What I have learned about healing from sexual violence helps me run, and what I have learned about running helps me heal. Last weekend, I ran the Cause and Event 5K to benefit the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. As I dedicated my run to the thousands of survivors they serve each year, the run became an opportunity to reflect on these lessons – big and small.

Look up. Look down. And look behind you.

Sometimes all you can hear is your own breath. And it blocks out the sounds of the people around you, even the people cheering your name. Look up, and see the people who love you, even when you can’t love yourself. Some of them are friends. Many of them are strangers, rooting for you to succeed.

There are times when you may feel alone. Look down. Your path was paved by people who ran before you. The men and women who survived what you are surviving right now. Some of them didn’t make it as far as you. Some of them will make it further than you can imagine today. You may or may not see them on your journey, but you can see the path worn down with their hard work, tears, and resilience.

Your healing journey is one step at a time, and it can feel so long and slow. The finish line is in the distance. You want to give up. Look behind you. Be proud of how far you have come. Remember you are paving the way for those who are making their way.

Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race. There are parts of recovery – loving your body, trust, intimacy, or romance – that might be easier for you. Sprint through them. And save your energy for the parts that are hard.

No one can tell what you are feeling just by looking at you. My grimace may be your smirk. Show compassion for others. Don’t anticipate judgment. We’re all just focused on our race.

Running away from things is still running. And eventually running away becomes running towards. It might take 5 minutes or 5 years. Find your north star, and don’t let it go.

Be inspired by the people ahead of you, but don’t compare yourself to them. We don’t know how long they trained, their genetic advantages, or whether this is the best day or worst day of their lives.

There’s no winning at recovery and healing. It’s just one step at a time. Step after step. We go at our own pace. We cheer each other on. And slowly and surely, we start to heal.

I run for myself. I run to be strong and healthy. And I run for that feeling of flow, where I can be at peace with myself and in community with others, all at the same time.

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