Posted Diana Patton on 9/12/2016 |Remarkable! People
Running provided the perfect escape from the nonstop chaos that swirled inside of my life while growing up. I grew up with an abusive father, interracial parents (white father and black mother) in the mid-70s at an all-white school with the constant feeling of never fitting in, along with being the sixth of seven children.
“Where do I fit? Why does it feel like everyone is looking at me and turning away to whisper? Why can’t I just be quiet and say the right things? Why don’t people invite me to lunch? Why do I have such a crazy life?” I always felt like the awkward one.
To alleviate some of my questions and to avoid others, I became a jokester. I thought what the heck; I have a boisterous personality anyway. Telling jokes felt natural. I laughed and joked about everything, even if the joke was about me, even if the joke hurt. I just laughed it off. I was constantly talking, desperately wanting people to like me. All the while, I really did not like who I’d become. I felt I was a fake, talking about stuff I really did not care about or want to talk about – all so that people would notice and like me.
Not all was dismal. There were glimmers of hope. I always believed there was more to life than what I saw around me. Even though my father was irrational and explosive, there were moments when he cared. I wanted him to care. I wanted a daddy. I would ask my dad to time me when I ran. Something about running challenged me and made me want more. I could challenge my mind and my thoughts in a way I never experienced before. By sixth grade, I joined cross country. Like others who begin their running journey, some of my first long runs were so challenging that I cried through them pushing myself. While others' tears may have been because they could not breathe, I cried because I could never seem to catch my breath in life. I felt isolated but I had big dreams and running allowed me to visualize them.
By the time my junior and senior year came around, my mom noticed me more. She saw my determined spirt and she began putting notes of encouragement in my track shoes. She challenged me to dig deep into my faith, trust in God, to be secure in myself and believe that all things are possible. I literally began to run on her inspiration by leaving the notes she had written for me in my shoes while I ran. My mom’s inspiration and my faith led me to college where I “walked on” to the track team and was awarded a scholarship. That is when I made a commitment to find, learn and love my true identity.
Making a commitment toward finding my true identity took a lot of work. I speak deeply about this in my newly published autobiographical book entitled Inspiration in My Shoes. I write, “When you’re committed, there’s no congratulatory procession. It keeps going despite all obstacles, despite adversity. It pushes through tears and disappointments, through pain and exhaustion. Commitment does not have sympathy for you and it does not make excuses. Commitment doesn’t blame other people or allow you to crumble under pressure ... Commitment just does.”
The more I ran, the clearer I became. The solitude of working through my thoughts allowed me to take my dreams to action. Running helped me through my deepest sorrow of losing my brother to suicide and my biggest triumphs of passing the bar exam to become a licensed attorney and getting past my ignorance to marry the love of my life, who is white. Now, running helps me encourage and inspire women to push past abuse, adversities and challenges as a full-time inspirational speaker.