A few months ago, Runner’s World called. They’re doing a monthly street style feature, they said. Would I be interested?
I immediately SWOONED and fell out of my chair. A few smelling salts later, I responded: YES. For me, this is better than Vogue.
I’ve always been runner – I was born into a family of runners. Some of my earliest memories involve cheering on the sidelines as my mom (or my Dad) ran by. I played dress-up with my mom’s medals. This was the era of tall striped socks, short shorts and sweatbands. Runner’s World Magazine was always on our coffee table.
As I got older, I’d ride my bike while my parents ran. Dad would come home early from work – “Get your bike!” he’d say, and off we’d go. We’d chat about our day, our lives, as he huffed and puffed next to me, helping to push me up the hills.
Eventually, I started running – Cross-Country in high school, running barefoot on the beach all summer long, or through piles of snow on Christmas morning (my own personal Christmas tradition). But it wasn’t until I was able to run faster than my mom that I truly felt like a runner. Mom and I had gone out for a jog together, but instead of stopping at our usual spot….we both simultaneously pressed on. There was an unspoken acknowledgment of Game ON. We ran faster and faster, our usual chatter and laughter absent. I kicked into racing mode – the one where my brain shuts down, the pain gets fuzzy, and the only thing I hear is the pounding of my own feet.
After many, many minutes of this nonsense (on an otherwise lovely Saturday afternoon!) my Mom gave in. She stopped, laughing. “OK!!” she said, “I GIVE!!”. We cracked up, and immediately flopped down on the ground, exhausted.
It was official – I was a Runner. All grown up.
Over the years I’ve run off and on. Sometimes simply because running is so darn efficient – such a good workout in so little time for this busy Mama – but more often than not, I run because it clears my mind. Running is sanity saving. When my mom got breast cancer, I ran. When I had a miscarriage, I ran. When my grandmother passed away, I ran. When Mike and I get into an argument or the kids are driving me nuts or I’m stressed about work or sad about my Dad’s fight with dementia…I run.
And when I faced my own breast cancer diagnosis two years ago, I ran. Running, along with acupuncture and yoga, helped me get through those awful months of chemotherapy. The chemo broke me down at every level – physically and emotionally. I was exhausted in a way sleep could not cure, tired to my very aching bones. My toes would go numb, and thanks to the steroids, I struggled with depression. When I moved too fast, my muscles would burn. Climbing upstairs could bring me to my knees.
I was angry. I was sad. This gray-faced, exhausted, bald person who could barely climb stairs? Who was she? This horrible mother who slept all day and had no patience and had forgotten how to play? That couldn’t be me! I found myself completely unrecognizable, my life in some sort of other twilight-zone dimension.
So I did the one thing I always do. I ran.
Running after chemo treatments is an awful, terrible thing. In fact, the word “running” barely applies – “plodding” is a much truer description. Each leg weighed a ton; I often felt like I was running through water. My lungs and legs would burn as if I were in an all-out sprint. I would run for a few minutes, then stop and walk, crying in anger and sadness and frustration. In my head I would write giant, angry missives about the unfairness of life. The total bullshit that is a cancer diagnosis to someone in their 30s. I would run, then walk, then cry, then rant in my head.
And then I’d run again.
Despite the exhaustion, running helped me realize something: That burning sensation in my muscles and lungs? Chemo at work, sure, but my muscles and lungs were also burning because I was still alive. They were burning because I was running, because I could still run. They were burning because they were fighting back. I was fighting back.
Chemo felt like death. Running – even my plodding along – felt more like life.
Since then, I have continued to run. Off and on, sometimes getting frustrated at my lack of progress. Years ago, it didn’t matter how often I had run, I could always dash off an easy 5 miles. Those days are long gone. The breast cancer treatments have changed my body in fundamental ways, my energy levels haven’t completely recovered, and running is still really, really hard. To quote my oncologist, “if you really want to run again….you’re going to have to fight for it.”
Fighting is what I do.
So now, I put on my shoes and turn on the Nike running app (which manages to find nice things to say after even a dismal day), and I run. For many months, I’d run a mile. Just a mile. My lungs would burn and my legs would burn, but I had been down this road before, so it was OK. Recently, I was able to get to two miles. So now that’s what I do. I run two miles. Just two. And my lungs still burn a little and my legs still burn a little but this is now a very familiar story and they burn with the burn of fighting a good fight. They burn with life.
Runner’s World, I am so honored and humbled to be featured in a magazine I have literally been reading my entire life. Thank you – so much – for the feature.
All photography by the insanely talented Chris Sembrot Photography. Chris, I had so much fun with our impromptu, in-the-rain shoot.
If you are interested, I rounded up a few of the pieces featured in the shoot (many are long gone, but the ones I could find are below). Not included in the shopping widget are my Nike Black & White Warm-Up Pants and Raines’ Geofox apparel sleeveless hoodie.
Wow! What a great article. You continue to inspire me and remind me why I also love to run! It truly is the best therapy.
Beautiful. I appreciate your honesty in this piece.
you are a rock star…xoxox 🙂
Love this!! Congrats Shana – on EVERY level. Running helps me get through the best and worst as well. Amazing article!
It was great to hear about your experience as a runner and how you incorporate clothes and fashion. I’d love to see other fashionable moms, in various levels of fitness, and what they wear when they exercise.
