It’s 2018. So what?


New Year’s Day rubs me the wrong way. As usual, I’ve been letting these ideas toss around in my head for far too long, letting my mind roll over and over them, softening the edges once sharp and poignant.

January means change. Not all New Year resolutions are bad, but as an individual who used to make some pretty awful ones, I don’t seem to like them too much anymore. Other than the year turning on the calendar, January is no different than any other month.

I decided to make zero resolutions this year. And its not because I’m not an ambitious person or someone who is afraid to fail, but it’s because I think putting weight into the start of one day in particular is dumb. Usually, the moment you come off the rails of your resolution you feel an immense amount of guilt and negativity, and I’m not about that anymore. If living with Lyme has taught me one thing, it’s you take your days step by step. You cherish every little victory, even if it is only getting out of bed in the morning. You keep on fighting.


Maybe January and New Year resolutions piss me off so much because I see so many people tie their goals into the toxic diet culture surrounding us.

Recently, I’ve gone through a bunch of my old writings – journal entries, essays, short stories, my jumbled memoir pieces and there’s a haunting tone to many of them. An unease, uncertainty. Maybe it can be related to maturing, but I’m not so sure. Growing up, I was always acutely aware of what was expected from me and the image I needed to uphold. I was inquisitive and always listening, and knew whenever there was a problem with my family or friends. And I put the burden on myself, somehow taking the blame for those problems when they came up. I believed I failed to meet the expectations of these people in my life.

Flashback to high school – November, 2007. I am nothing more than a heap of blankets bathed in the blue glow of the television. There is a brief knock on the door and I could see my mother’s small figure against the light flooding in from the hall.

“Dinner is ready,” she announces, opening the door farther and allowing the intruding ray to widen on my carpet.

“Okay,” I mutter, retreating deeper into my cave of twisted sheets, deeper into the warmth of darkness. I’ve just learned I have a stress fracture in the femoral neck of my hip and I’m out for the rest of my cross country season, not to mention all of winter track as well.

She lingers for a moment longer, as if to say something more, but instead allows a low, exasperated sigh to escape her lips as she turned to retreat down the stairs.

Running is my everything.

On December 31st, 2007, I wrote a nasty New Year’s resolution journal entry to myself and vowed to make a change. It didn’t matter I was struggling with depression then, I figured if I lost weight and made a comeback to running I would be happy again. While I could read all the people around me, I let no one in. The darkness I felt clawing within was mine and I vowed to beat it on my own. I was afraid to give anyone the idea I was vulnerable and hurting. I was afraid to share my burden and break anyone else.

Running was my everything.

But it isn’t anymore.

I have my wonderful friends and family. I have a job I care greatly about. And I have dreams of being something more in my life than just a runner. Running is just a piece of me, not all of me. I’m not afraid to pursue other dreams like I used to be. I can travel. I can write in the early morning instead of hit the treadmill. I can lace up my running shoes, but then go for a walk instead to take photos, listen to music and enjoy nature. I can take each day at a time and not worry about missing training like I used to so many years ago.

Lyme has slowed me down, but in a good way. Lyme has made me realize I should chase my dreams no matter how crazy they are, and I shouldn’t be afraid to fail. Lyme has taught me I will fail, but just because I fail it shouldn’t mean I can’t get back up and try again.

In high school, when I began to fail at running, I blamed it all on myself. I blamed my hip stress fracture on my weight, not because I overtrained or my body didn’t adequately absorb enough calcium and vitamin D to keep my bones healthy. Society, and the particular highly competitive realm of running I was absorbed in, taught me to be fast you had to be skinny. And by being faster I would be successful. And if I was successful, I would be happy. In high school I did love running for the pureness of it, and for the serenity it gave me in an otherwise tumultuous time in my life. But I only wanted to be fast so I could get into a good college, and make my parents proud. Running was all I had.

I can still remember my first big race back from the stress fracture. The end of my senior year track season was upon me and my coach entered me in a track meet with an open 5k event at Holmdel High School. Because anyone could enter, my assistant coach was going to run in the race with me and my teammates to pace. I had never run a 5k on the track and I was nervous. But we knew the distance suited me, and this was my last chance at doing anything substantial for the season.

