I think in some way, when I am really hurting emotionally, I want to feel the pain physically. If I can run up a hill, full speed, it shows me that I can deal with any situation that comes my way. Whether it is that hill or challenges with Trot, my special needs son, power comes from knowing what I have to do, despite the struggle — run up the hill, literally and figuratively.
Why do I jog? I started when I was 20, more than 40 years ago. My buddy across the street and I decided to do it. We reasoned if we were in great physical condition, the girls couldn’t resist us.
That was then, this is now.
The main reason I jog today is because of how I feel at the end. Everything has a calmness when I finish running. I don’t care what kind of problems I have had that day; it seems as if all is right in the world after a good, exhausting run. Problems that can be so perplexing at the start, seem manageable when I finish.
Jogging isn’t easy. But I love it. I jog to feel good mentally and it is a stress release. My runs, which can range from 7-10 miles, often begin with me having multiple problems on my mind. Jogging is my tool. It has gotten me through a lot.
Dealing with the physical pain, which usually comes after five miles or so, is challenging: it courses through my body, it drains my essence, it intensifies my thirst. But you know what, I still have control. I could stop if I wanted to. Yet, I can’t say that about the emotional struggle that comes from raising a special needs child. This never stops.
While I am jogging, I think about what I am doing right with my son. I have pride in that. But I also think about what I am not doing. This often revolves around simple things, such as getting Trot up in the morning. Sometimes, as I’m running, I’ll think, “Gosh, I wasn’t loving enough with him this morning.” That’s because in my heart I want to make things easier for him as he gets up, but I know in my head that he has to learn how to do these things himself. It’s painful for me because I have to watch him struggle.
To be honest, it is fatiguing to be the father of a special needs son. It is a 24/7 job. Jogging is fatiguing as well. But, it actually gives me the energy and serenity to be a better father to Trot. It gives me more endurance to do what I need to do.
With jogging, though, there is a start. And a finish. With a special needs son, there is no finish line.
Toward the fourth or fifth mile of my run, I begin to feel a jolt of pain every time my foot hits the pavement. It is a sensation that radiates through my entire body, including my heart. But, at the end of my run, the aching subsides and I’m proud of myself for making it through another hour of jogging.
I have come to accept the pain that I feel during the run. In fact, the older I get the physical discomfort seems to be more present each time I jog. But that’s like life, isn’t it? The older we get, life gets a little bit harder. My knees start to scream at me around mile four and I don’t have the stamina that I once did. I won’t be jogging forever. But I’ll always be a special needs dad and no matter the challenges, I'll keep pushing forward.