Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Why I Run by Karen Bloom
Editor's Note: We are so pleased to publish this very personal account by one of MHA's 2012 Run/Walk Ambassadors, Karen Bloom.
I am thrilled to be an ambassador for the 8th Annual MHA on The Move 5K Run/Walk on May 6th. I agreed to take on this role because of my strong belief in the mission of the Mental Health Association of Westchester. My father was schizophrenic and I saw first-hand the myriad challenges he faced every single day. During the last years of his life, we found a wonderful facility where he actively participated in group activities and outings. I support the work of MHA because I believe it is essential that individuals suffering from mental illness, and their families, not feel alone.
It was especially easy for me to join this effort because I love to run. Mainly, my runs are on trails in Westchester County’s Nature Study Woods, which has an entrance path right down the street from my home in New Rochelle. The Nature Woods eventually link to Saxon Woods Park in White Plains, providing many miles of running options. I run with one or two close friends, several times each week. Our favorite run is a five mile scenic loop which takes us along woodsy paths, past streams and around two lakes. We have seen deer, chipmunks, wild turkeys and snakes. When there is snow or ice on the ground, we put special foot traction on top of our running shoes. In the autumn, we are careful not to slip on the leaves carpeting our path. This past year’s record rainfall caked our running shoes with mud. Like the U.S. Postal Service, rain, sleet or hail does not hold us back. The seasons change but we remain.
Everybody has a bad day (or two, or three) and when that happens we pick up the pace a bit, sometimes quite a bit. Running faster can be a great stress-reliever. And when one of us is having a particularly challenging day, we leave the woods halfway through our run for a 0.6 mile sprint straight uphill on the aptly name Highland Avenue, off of California Road in Eastchester.
Our runs have led us to new and challenging places. We ran up the auto-road (Perkins Drive) leading to the top of Bear Mountain in Harriman Park and took a circuitous and scenic route back down. We ran as the sun set in the nature woods and finished up wearing headlamps to illuminate the pathway in front of us. We parked the car at the Weinberg Nature Center in Scarsdale and took a slow run on trails back to New Rochelle (where we picked up another car to take us back to the start).
The past few years for me have been marked by several close personal losses and the many challenges that come with experiencing great grief. Running has been energizing and provides a powerful mood booster. Running in the woods gives me the kind of inner peace that being engulfed in nature can provide. Running with friends offers a chance to share, laugh and connect with others.
This brings me back to MHA, and the 5K run. I believe very strongly in the power of supportive mental health services. Whatever and wherever a path might take you, no matter how circular, hilly, muddy or seemingly impossible it feels to get through it, there is always a way.
---By Karen S. Bloom