How I Became "Tired Mom Runs" And How I Rediscovered My Passion
Updated: Apr 19
My curiosity took me around the world and deep into depression, but I also found the silver lining. This is my story from being a promising athlete, to devastatingly losing my dreams and identity. It is a fairytale of becoming an adventurer in life, to becoming an expat wife and a mother, and a survivor of postpartum depression. And ultimately, how I overcame depression with one short run at a time.
I've traveled the world, seen some of the richest and the poorest countries, some amazing sceneries, and lived my life to the fullest. I thrive on change and challenge, but motherhood brought me to a halt I did not expect and struggled to cope with. Until I rediscovered my passion.
As long as I can remember, I've had an innate curiosity, indepence, passion and need to do my own thing. As a child, I wanted to do my own thing, and was not easily pursued to follow the pack. My sister, a year older than me, and my family will gladly tell you I was a stubborn child. I was called "the one who swims against the stream". At the time, I interpreted this as negative,as someone difficult to get along with. With time, I came to understand from the few occasions I did follow the crowd that it got me nowhere but in trouble. I learned to stick to my guns and let others do their own thing. As I got older, I learned to be proud of being "the odd one".
As becomes evident from my story, I also tend to jump head first into things, following my passion. Jumping head first sometimes leads to darkness. But sometimes it is the only way to reach the destination. Passionately following my calling has been a big part of my life story, and this somewhat "reckless behaviour"has taken me for a rollercoaster ride, with all the emotions of the rainbow that comes with it, but it has also taught me life lessons I would not live without.
I quite possibly would have been a difficult child, if I hadn't found my passion in a very early age. Now, decades later, I understand, that those times I did not follow my passion, it would lead me to the darkest of places.
So what was my passion?
As a child, I loved to cross-country ski and run. I loved to be surrounded by trees, and the beauty of the nature. It gave me power, stillness and gratitude. Stillness, the quietness of the Finnish forests, captivated me. I loved to run or ski the trails in the forest. Just me and my skis. It was about enjoying the nature, but also how exercising made me feel. Happy!
I would later on learn about exercise induced endorphins. What a rush they would give me, and save my life. I would also learn how life lessons from sports could be intersected with rest of the life, especially when life sucked and future was unimaginable. I would also become to understand how I could use the lessons and use them in rest of my life and use these learnings to serve others.
But let me first tell you my story.
As a little girl, I would find out that I was damn good at both skiing and running. At 10, I was beating older girls and women in running races, and both my age boys and older girls in skiing. In 1990, I was sent to Finnish nationals at age of 11, competing against girls U14. I took a shocking third place. The next two years I would again stand on the podium. It was the worst thing that could happen to my athletic career.
I was unbeaten for years. Every race I toed the line in, I would win. Years later, my fellow skiers and runners would tell me they feared to see me at the race because they knew they would lose. For a young girl, winning too easy, is not a sustainable way of growing mentally strong in sports.
I loved everything about winning, don't get me wrong. The reason I was so good so early, was probably the fact that I just moved a lot more than others. I biked, walked, or skied to school every day rain, snow or shine. It was 2 km one way. At recess, I would ski around the school, then back home. After supper, I would go and do my "training", running, dry-land training, or skiing. I was moving non-stop.
Little girl's dreams were soon to be in the top of the world.
Backed by feeling of mastery and external success, I dreamt of Olympics. I made big plans to become the best in the world. I sailed from success in the winter to success in my other favorite sport, in track & field, where I tried everything from 60m sprint, 800m to shot put with success. As a 14 year old, I loved running so much that I biked 60 km one way in the morning to make it to track & field practice in the afternoon, then back home the next day, biking another 60km. One could argue that this much of training would either get me overtrained or injured.
Certainly, my track coach was not happy. He would repeatedly deny (screaming his face off) my access to track practice after one of these bike rides ( which I would ride in 2.5hrs or so), Same thing would happen if he had seen me roller-skiing in the morning and then showing up to track practice at 6 pm.
You could argue there was so much passion in me, it was admirable. There is no denying I was always on the move, and I did not lack of motivation. In afterthought, what I lacked was an adult overseeing all my training. Up to this point ( 15-16 yo) my mom and dad had been my coaches. But as any experienced coach knows, it is harder to hold back an athlete than having to push a motivated one. It takes real strength from the coach to do that, and my mom or dad just did not have the strength, nor experience.
What pushed me to train so much?
I have to say it was an internal motivation. I really really wanted to succeed. Perhaps there was also certain aspect of panicking after I noticed that the other girls were catching up with me as we got older and they started real training.
What started as my passion for moving my body and exploring my possibilities, turned into a fear of losing myself, my identity as a champion, my status, and whatever significance I attached to it.
And sure enough, at 16, I got my first real injury, and lost a two winters of racing due foot injury and following surgery. After my foot injury prevented me from running, a surgeon took a knife and cut my foot open. I lost another winter recovering from that. I will tell you about this injury later, because over 25 years later, I would find out that the surgery was not just a simple cut-it-open and patch it back up kind of thing.
Mentally, I never fully recovered from the set back of missing two race seasons. True, I did get a coach and he was very good. With his help, I got back to quite high level in Finland, but I never really realized my athletic potential. When I injured my back in January 1998, my first year as senior, I had no mental strength left to battle yet another injury. I also honestly felt lack of support from my family, and society. I was at crossroads, having to figure out what to do with rest of my life. There was a certain pressure to go to university or start working. Skiing was not in the picture. Lacking a clear vision, support team and mental strength, I quit skiing, packed my bags and moved to Norway to start a new life.
