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#WhyIMove: Liz D. Adventures with Autism – Why I Run

I’ve been asked this question before and I’m sure I’ll be asked it again… “Why do you run?”  My “why” has somewhat changed over the years but the base of when/how has always been the same. “What was that pivotal moment? What made you take those first steps?”  Hopefully, this story will help reveal more of my “why” to you.  I got to thinking about that question more when I found this trophy while unpacking [we’re an Army family, we move a ton]…

This trophy is a perfect example of the #autismmomlife…
Victory and brokenness…

I remember this race. I was 27 weeks pregnant with Mikey, our 4th kiddo [we have five total].  A year had yet to go by from when Tedy received his official autism diagnosis. I ran this race for Tedy. For our new life as an autism family. For all the struggles we faced and would face again…

I actually started running as an adult just after Tedy was born. My pull to even begin to lace up those running kicks came in the last trimester of my pregnancy with him.  Blame hormones or something but for some crazy reason I decided that I was going to run my first marathon in 2010 (the year Tedy was born) and my first step was to sign up for a Marine Corps race (at the time it was a 10K at Quantico but now it’s the 17.75K) that would guarantee me entry into the Marine Corps Marathon.  Looking back now I feel like it was God’s way of giving me an outlet before I even knew I needed one; because God was about to give me a gift, one that would prove to be more than I could handle.  A blessing in the truest form – a beatitude style blessing; one with a greater purpose in my life.  Even though I ran prior to Tedy being born I never really considered myself a runner.  He was my turning point.  Before him, I was a former college athlete who had run just because I was required to as part of my other sports conditioning.  I had done the James Joyce Ramble [my hometown 10K] and a handful of other [local] fundraiser style 5Ks; just as part of this former athlete life but until Tedy was born, I was not a runner.

After Tedy was born I poured so much into my running.  I have an entire library of books now that are all about running; from how to train to memoirs of runners.  I’ve been to clinic after clinic after clinic and have watched video after video to work on my running form and improve in this sport.  The photo below is from the same race as the trophy but the year before.  This was the year that I was heavy into competing and started being on the podium at runs and triathlons on a regular basis.  This was in the midst of all the testing that led up to the fateful day when I would officially be told that Tedy indeed has Autism.

That was the worst week of my life.  In just a few days I was hit with so much –  my husband, Troy, had been injured by an IED in Afghanistan and I received Tedy’s official diagnosis.  It’s a good thing that I had a long drive from Jacksonville, Florida (where Tedy’s team of doctors were) to Fort Stewart, Georgia to decompress and just cry and cry and cry.  I was such a ball of emotions.  I was grieving over so much – I still didn’t know all of what was going on with Troy exactly and then I began to grieve over this new life with Autism.  Yes, I was grateful that Troy was alive and yes I was grateful that my son was otherwise still healthy but it was a major turning point in our lives in so many ways, all at once and it was ridiculously overwhelming.  I am forever thankful to my friend Lisa for being there for me in those days.  She made sure I got the simplest of things done like eating.  She kept me going because we still had a couple of races left in the triathlon series we were signed up for.  2013 was the most difficult year for me because of all of this crap going on but it was also a very successful year.  It was the year that I hit my 5K PR and I ended up qualifying for triathlon age group championships (though I was unable to attend because a trip to Omaha just wasn’t realistic at the time).  Dealing with all the crap in my life running was [and continues to be] my outlet.  It would be so painful as the last leg of the triathlon but it allowed me to get out so much pent up anger and emotion that I was dealing with on a personal level.

When I race, I have been able to leave everything out on the course.  I continue to train and have been lucky to be surrounded by friends who would let me vent and don’t judge me for my thoughts and feelings – or who would just let me be at peace with our run.

While I haven’t hit those PR numbers the last five years running is still there.  Tedy is still my “why” – autism life is HARD!  Back to that broken trophy…I was happy with my performance at that race but the trophy didn’t last long.  That’s this life. Happiness is brief; the victories over the struggles in autism are brief, and then it all comes crashing down and breaks and you keep trying to put the puzzle back together again.  Some days I go run as that emotional/physical outlet and some days I go sprint quickly after Tedy; because he escaped from wherever we were at and I need to keep him safe.  Autism is not only mentally and emotionally taxing but there’s a physical part with it as well.  A little disclaimer, my adventures with autism is my story, my experience and I know no two journeys in this life are the same.  As a caregiver to a son with autism, I keep active because I fear the day when he will totally be able to overpower me.  I fear that one day he will be able to run faster than me and that he will get harmed because of it.  Yet I also pray that he will be able to reign in his speed and be able to complete his own 5K race.

We’ve come a long way since that broken trophy but we still have a long way to go and I know running will continue to be a part of my life and help me navigate this puzzle brick road of being as an Autism Mom.

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