A few hours before the race, Erin and I got in the car to drive ourselves over to the track. The sun was low in the sky and the beautiful spring air brought hope of better days after a particularly hard winter. Erin drove and we rolled the windows down as we sped out of the neighborhood, the cool wind whipping our hair up in a wild dance around our faces. For whatever reason, I can’t remember now, we blasted Our Song on repeat as we drove along the rolling road, the low sun peeking in and out of the trees as we sang along to the lyrics. I remember looking up at the strawberry pink sky, sensing I was on the brink of something great.

It wasn’t long before I stood on the starting line, jumping up and down, shaking the nervous energy through my legs. I stared down at my blue and white Nike spikes I was given at Nike Team Nationals, and remembered my confidence and strength there. As I toed the familiar start line, I cleared my mind of any doubt. I thought about all the hard work I had put in since January. My return to running. Consistent training. Losing weight. I believed I was in the best shape of my life.

The starting gun rang clear through the light evening air and I settled quickly into the middle of the pack surrounded by my teammates as my assistant coach took the lead. All around me I could hear the labored breathing of my teammates, but the pace felt easy to me. Calmness overcame me, and there was something soothing about the sound of our spikes hitting the track, our feet lightly bouncing in a rhythmical cadence on the polyurethane surface. I loved being in the middle of the pack. I fed off the energy around me and let it carry me through the laps.

As we circled the track lap after lap the sun set behind the tree line and dusk settled over the field. The track lights were on and they glared down brightly at us as we continued along. Our pack strung out and only a few other girls hung on to my coach’s pace. But still, it felt too easy. I knew I had to go, and I was excited. As I confidently pulled neck and neck with my coach he could sense the energy I had left. He quickened the pace and I matched it. I could sense his excitement. We left the other girls quickly behind as he began to pull me along at a much faster pace. I wasn’t racing anyone but myself now.

I don’t remember pain from this race. I remember a lightness, a feeling of oneness and an understanding of myself and what I thought I was meant to do. When I crossed the finish line my coach met me with an enormous hug as I gasped for breath from sprinting the final lap. A great smile was plastered across my face and a sense of accomplishment overcame me, a feeling I had almost forgotten. I ran 18:44. It was the fastest I had ever run in my life.

I attributed my success that evening to my strict diet and training, not to my perseverance, or the raw talent and the determination I had from running for so many years. After finishing, I immediately thought how I could get faster. I thought about continuing my resolution. And I was happy, at least for a little while. Before I let myself spiral out of control.

In college, at the bottom of my spiral, I picked up the broken pieces of myself. It’s at Bucknell where everything imploded and it’s also here where I finally started taking control of my life again.

That’s not to say I stopped making horrible New Year’s resolutions. While in a sense I was no longer “sick”, my mind was still unhealed. It was like an open wound refusing to scar, and I couldn’t shake my horrible body image, or the other shadows lurking in the corner. Up through 2014, on each December 31st I would tell myself the next day I would get back on track. Each year, I tried to warp into someone different, not for myself but all the people around me. I felt pressure to be thin, but not TOO thin. To run and be fast, but not let it consume my life. To be constantly happy, even though life doesn’t always call for happiness.

I am stronger now.

Since 2014, I’ve obviously made some resolutions. Some of them had to do with my writing, some of them running, but I no longer have the desire to try and turn myself into someone I’m not.

So, there will be no resolutions this year, no vows to run, to write, or to change myself.

I still have plenty of plans and dreams to fulfill this year, but I’m going to take it step by step. This year, there will be excitement and good memories. There will be challenges and sadness. There will be opportunities and downfalls, clarity and confusion, and I’ll meet them head on like I always do.

It’s 2018.

A string of numbers. A date.

So what?


© Allison Donaghy 2018 All Rights Reserved



Something Wild.

Something Wild. That’s how I’ve been feeling lately.

Something Wild is actually a song I’ve been listening to a lot lately. The lyrics inspire me, the melody awakens me, and the song makes me realize how much I’ve grown. Training for my 57 mile run is changing me. The long training runs give me time to look at myself in retrospect, to look at the broken path I’ve run down, and realize how I built the road before me with those pieces.