I just walked away from everything. Walked away from my identity.
Decades later, it is not easy to say that I never really dealt with this huge loss. After all, my whole life I had been The Skier Marjaana, The Athlete. The Promising Athlete. The Next Olympic Winner. Until I was no longer. I fell between all the support systems. I just packed my bags and escaped and never looked back.
In Norway, I dabbled with little bit of running, snowboarding, alpine skiing, surfing and skiing, nothing serious, just trained because it made me feel good. And of course, being in my 20s, I partied a lot. And I never really dealt with the pain of losing what used to mean everything to me.
Staying active, I was able to find my passion again, and I started studying sports science. I felt like I had returned to my roots. Like this was what I was meant to do. I put all my energy into it. Wanted to go all-in and stay for the long run (PhD).
I loved living in Oslo. I felt the capital of Norway was my soul home. I was ready to settle down there. But fist, I wanted to go see the world a little and go ski the Rockies, so I signed up for an exchange semester in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Within a week, I had met my future husband.
And then everything changed.
After two years of back and worth living in Calgary, Houston and Norway, I graduated with Master's degree in Sports Science in 2009. I had put my passion into learning everything about exercise physiology, sports psychology and biomechanics. I enjoyed studying so much I wanted to go all the way in academics, but now I was faced the difficult choice of having to leave my ambitions behind and follow my heart. I moved to Canada, leaving my favorite country and my life behind.
Another loss I struggled to put behind me.... But I chose to follow my heart and love even if it meant uncertain aspects for my own career. I decided to go all in, and move with my hubby around the world.
Life would take us from Canada to Houston, Rio De Janeiro, Dubai, and back to Canada. We had our two first children born in Rio in 2010 and 2012, third in Finland in 2014. Tell you the truth, those years are a blur. Our two eldest are born only 16 months apart. Eldest was a terrible sleeper, I had no experience with babies, we had no help in form of a family or a nanny. My husband traveled a lot. I was alone in foreign countries. Tired as hell. Overweight, unhappy with myself, completely out of shape. I was deep into the dark cloud. Heck, I was a dark cloud.
You may have heard about the silver linings on even the darkest of clouds. What follows next is exactly it.
And here we are, 2014. The year our youngest was born. We are back in Canada after 6 years abroad. "A breather", we thought. A "normal country," we though. It would be a lot easier, we thought. Hubby said: "This is it, we are never leaving abroad again". I knew we would but I felt like he needed to charge his batteries.
Hubby had a position where he had to go to South Korea every second month for 3-5 weeks. Then come home and work from local office. It was brutal. I tried my best to make sure kids were happy and well taken care of, but in the same time I completely lost myself.
I had made a promise to myself, though. It was to try triathlon to see if I liked it. It was not to race and go to Kona (World Championships), I only wanted to find a new hobby now that skiing had been out of the question for years and I missed having something just for me.
I will tell you about my triathlon adventure on next post, but in short, it went above all my expectations. To me it was all about "my time". I felt self-validated. I felt accomplished. I felt like I was leaving a mark in the world. I mattered. At least I mattered to myself.
Although people can argue what significance can a race or two make in a larger scale, having a goal and working hard to accomplish that goal meant a world to me. It pulled me out of my misery. I had found a meaning. I had found myself again.
And so, this little adventure on a very cold "summer day" was a turning point in my depression. Every Time I was running, the rush and endorphins made me so grateful I was living.
After not running for 3 years due to the injury, I started very small. I only run 20 mins at a time. I was slow and I never in my wildest dreams thought I could run a marathon. But something had changed in me. And it would be a catalyst to bigger dreams which I had not realized. Yet.
And that's how running saved my life. One small run at a time.
The road from there to full recovery was not easy. But at least now I had a meaning and I was able to make new goals for myself. I had harnessed a sustainable power in myself, motivation, burning fire, willpower if you must name it, that just kept growing and growing. Life started to feel like I could totally ace this thing.
I had found my passion again.
I wanted to share this story with you to show that there is a way to regain your passion. It may come in a different shape or form than what it used to be. All of us have our own superpowers. Mine is endurance sports. Sisu. The willpower to see what I can do both physically and mentally.
If you have lost your passion and have no idea what an earth your superpower is, think about this:
Try this right now: Grab a pen and paper, you will need 4 columns.
1. What do you love to do? What did you love to do when you were younger? A child, teenager, young adult. Before adulthood responsibilities wore you down?
2. What are your passions? What makes you smile ear to ear? What activity brings you joy? What makes you vibrate at a higher frequency? How would it make you feel if you could have time, no matter how little, for yourself to do what truly fulfills your soul?
3. What are you good at? Try to look at yourself as a friend. Sometimes it is hard to say what you are good at, but if you look at yourself with self-compassion, with your friend's eyes, you may find it easier to give yourself praise.
4. Find an intersection how you could use these 3 columns in your professional life. What have you learned from your life story that you could use? What would you pursue if there were no obligations, excuses (such as lack of time), or doubt?
Do you think you could prioritize life responsibilities in a manner so that you can carve this time to yourself every single day?
I want to show you it is fully possible to follow your dreams and carve out time for yourself and how you can bust through your self-limiting beliefs, even when you are beaten down by life.
In life, love and in motherhood,
Marjaana A.K.A Tired Mom Runs
Once a nature girl, always a nature girl. I harvest inner power being in the nature and the Rockies completely enchants me.