Finding Strength In Both Darkness and Light

"We want women to run outside."

Those are the words I saw when I was introduced to my inspiring sponsor Oiselle's new fall line Eclipse.

Oiselle Eclipse

I couldn’t help but think back to my first year as a runner when there was nothing scarier than being seen running outside. (Lies, dying or being stranded two miles away from home was pretty high up on the list. Mind you, this was pre Lyft era.) Every night after I got home from work, I’d wait until nightfall and peek around my parent’s fence so that I could make sure that none of my neighbors were outside.  

And we have amazing neighbors. My parents live on a street full of families who would drop everything if anyone needed help. Even crazier, everyone genuinely likes one another. And even with the world’s most supportive neighbors, I still felt insecure about being seen running outside.

Mostly because I thought I’d never stick with running. I wasn’t a runner. I thought I could never become a runner. Me attempting to run was something I was forcing myself to do because I had nothing else. Where I was in my life was so painful and uncertain that running, as horrible as it was, was a welcome way to hurt. Because the hurt made sense. It meant that I was getting stronger.

And shockingly enough, it wasn’t just a phase. Even when things didn’t get easier, I still kept going. Running gave me something to feel proud of along with tangible finish lines to work towards. I felt like I was finally going forward. With time, I found the courage to run during daylight hours. I was terrified to do so, and I would still laugh nervously whenever any of my neighbors told me how proud they were to see me running, but I wasn’t hiding.

Eventually, running became a part of who I was. It took years, and I still feel an overwhelming sense of doubt whenever an online stranger tells me that I don’t belong, but I’ve come a long way since that first year when everything felt so painful, foreign, and terrifying.

I never want to take running or how it’s changed my life for granted but these past three months have been rough. I fell flat on my face and I've really struggled to come to terms with the hurt I felt after missing my goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon. (I know, I'm tired of hearing about BQ or Bust as well. I promise I'll stop talking about it soon.) A part of me hated how seriously I was taking myself and I was ashamed to admit that I cared more about the time than I did about putting in the work and not giving up when shit hit the fan.

Shame pushes us into the darkness, to that place that makes us feel small and helpless. But in order to embrace the light, we have to learn to find strength in the dark. I don’t believe that I’d be who I am today if I hadn’t spent as much time as I have in the dark.

I’m not a very good runner and more often than not, I still feel like I struggle more than I cruise. And yet, despite the fact that running still humbles me and kicks my ass, I choose to keep going. Because running has changed my life and given me a community that I never knew I was missing. It’s helped me run down self-doubt, a fear of failure, and it’s liberated me from the shame I hid in the darkness of my shame cave for most of my life.  

And I, like so many in our sisterhood, found running (hell, and physical activity) later in life. I spend more time hating running than I do loving it. People always get angry when I talk about my love hate relationship with it. "I don't understand," they say. But they don't have to. It's wonderful that they've never felt what I've felt and experienced but it is what it is. I know I'm not alone. And those days when I love running, they outshine the bad days ten fold. I don’t run because I love it, I run because I need it.

After my brother passed away, the moon became a sort of talisman for me. I held the lyric, “I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you” from Billie Holiday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” close to my heart. I wore a necklace the shape of a crescent moon around my neck to remind me that even in the darkness, I can still find a light.

I just want to take a second to share some of the storytelling and images from Eclipse because after reading these powerful words, I couldn’t help but step back and reflect.

I so identify with the light and the dark. Reading these powerful words took me to a place I haven’t gone in a while. It’s hard to give myself permission to feel sad or nostalgic because honestly, I don’t always have time to lean into those complicated feelings. I'm so used to moving as fast as I can that I don't give myself permission to slow down and look up.

One of the reasons I fell so madly in love with the theater was because it gave me a way to examine the human condition. And I never in a million years thought I'd find that in an athletic environment. But here we are. 

I find it so inspiring to be apart of a brand that tells the story of what it means to be a woman. Both the ugly, difficult, strong, courageous, and the beautiful. It's hard to bring your story into the light. It's dangerous to be vulnerable. But it's the only way. The only way you can be strong in both the darkness and the light is if you're honest with yourself. 

Take a moment to sit with this idea of darkness and light. Or of what it means to risk, rise, and persevere. I hope it was as powerful for you as it was for me. 

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Kelly Roberts

It all started when a silly joke made headlines back in 2014 when I took selfies with hot guys “hottie hunting” my way through the New York City Half Marathon. But ironically enough, I haven't always been a runner. As the self-proclaimed former President of the "I f*cking hate running club", I spent most of my life finding ways to avoid physical activity. Growing up, I missed over 70 days of PE my senior year. Working out was something I thought I had to suffer through in order to lose weight. 

Then, in 2009, my younger brother passed away unexpectedly and struggling to manage my grief, I gained more than 75 pounds. With the weight gain came a new fight to regain my sense of self and learn to love the body I saw when I looked in the mirror. Then one Thanksgiving morning, drowning in grief and self doubt, I decided to go for a run. I didn't make it half way down my street before I had to stop to walk but for some reason, struggling forward made more sense than getting back into bed. It turns out that running is a lot like grief, neither ever really get easier, you just get stronger. 

Over time, I realized that while some people are in fact born runners, others are made. I created this blog Run, Selfie, Repeat and my new podcast by the same name with the hopes to inspire others to say yes to themselves while making them laugh hysterically because laughing, in my opinion, is the solution to everything. 

Named by Women's Running as one of twenty women who are changing the sport of running and by Competitor Magazine as one of 12 Influential and inspiring runners under 30, my mission is to inspire others to get embrace a healthy lifestyle and pursue the strongest version of themselves possible.