You had your maps drawn
You had other plans to hang your hopes on
Every road they let you down felt so wrong
So you found another way

Running helps define who I am and I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

My running career has been anything but simple. It’s been a rollercoaster ride. A hike with so many peaks and valleys I’ve lost count of the times I’ve stood triumphantly at the summit and felt lost in the low depressions, surrounded by seemingly unclimbable hills and towering pines. But still I run, blindly following where my feet guide me next.

Running brings peace and calmness to my life. When I’ve struggled in my personal life and/or professional life, running is what helped me disconnect from the madness. There are times where I felt so lost, I wasn’t sure if the path I was traveling down was the right one. Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t. Sometimes the road cracked and crumbled beneath my feet. Sometimes I came to a dead end and couldn’t imagine turning around and going back down the twisted way I’d already stumbled through. But in these times I could always clear my mind with a run through the woods. And when I was injured, I visualized myself being back out there – breathing in and out, a methodical rhythm, one foot softly landing before the other across a leaf-strewn path.

And I found another way.

You’ve got a big heart
The way you see the world
It got you this far
You might have some bruises
And a few scars
But you know you’re gonna be okay

For as long as I can remember, I cared most about everyone but myself. Whether it was a boy, friend, family or boss, I was terrified of disappointing anyone in my life. I always put myself last in hopes it would mean I would never lose those people in my life. It worked for a little awhile, until the stress and anxiety caused me to disintegrate. Other than family, I lost those people anyways. It wasn’t until recently, as I was struggling to find my diagnosis with lyme, did I learn it’s okay to put myself first and take care of the pain I felt.

I do have many bruises and scars, and it’s okay. I used to be embarrassed of who I used to be and the things I did. By no means am I proud of myself in some of those instances, but I no longer feel the urgency to keep the “old me” locked away and secret, in fear of being judged. I don’t care if you judge me or see me in a different light. I don’t care if you know I struggled with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder – I’ll put it out there bluntly for you because those things don’t define who I am anymore. They never did (as much as I thought so in the moment). It took me a really long time to realize this, and even though it’s been many years, I don’t think I could understand until I was truly okay.

And even though you’re scared
You’re stronger than you know

I’m not ashamed of the old me. The old me is one of the strongest people I know.

And I’ve only gotten stronger.

If you’re lost out where the lights are blinding
Caught in all, the stars are hiding
That’s when something wild calls you home, home
If you face the fear that keeps you frozen
Chase the sky into the ocean
That’s when something wild calls you home, home

Nature heals. And running allows me to experience the world in such unique fashion. There is an orchestral interlude during Something Wild where the violinist plays a folksy melody reminding me specifically of running through Ireland’s green countryside with my dad and Erin. We headed out early in the morning from our rental cottage near the sea, the salty air filling our lungs and hearts. The narrow roads were lined with large archaic-looking stones, and we hopped through them, onto a strait through the receded bay where herds of sheep grazed lazily, thinking nothing of the rising tide to come later. I don’t remember the conversations had (and it’s possible we ran mostly in silence, taking in the beautiful landscape around us) but I do remember the green, the crunch of gravel beneath our feet, and the languished squawks of seabirds above. I remember this lightness in my chest and calmness in my mind as we ran in a line toward the sea, and the sun rose higher above us. There was no other place we were supposed to be in that moment, experiencing the freedom and beauty of Ireland before most people were even awake.

On this same trip, I can also remember sitting in a small pub late at night with my family, as my parents sipped Guinness and we listened to a band playing traditional Irish jigs and reels. As we sat in the dim pub, my parents tapping their feet to the fast beat, I sat hunched over my notebook writing endlessly. Back then, I was in my early teens, I used to carry paper with my everywhere so I could write my stories whenever I had a chance. The music inspired me, and even though I never looked up from my paper, I felt as if I was experiencing that pub and music in the best way possible. At one point, the lead musician came over to my parents and commented he had been watching me the whole time during the set and noticed I hadn’t stopped writing once. My parents said, “she’s a writer,” and my heart swelled with pride. As I scribbled out my story the rest of the night, I thought of myself as a real writer, and imagined myself doing it as a profession.

These moments of clarity are living. These are the memories I hold nearest to my heart, and running has given many to me.

