everything, and one of my friends, Jeff Smith, walked and ran with me through the night as the fog once again settled in think and heavy. 

Others who came out to support me on Friday were Terri and Robert Sawyer, Savannah and Tyson Rich, Coach Blu and Marissa Robinson and Jed Jenson and crew. 

The night track was slower, and the more tired my body became, the more effort it took to stay on track to finish on Saturday. By 7 am we made it back to the house for a break and hit mile 104. Breaking 100 miles was a mental challenge, and getting to 104 I started to have hope that I really could finish what I set out to do.

 After a short bath and 30 minutes of rest, I decided to run inside around my pool table until the air outside cleared a little. The air had started to hurt my lungs. I did that for about 7 miles, and during that 7 miles another friend, Cat showed up. As soon as she had to leave, around 112 miles another member of AIIA showed up with his wife blasting motivating music as he joined me for about 6-7 miles and she followed with her van the whole time cheering us on. My spirits were lifted and my speed increased dispite the fatigue my body felt. 

As I hit 120 miles Jeff and Callie came back and Christy Long showed up. We stared to trek up Hobble Creek canyon n when I made them stop and change directions and instead go into Mapleton. Andrea and Justin Garn joined us, and we set out to complete the last 19 miles.  I distracted myself by taking them to my childhood home, and we completed a half marathon circling East and South Mapleton before finally reaching home, and setting out for the last 7 miles.

Throughout the day my spirit overcame dispair and was replaced with hope, and by the last 7 miles a deep resolve set in, and I broke into a run. When I came around the corner, my neighbors Michelle and Keith Willmore, had set up a finish line and my husband,Jeff, and daughter, Helen,  Callie, and the Willmores were there cheering as I sprinted at full speed through the finish. 

Along the way, people heard the message and I am humbled by the response of strangers who have been touched and completed to donate to Addict II Athlete. 

I want to thank everyone who came out to support me. Just like recovery, a run like this is more successful with a support system. Without the team coming to walk with me, keeping my resolve would have been more difficult. 

To donated to AIIA and support the fight for mothers recovering from addiction please go to: