With the work I’ve done over the years with Train 4 Autism and Operation Jack, I’ve said so many times that it’s important to find a positive outlet when you’re an autism parent. Heck, it’s the mission statement of my Operation Jack Autism Foundation.
To encourage parents, relatives and friends of those struggling with autism to find a positive outlet by leading an active lifestyle that promotes awareness and raises funds for autism-related charities.
Fortunately, I have a couple of friends up in Maine who recently helped me realize that I needed to take my own advice. I love my 10-year-old son Jack, but his autism makes life tougher for my family year after year. It led to two relocations in about a year, financial difficulties, time loss — it’s really drained us. And individually, everything combined was definitely a contributing factor in me losing one of the few things I thought I was good at that I really enjoyed — running marathons.
My training started to slip and my results started to slip and my mindset started to nosedive. It became so frustrating for me that my body couldn’t do what it used to. I felt like I lost a part of me that I really liked. Running used to be something that I really enjoyed, but it turned into something that made me really miserable. I complained all the time with my posts on Dailymile about how frustrated I was that I wasn’t how I used to be. Every here and there, I would post with some kind of comment about how I’m going to take baby steps and get back, but that mindset lasted until I skipped my run the next day.
Running — and not running — was making me miserable. My positive outlet became a negative outlet. I snapped at Sarah and Danielle when they talked to me about running, because to me, it was something negative — it’s disappearance was a harsh reminder to me that my life wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I was dwelling and couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel because my eyes were closed. I couldn’t even congratulate them when they were having great races and workouts.
They recently read me the riot act and made it clear to me how I’ve changed. I’ve been friends with them for about four years. I wasn’t the person they used to talk to. I wasn’t listening and the only thing I had to say was woe is me. After a while, that gets old, and it got old with them. I had become that guy to talk to. Running was my negative outlet. Operation Jack is a positive thing for me, but the only time I have any effectiveness with it is when I work crazy hard and run myself into the ground. That’s definitely a double-edged sword.
I needed something positive and after getting it straight from my Maine girls, I knew it was right there in front of me. It was just all in the way I viewed it. I had friends demanding accountability with my workouts every day, demanding that I stay positive, demanding that I fight my way back, demanding to drop the woe is me stuff. I’m only a few weeks into it, but I’m feeling better about myself and my running than I have in years.
I joke around with them, because when we first met, none of us would have thought that I would be turning to them for motivation. I was in the middle of my 61 marathons in 2010, having just run my 20th of the year (Boston) in 3:03. That race was more than an hour faster than Danielle’s PR at the time, and Sarah was pregnant and had never run a marathon. They wanted to meet me because they thought what I was doing (running 61 marathons in a year to raise money to fight autism in honor of Jack) was inspiring. Yet here I am now, four years later, turning to them for inspiration. I’m not sure I’d want to race either of them right now — they’re both going to qualify to run Boston next year and I’m going to have really work hard to join them.
But fortunately, they were able to get me realize the truth of what I’ve been telling people for years — it’s important to have a positive outlet when you’ve got something weighing you down like raising a child with severe special needs. Another 12.5 miles this morning and I’m happy. I’m back on track for now and if I can stay here, I’m never falling off again.[subscribe2]