December 8 2016
Rachel Schulist shared one of the most vulnerable parts of being a competitive runner—and hundreds applauded.
I’ve been a runner for over 11 years now. I’ve run everything from 5Ks to marathons. I’ve been a pacer multiple times. I ran a half marathon six months pregnant. I ran 3-mile “due date runs” with both of my boys. I absolutely love to run in the rain and on a quiet winter’s night through the snow. Running was always a way for me to feel like me again, outside in the open air, and without a care in the world. I feel free when I run, and each time I return from a run, I am more capable to handle whatever life throws my way. Out on the open road, I was connected to myself. It wasn’t until Emmett that my running and my entire being would transform into something else. I would have probably never, ever ran farther than a marathon had it not been for Emmett.
Everything changed the morning I found my 12-month-old baby unconscious and seizing wildly in his crib. That one seizure would change our entire life. Scans, tests, therapies, medications, more seizures, an impending skull surgery, additional diagnoses and more would invade our once carefree and peaceful life. During that first surgery when they were breaking apart my little boy’s entire skull, I ran on a treadmill in the hospital for the entire time he was in surgery. I wouldn’t stop unless I knew he had made it out okay, no matter how long it took. On June 20, 2012 I ran for exactly 7 hours, 26 minutes until my baby boy was out of surgery safe and sound. This was also the day I found out about Fellow Flowers. I had created an event page and called it Emmett’s Endurance Event to raise awareness of Craniosynostosis and encourage family and friends to join me in a virtual run or walk of their own on this day. It was shared more times than I could count. A group of lovely women had posted on the page with these heartwarming words and picture of them all wearing flowers in their hair.
This started my intense bond and love I have for Fellow Flowers. This started my deep passion for ultra running and uncovered a new reason to run: for my son, for his life, and for hope. Running was a light in the darkness while I watched my son suffer. Running made me feel strong and brave. It made me feel less helpless and more able to take action. Running healed my broken heart and soul a few miles at a time. When nothing else in this world made sense, the trail beneath my feet was always there. I could run and scream, cry, yell or pray. I could empty my soul of everything that threatened to swallow me whole in this life while I was out running and return home with just a little piece of myself again.
I’ve since watched my son endure four more surgeries and countless hospitalizations. I have pinned him down for numerous tests and watched him suffer through pain that I am desperate to take away. It never gets easier—that’s for sure—but what changes is me. I have transformed under the watchful eyes of the road. In the early hours of the morning, when everyone else is asleep, I can find myself again in the long hours I spend running. It is there that I am reminded of who I am and why I must persevere. It is there I find my hope over and over again.
I dubbed myself “Team Emmett” for that very first surgery and ever since that day three years ago, I’ve been on fire with my mission to raise awareness of Craniosynostosis while running my heart out for my son. I’ve run on the anniversary of that first surgery on the treadmill for another 7:26 two years in a row. I’ve found my true home in ultrarunning, having run multiple races in between 30-40 miles, a couple of 50-mile runs, and three 100-mile runs all in my son’s honor. I run for him. I run for myself. I run for my sanity. And I run for life.
Running gave me hope when I was hopeless. Fellow Flowers gave me the badge of courage to clip on in my hair not to mention an entire community of beautiful women who have become friends. They are my celebration circle and my cheerleaders. They are the keepers of my secrets and the supporters of my heart. I can never unravel the bond between ultrarunning, Fellow Flowers, and my son because all of these connections happened at the same time and entwined together to make me who I am now.
Kathy Sebright is a blogger and has a book, “Finding Hope In The Long Run,” coming out in 2016.