There are so many ways to enjoy time outside. This is one of many unique stories we’re sharing as part of our effort to highlight the Limitless Sides to Outside.
I’ve always associated running with escaping. I know that many people run for aesthetics and to stay in shape, but that was never a big motivating factor for me. I’ve been running since I was in middle school. I played on the girls’ basketball team in New York City where I grew up. Running was part of our conditioning. The good players had to play all four quarters, so I was always a runner.
When I hit puberty, my breasts grew incredibly fast; by eighth grade, I was a full D-cup. I went to Catholic school and I didn’t own a good support bra. The boys loved watching me plop up and down. I had no idea. The women teachers at my school started duct-taping me down over my undershirt before games. This is when I started to develop a complex about my body.
No one sat me down and explained anything. They just duct-taped me, and I never asked why. Maybe I was embarrassed. I remember some things clearly—like getting cut out of the duct tape by my mom after I got in trouble for being in the bathroom too long. That was when my mom started buying better bras for me. Despite all that, I kept playing basketball and I kept running.
During my teen years, I suffered from major depressive episodes related to abandonment issues, being light-skinned in the Black community and looking mixed and not having a father figure. I never fit in, and I definitely stood out. I also grew up poor, often getting only one new pair of tennis shoes for the whole year. They were my going-outside shoes, playing-in-the-park shoes, gym shoes and basketball shoes.
Once I got into high school, the weight of my life was bearing down. I was on an academic scholarship to a private school and I worked out as much as I could to delay going home, where the problems were. Running was so freeing. I’d cry and run in the rain. I did this frequently to hide my tears.
I found myself continuing this pattern when I was married. I got married in eleventh grade; I was 16 and turned 17 the day of my courthouse wedding ceremony. I wanted to escape my childhood and I imagined running away. I always wanted to run away. Who knew that I would literally run right into the arms of a man that destroyed nearly a decade of my life?
In the Black and Brown community we are taught to be strong—we are taught to keep going, and that we must not air our families’ dirty laundry in public. So we bottle it up inside and we use other forms of suppression to keep things at bay.
I now have a much different life. Many of my friends run or work out for aesthetics and still aren’t taking care of their mental health. If you’re reading this and are a member of the Black and Brown community, know that it’s OK to seek the help of a professional.
Running can help you deal with stress and boost your mood. It really made me feel better when I ran endlessly. It was when I was lost in my mind that I ran the hardest. If I ran those distances now, I’d collapse by the end of the first block.
I no longer have the same mentality I had all those years ago. I’ve learned how to speak up about my mental state, and to keep myself accountable.
Recently, I’ve been on a break from running. I crave the runner’s high, and I look forward to working myself back up to running a few hours a week. I love how I feel after.
I’ve learned that running can’t help me escape my problems, though. Working with someone who helps me to break free and find a new way of thinking does. Running can help—it sure does—but it won’t cure you.