People often complain about how heavy they feel when they don't exercise. For Catherine Hayden, it was her heart that felt heavy.
With her mother, Velinta Dean, dying at the Hospice Care Center at St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington last summer, twin 9-year-old boys to take care off, a husband and a job at the University of Kentucky, Hayden was having trouble finding time for herself, let alone to get out and run.
And every day her heart felt heavier and heavier.
"I'm not a hard-core runner," she said. "It's just my therapy. ... That's my 'me' time, when I solve the world's problems. ... I'm not going to say I haven't cried on a run."
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But with her mother in a diabetic coma, Hayden found the hospice floor a surprising haven of peace.
Once, a family across the hall brought in a bulldog puppy, and Hayden thought that was marvelous. She briefly considered, then nixed, the idea of trying to bring in her mother's cat. The hospice officials would have let her, but she couldn't see the cat cooperating.
"I'm an only child and I don't have grandparents, so I hadn't really dealt with this before," Hayden said. "I'd heard of hospice, but until my mom was in it I didn't really know much about it."
But hospice came to mean a great deal to them both.
"The care and compassion she got from those people ... and she wasn't aware of any of it," Hayden said.
Their grief counseling services helped Hayden after her mother's death, too.
"Hospice got me through that first year," she said.
So when one of her friends asked if Hayden would be interested in running on a charity team in The Bourbon Chase — a 200-mile overnight relay through Kentucky's scenic distillery country that takes place this year on Oct. 7 and 8 — to raise money for the National Hospice Foundation, she said, "Sign me up."
Hayden said she knows that when she's wearing her T-shirt in remembrance of her mother, she'll be running through tears again.
"I cried when I was just trying it on," Hayden said. And when the team comes together for the end, she said, "I know I'll be bawling when I cross the finish line."
There are 36 legs, and Hayden said she figures she has it in her to do three short legs. "This is my way of giving back," she said.
The team's goal is to raise at least $5,000; by mid-September it was more than halfway there.
Most of the other 11 team members — team captain Prim Wathen, Stephen Barnett, Amy Jones, Amy Brin, Shelley Duncklee, Tony Jackson, John Dixon, Holly Uebel, Patrick Barker, Erin Holaday Ziegler and Molly Dabney — also have a connection, through friends or family, to hospice, and that gave them the impetus to form a charity team.
It was a chance to do something for others as well as themselves.
Wathen will be running in remembrance of her grandmother, Noonie, who died 10 years ago in the hands of Hospice of the Bluegrass.
Wathen, who said she's an "off and on" runner, has been using a trainer to get ready for the race.
"I'm one of the slower runners, but it's another reason for me to get back in shape," she said. "I've only got to run 16 miles."
Jones was inspired by the way Hospice of the Bluegrass has helped many of her friends.
"I was teetering on doing a relay. When we decided to run for a higher purpose, that tipped it," Jones said. "It really helps your motivation when you have something to run for."
Then there's Brin, a pediatric hospice nurse who has helped parents face some pretty tough moments and who turned to grief counseling to cope with the loss of her father, Herb Brin, in 2001
He was the one who taught her to run in Lexington on summer nights, and she'll be thinking of him and others during the relay, she said.
After he died she was forced to cope with her worst fear, losing a parent, she said. The only thing harder, she thought, might be losing a child. That's what led her to pediatric hospice work.
"Maybe what I'm supposed to do is stand next to the women who are living my biggest fears," she said. "I think about how much love and strength they have. They teach me a lot. I get to witness true love and what that really means. To see that self-sacrifice."
To donate to the team's efforts, go to Active.com/donate/runtoremember2011/lwathen1.