Lately, I am tired of feeling trapped, spinning in the same circle as I try to find the right balance between my responsibilities. For a long time, I forgot I am a writer, even though my younger self was so sure. I lost my writing after college to a high demand job, and then my brain fog from lyme took my vocabulary. And as it’s slowly coming back, I know I AM still a storyteller.

When I left my job in communications just about two years ago, I left for several reasons. I was sick, I was unhappy, and I wanted to bring back meaning to my life, which otherwise felt stale. I wanted to rediscover myself and see if it was possible for me to take part in my life again, instead of standing by and watching it whirl by in front of me. And while it was hard to let go of who I thought I was, it ended up being the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Being a disappointment to family and friends has always been one of my greatest fears, but when I finally stood up to my fear and left the job to focus on finding what truly made me happy, I became an even better person. I learned it doesn’t matter what you think others think of you and the choices you make in your life, because ultimately it’s your life. And your happiness matters most. You don’t have to have a corporate job to be successful and respected by others. And I didn’t learn this until I let go of the standard we’re taught that without a corporate/professional job after college we are not successful.

There is not just one equation for success.

I believe happiness is the ultimate success.

Sometimes the past can
Make the ground beneath you feel like a quicksand
You don’t have to worry
You reach for my hand
Yeah I know you’re gonna be okay
You’re gonna be okay

When I envision myself running 57 miles I don’t think about being sick or past injuries I struggled through. No matter the injury or sickness I was dealing with, I always planned to get back to running. I was always hopeful and believed in my ability to get back to the roads and trails where I could be myself.

When I stress fractured my hip my senior year of high school it nearly broke me, but I persevered and ran a personal best in the 5k once healed. After my knee injury and surgery in college, a surgeon told me I should never run again, and certainly not long distance. But I believed in myself. And after I taught myself how to walk again, I taught myself how to run again. And I started slow and the process was painful and challenging, but it was all worth it when two years later I ran my first marathon. Giving up is something foreign to me. Don’t ever let someone else tell you what you can and cannot do.

I don’t let my past injuries and challenges in life define how I look at the future. 57 miles is the biggest challenge I’ve ever embarked on, and even though I have a past riddled with injuries it doesn’t mean I can’t do it. After being a competitive long distance runner for 18 years, I know my mind needs to be stronger than my body. And I’ve never been surer my positive mentality will carry me through. I couldn’t run for three weeks before my 50k this past April, but once I got out there on the trails I fell into the same mentality I always have during runs: a blank tranquility only focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Again and again.

So, I guess what the song helped me realize is it’s okay to take a different path than the one you always expected yourself to go down. It’s okay to have a complex past, to see yourself in different stages of life as different people who finally grew into the wonderful person you are today. Having the urge to be free from every day routines is natural. I know every once and awhile I need to immerse myself in nature, set myself loose into the wild.

Because the wild is home to me.






Hello, It’s Me.


It’s been a HOT MINUTE since I’ve last updated! I always feel so guilty when I haven’t updated in a while, but it’s not because lack of passion to write. It’s a lack of time. Since my last update after visiting Bucknell, things have gotten incredibly busy for me. I’ve struggled a bit, but have also had some amazing triumphs. It’s absolutely shocking to me it’s already August.

Since my last update, I’ve been in a funk of sorts. Leaving Bucknell, I felt empty. While it was so much fun returning to my “home away from home” and seeing so many friends and familiar faces, it also got me thinking.  It was amazing to hear all these stories of what other alumni were doing in their communities since graduating, but I also sat there wondering, what have I done? And I guess that’s sort of a complex right there, comparing your life to others, but I’m not afraid to admit I do it from time to time. It wasn’t a comparison like, oh I wish I was them, but more of a reflection on myself of the potential I have to also do amazing things. But as Erin and I drove away from Bucknell I couldn’t fathom how to change, make a difference, and most importantly, make things happen.

So, I fell into a dark place for a bit.  I stopped taking my supplements. I stopped cooking nutritious meals. I felt constantly tired, broken. When I made it out for my runs every step hurt and I couldn’t even fathom 57 miles, let alone the six I was supposed to do for the day. I slept a lot, and fell into a routine unbeneficial to me or those around me. Maybe my body needed it because of the Lyme, but I have a sneaking suspicion it was my mind needing it more.