Thank you for that inspiring article! I feel like I should go out and run now! I’m definitely going to think about ‘the burn’ differently the next time I lace up my tennies.
Fantastic! Truly an inspiration! A wonderful reminder of why I run.
moving. Inspiring. Thank you!
So beautifully written.
And running shoes without socks? SIGN ME UP.
This is my favourite post I’ve ever read on your site (and I am a long-time reader). 🙂
You have so beautifully described the “aliveness” of running – and how truly therapeutic it can be to move your body through trauma. Thank you for this – I’ll be reading it again, I’m sure (and then lacing up my shoes for a run…)
Such a good post. Man. I grew up with Runner’s world always on the table too, and ran basically all of my life, off and on, until recently – recently being the having of babes, starting three years ago. I used to be kinda good, and somehow I’ve had a hard time finding a new motivation more in line with my life at the moment… All that every damn day/fit mom culture just doesn’t do it for me. But I’ve been feeling the quiet siren song of the road anyway, and I find this post somehow so motivating. It’s about feeling alive, running because I can. Thanks for that, Shana.
Congratulations!!!! You are so damn inspiring!
This is awesome! Inspiring and beautiful. Thanks for being you, Shana. 🙂
Awesome article – amazing post. Although I don’t run (does chasing a 22-month little girl count?), I could feel the rush you must feel when running, and pushing yourself, and you are such an inspiration. I love the clothes posts, and the makeup tutorials, but this type of post is why I read your blog. Thank you!
Shana, you write in a such beautiful and moving way! Thank you for sharing. It’s really an inspiration and a motivation to go outside and run! And to appreciate life. Sometimes, when we are busy by work, kids, life in general, we forget to just appreciate it. You brought tears to my eyes.
You are awesome. Thank you for sharing. Teary eyed reader here too!
Beautifully written Shana! Thank you for sharing your story!
What an awesome post. I had no idea you had even been sick, I usually come just for the Nordies sales picks. What an inspiring story that has reminded me that good health is not to be taken for granted.
You write beautifully. THIS is why I come back year after year!
I looked you up after reading the RW piece, and now I come here often. Thanks for sharing the story behind the story.
powerful. i recently found your blog and follow it for the fashion. now, i’m a follower for your fight. so so beautiful <3
I’m not a runner at all… but I love reading about it from your perspective. Fight on, Shana! : )
This is awesome & beautiful — as are you!!! <3
This is so, so great. Congrats.
Yes! This is awesome. Congrats!
Congrats to you and the article! Does it mean something that you are making me consider, even more, starting to run with this? I, mean, you ran through chemo! CHEMO!!! if that is not inpiring then I’m not sure what is. I need to get some running shorts, good shoes, and start run/walking down the street… I have a five year old ready to go with me!
*inspiring* although i had to spell it three times even here…
Congratulations, Shana! This (and you) are amazing! Running keeps me sane, too, through good times and bad. Sending you love…
My dearest Shana… I read this post the other day and came back for pure inspiration. I can’t say that I’ve ever LOVED running, but it was the one thing that helped me find balance when I was living far from loved ones, on a deployment somewhere or just needing clarity. Now that I AM home, and out of the military, I’ve been really struggling to find my new rhythm in life. This little glimpse into your struggles made it perfectly clear to me what I’m missing; my rhythm lies in a pair of sneaks beating down the pavement. Thank you for this beautifully honest post… and cheers to the magazine article. All the best…
I had planned to go running today but decided to skip it. Instead I sat down on my computer to read your post not knowing what it was about. Thank you. You wrote a very inspirational post, my mom is recovering from breast cancer and this gives me insight into some of her struggles. Maybe I’ll go for a run. Tomorrow.
I found this blog through the Running World article. I’m not really a “blog person,” but I love your style! The posts are so helpful. Thanks!! I just started running a few years ago, and I’ve found it to be lifechanging.
I didn’t grow up in a house with fit people who loved to be active. Quite the opposite in fact. All of my life I have struggled with being active, and controlling my weight. Now that I am well into adulthood, I do yoga and bootcamp classes and spinning because I know that they are good for me, but I can’t muster up that same inner motivation that someone who had simply led an active life is able to. I have a friend who runs on the regular, often as a way of staying stable when life throws her a curve ball, and I envy that she has that outlet. When I am under stress, I just stress. If I am lucky someone slips me a xanax. I don’t know if it is possible to pass something along to your children that you don’t have yourself, but I am going to try to help my children lead a naturally active life. All I can do is try.
Thanks for sharing this. I’m a runner and cross train with swimming and biking. With my breast cancer diagnosis I am anxious about the impact to my workouts- these are a big piece of my social life and support group. How long will I be off exercise after each surgery? How will radiation effect me? (I think I will be able to forego chemo.) another series of unanswered questions.
Loved your piece. Diagnosed with BC June, 2016. Stumbled on your site while looking for products to help with hair thinning. Am a runner. Stopped during chemo, but resumed soon after. Just the motion of swinging my arms while running made them hurt for days. New evidence shows that exercise reduces a BC survivor’s risk of dying from the disease by a staggering FORTY PERCENT! Keep up the good work, and thanks for inspiring other BC survivors to do the same.
Great read! I always remember my mom whenever I read cancer patient stories as she died of ovarian cancer. Kudos to you and stay strong and healthy for always.