Image of runner's shoes like DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley
New Perspectives

I Keep Running

I run almost every day. This is a relatively new thing for me – when Shawn was alive, I did a lot of walking, and I went to the gym a few times a week. But I wasn’t a consistent runner.

Shawn was religious about his workouts. He did CrossFit all the time and ran on the days when he wasn’t at the gym. He went through a period of time when we were both in our early 30s when he wasn’t working out at all. But he woke up one morning in his late 30s and told me that he had gained too much weight and he was going to start working out.

He lost 50 pounds in 6 months. It was inspiring. But not inspiring enough, apparently, as I never really increased my workouts. Still, it was really nice to have a husband who was in such good shape. “Damn,” I can remember thinking a number of times when he’d be changing after the shower. He was strong but not showy about it, which of course made it all the more attractive.

Once Shawn died, my anxiety was so bad that I did almost anything I could to relieve it. For a while, sleeping aids helped me make it through the night. But I knew I couldn’t do that forever. So I started to run. Now it’s a habit, and one that I fear missing each day because it might mean the return of the dreaded anxiety. (As a note, fellow widows, I still have anxiety! It’s just not crippling like it once was. Running is magic in that way.)

Anyway, I often run in the mornings, and I usually do it alone. It’s not because I don’t want company. I most certainly do. It’s just that there are very few people who want to get up and start running before six a.m. In the winter, I run on my treadmill, but the rest of the year, I run through DC neighborhoods. I do my best to run the entire time without stopping.

It’s quiet in the early dawn hours. I usually only see a few construction workers and an errant bleary-eyed person in a suit. Oh, and there is the old man I often pass near the end of my run, dressed in a bathrobe and walking his dog. He always has a leash in one hand and a drink in the other (coffee or vodka, who knows!) but he still manages to smoke a cigar that he balances in between his lips. Shawn would have gotten a huge kick out of that guy.

No one talks to me – not even this guy with the bathrobe. Instead, I play dance music and try to keep going when I get to the hills.

Some mornings, I fly through my run. I finish in record time and I stretch afterwards and sometimes I even dance a little to my music. I love those mornings.

But sometimes, I am tired. Sometimes I can feel the weight of my legs as I start out. On those days, I want to stop, to pause, to say I’ve had enough.

Those are the days when I refuse to let myself walk.

It’s not because I’m a great runner or have more conviction than most. It’s because if I stopped, I might never start again.

I was thinking about this the other day on one of my slow, tired runs. I wanted to walk so badly. But I knew I couldn’t. Like other aspects of my life, when things are the toughest, I have to keep going. Because if I stop – if I look around and realize how tired and emotionally drained and fed-up I really am – then I might really stop. And who knows what that would mean.

So I keep running.


  • Susan

    Thank you for sharing that you too have anxiety. I lost my husband 18 months ago, we were married 28 years and it was not enough time together. He was sick for several years and thought I was prepared. I have an incredible career, lots of friends and family support, however, my life fell apart after he died. Full blown anxiety, refused to believe that it could happen to me, took several test for my doctors to prove to me that this was not my heart.
    I’m working out more and started meditating, has helped, but still need medication. One lesson I have learned, you don’t can’t always be strong and it’s ok. Everyone walking this path has to do whatever works for them, Keep running!

    • Marjorie

      Oh, yes, the anxiety is the worst. There’s actually a great book called “Anxiety, the Missing Stage of Grief” that I would recommend. I still suffer from it FOR SURE.

  • Henry

    You are a great exemplar. You are also very perceptive (as usual) about the perils of stopping. Before my wife died, I cycled abut 50 miles a week and even rode a couple of centuries a few years back. Since she died, I have largely given it up. Two knee replacements and treatment for prostate cancer – all successful – (not to mention the theft of my bicycle) sound like reasonable explanations. But when I am honest with myself, I recognize that I have given in to that realization of how tired and emotionally drained and fed-up I really am. So keep on running, and perhaps knowing that you are will inspire me to get back on my bike for more than a couple of miles.

  • Melissa

    Since my husband died last year I’ve gradually gone back to my Zumba classes three times a week and take 40 min. walks around town with my little dog in his stroller on the other days. Yeah, I’m one of those ladies. 🙂 The one thing I used to love doing but haven’t gone back to is swimming. It’s a very contemplative exercise and I fear I’ll be too much “in my head.” When I’m doing the other forms of exercise I can kind of lose myself in them for a while and forget about everything else. Maybe at some point I’ll return to it. Just not right now. But getting out and doing something physical every day is a must. For me anyway.

    • Marjorie

      I get that – you have to find the exercise that’s right for you at the right time. Walking is awesome!

  • Christine

    Melissa you should definitely go back to swimming! I have been a swimmer for the past 20 years 3 days a week, only I hadn’t changed up my workout in many years. After my husband died in April I decided to join the Masters swimming program at my local pool as a way of meeting other swimmers and give myself permission to try something new. This has turned out to be the best thing I could have done as my swimming has improved dramatically! It helps with my anxiety and given me a great sense of accomplishment when so many other things are difficult and confusing to deal with. I hope that you also get back in the pool because there’s nothing like It!