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Why I Run - Conquering Mental Blocks and Clearing the Mind

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Melissa Ewing at the finish line for Peachtree Road Race
Melissa Ewing at 2023 Peachtree Road Race

I was not a runner when I was younger. I was active in Varsity tennis and intramural sports, but each year I dreaded the obligatory 1 mile run around the track at school. (Maybe what I was missing back then was music.) Flash forward to 2019 when I signed up for a “Run, SUP, Yoga” event at Wills Park in Alpharetta. I wanted to do paddleboards in the city pool and figured I could just walk the “run” portion around the park. Once I was there, the coach encouraged me to at least try to run. I did and surprised myself when I ran the whole portion. It felt great! It also felt like a fluke but encouraged me to join a local running group for motivation. I was very intimidated the first time I showed up as I could tell they were all “serious runners”. I assured them not to worry about me at the back of the line. They were all much faster than me but incredibly supportive and glad I was trying. They even cheered me on when I made it to the meet up point at the end. I decided to tackle running as a new goal to prove to myself I could accomplish something that seemed out of reach and challenge myself to reach higher. It was as much about breaking through mental blocks as it was about the exercise.

I won’t lie. At the beginning, I didn’t enjoy it. It was frustrating. I tried to be patient with myself, but there were days I questioned what I was doing. I refused to give up. I knew I needed to learn to push past the mental blocks holding me back and not give up. I set small goals and slowly increased my speed and distance. Then I signed up for my first 5K, trained with a schedule, and was so excited when I finished the race! It was exhilarating. After testing the waters with a couple 5Ks, I challenged myself further and signed up for the Peachtree Road Race 10k! I again trained with a schedule and, despite my skepticism, finished with a great run. After I passed the finish line, I literally started crying. It was many things – not accepting the status quo, working hard with consistency towards a goal, reaching for and accomplishing something I never imagined I could do, and surprising myself with my strength. My biggest achievement to date was this year when I trained for and completed my first half marathon! Before, I never would have believed it possible. My parents were at the finish line, and it was an emotional moment I was fortunate to share with them. It’s a testament to setting goals and seeing through the process to the end no matter how hard. I’m not sure I’ll do another one of those, but at least I know I did it.

Recently I finished my third Peachtree Road Race with a personal record. Coincidentally, it was only weeks after I conquered another personal goal by opening my own law firm. I believe my running journey helped prepare me for this new challenge in life. I’m still not the fastest runner, and it’s still hard to run more than 6 miles, but it’s rewarding and encouraging to know I tackled a goal head on and did not back down. It’s a lesson to apply to other parts of life.

Finally, I never thought I’d say it, but there are days I just want to go for a run. As a lawyer (and in any job or profession), it’s good to have balance in life and find time for exercise. Running clears my mind as I focus on breathing, the pounding on the pavement, what’s ahead, and yes, my music. My thoughts may be stuck on a case, or stuck creatively, and oftentimes during a run I’ll have a lightbulb moment where suddenly something becomes clear. Plus this morning I read about a study of veterans between ages 40 and 99 which found adopting 1-8 lifestyle habits at 40 or later (if not before) can increase lifespan up to 24 years: exercise, eat healthy, reduce stress, sleep well, have positive social relationships, don’t smoke, don’t drink too much, and don’t become addicted to opioids. ( These are attainable. So even if it’s not running (and I enjoy other activities besides running), make a point to find balance in life and some exercise in your routine.


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