This Breath of Mine

In February we asked, “Why does Running make your Heart Race?” and received many fun and thoughtful responses. The following is a favorite response from Tammy Bennett about running, the loss of running, and finding the silver lining.

During the pandemic, I won a Territory Run Co. essay contest. Here are the first and last paragraphs.

“This breath of mine is cut with laughter while winding through the six million shades of green on my Pacific Northwest hometown trail. Six feet apart from my trail friends of decades, our footfalls punctuate talk of the mundane dailies, the ebb and flow of middle-aged life, and sometimes the joyous or painful moments that require running shoes, labored breathing and judgement-free advice.

This breath of mine accomplishes so much more than oxygenation and expelled carbon dioxide. It is the very essence of the most important moments on the trails, on the road, in my life. It reminds me what to hold on to, what to let go of, and what to let sit while I breathe and run and repeat. This breath of mine? It is why I run.”

And now I can’t run.

Actually, I can run but it feels clunky and uncomfortable and my knee with its bare minimum of cartilage creaks, complains and swells if I don’t honor its limits.

And that’s okay.

There were so many years that running was the cornerstone of my physical and mental health. It was the meeting place for old friends and new. It was where my dogs and I bonded through miles and miles of singletrack. It was why I traveled with groups of women to participate in events all over the place. Finding out that running was no longer a healthy choice for me momentarily took my breath away. All I thought about was loss. I would lose that free-breathing, trail-twisting, relationship-cementing activity that centered me throughout my adult life. Then what?

Then I realized I can hike. I can walk. I can breathe.

The trails are still there for me, my friends, and my dog. The experiences and trips and relationships? All still there, too. The ability to spontaneously lace up my shoes, leash my dog, zip up one of our local summits. All there.

I do love to run, but I also love excessive amounts of hot cheese and neither of those things suit my current decade in life. The nice thing is, I may (and someday you may) have to stop doing something you love, but if your heart is open and your breath is deep, there is probably something else out there that will give you what you really need like shoes, trails, breath and friends.

Tammy Bennett is a longtime YMCA employee and active community member. Her new adventure in life is helping seniors with balance and fall reduction in their homes. For more information on that endeavor, email her at

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