And then Dave and I went to Washington state. Our trip was booked in a bit of a rush, because we thought Dave was starting a job in Ocean City at the end of July, but we still had great aspirations for the trip. I couldn’t wait to get out into the mountains. The mountains make me feel my happiest. It doesn’t matter the state or the mountain range – I love the feeling of how small they make you feel.  You feel insignificant, but at peace. You can finally realize what a great, big, BEAUTIFUL world it is out there, and how there is so much more to life than just trying to “get by” through your daily grind.

While in Washington we hiked almost every day once we left Seattle. We hiked through ancient forests, up steep mountain sides and along the magnificent Pacific Ocean. A lot of the times we were out there early in the morning before any of the tourists were awake, and we trudged along single track trails in silence, lost in thought. I worked so many problems out in my head as I hiked through Mt. Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park.

Life felt pure.

And now it’s mid August. Happily, I’m finally coming out of my funk and starting to really get after living life again. It’s no secret I’ve never really enjoyed living in the Washington, D.C., area, but I’m adamantly trying to find the beauty and fun in living here. For awhile, I let myself think I couldn’t have fun with my friends anymore because of my Lyme, and I thought I would never feel well enough to do all the things I used to. But after Washington, and hiking day after day and also running almost every day, I realized my body can do a lot more than I credited it for. Which is great because you know, I’ve got that whole 57 miles to run thing.

Last weekend I went out with Dave and our friends and it was the first time in a LONG time that I spent the day bar hopping (granted, I wasn’t drinking) and genuinely having a good time. I wasn’t drinking during the day because I actually signed up to run a beer mile that evening in Navy Yard. I’ve always wanted to do a beer mile since college, but after being diagnosed with Lyme, I wrote it off as one of those things I could never do. But then I did it anyways. And it was amazing. And better yet, I had such a great night with all my friends, I’m still smiling thinking back on that day. I am so glad I listened to my friends to sign up and stopped listening to all the fears and the “I can’ts” in my head.


Now, back to that whole thing of it being August again. It’s August 12. I have less than 3 MONTHS until my 57 mile run from Penn State to Bucknell raising money for Global Lyme Alliance, to fund better research and awareness. It makes me a little nervous, because I know November 2, will be here before I know it. I’m trying my hardest to be ready and my runs have been steadily increasing. It’s taken a long time, but I can feel my fitness finally returning.

I’m still managing some aches and pains in my lower legs, and physical therapy has been pivotal at keeping the tendonitis manageable. After 10 days of hiking in Washington State, my left Achilles and bad knee were NOT having it, but the discomfort is slowly getting better. Luckily, I had a down week in my training cycle this week and it’s been amazing. My achilles is still being a little bitchy, but I’m thinking I may get a sports massage soon to help work out some of the knots.

After this weekend my mileage is going to climb pretty high and while I’m nervous, I’m also really excited. Long runs are my thing. I love going slow and steady and taking all the time I need to get through the miles. They’re challenging, but I always feel so amazing afterwards. With my mileage getting pretty high in the next few months I know my nutrition is going to need to be on point. I’ve been gluten free since my lyme doctor suggested it, but I’ve actually been playing around with a plant-based (basically vegan) diet and have been feeling worlds better. Now, I’ve been having small amounts of gluten here and there (I still eat a predominately gluten-free diet…but hello beer mile) and I feel absolutely fine. Taking dairy out has helped me feel more clear-headed, helped take away my every day headaches, and I do feel like I recover a little faster from my workouts.

I feel like this blog post has been all over the place, but that’s just how it goes when I haven’t updated in forever. I seriouslyyyyy am going to try and update more frequently from here on out, especially because we are in the final push to my 57 mile run. I don’t think I’ll actually do weekly recaps of my workouts because it kind of stresses me out, but I will try to do a better job of keeping you guys in the loop.

So, that’s it for now. If you have any interest in learning more about my 57 mile run from Penn State to Bucknell, you can check out my info page HERE. You can also donate to my run HERE. I really would like to meet my fundraising goal so any help is much appreciated, and anything helps!