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Lisa Ran to Escape Abuse, Now She Runs for a Cause

I first ran from my ex-husband. Now I run in the United Airlines NYC Half marathon.

*Please be aware that this domestic violence story contains details that may be upsetting to readers.

Lisa Whelan Domestic Violence Survivor

March 27, 2017
By Lisa Whelan

I started running two years ago after a life-changing event.

On a warm August night I found out that my husband, and best friend of 35 years, was having an affair with a friend. The double betrayal devastated me. I didn’t know who to be madder at: my friend, or my husband; the father of my children.

I confronted him about the affair in our Connecticut home. I looked at him in the eyes and demanded answers. But instead of comforting me, he violently chased me.

I ran as fast as I physically could—but he caught me. And when he did, he did something I never thought he was capable of: he beat me. Not once…but twice.

Despite the paralyzing fear I felt in that moment, I managed to break free and run away.

I ran to the front of my house and hid. As I caught my breath, I saw that I had bruises from the top of my head to the top of my legs. I was in so much pain, but what hurt most in that moment was my broken heart.

After hours at the police station, I spent the night in the emergency room. I was in complete shock. I didn’t know what I would do next, but I did know that I had to move on.

After being released from the hospital, I met with my lawyer and filed for divorce. I moved forward with preparing my friends and family with the news. I was most nervous to tell my children. Would they be supportive of me?

Lisa Whelan, A domestic violence survivor, and her daughter

My children turned out to be my biggest supporters. In fact, my daughter is part of Safe Horizon’s Leaders on the Horizon. Deep in my heart, I know she joined to show she supports me. I, myself, am on Safe Horizon’s Speakers’ Bureau where I have realized the power of my voice and story to help other women who survived abuse.

Today, my children have no contact with their father.

Many women become homeless because of domestic violence. I was lucky to have my brother and his wife take me in for six weeks. Every morning my sister-in-law and I walked around the lake by their house, approximately two miles. Despite the physical pain I was in from the vicious attack, I was not going to let the bruises and pain hold me back. In fact, these morning walks helped my recovery and the doctors were pleased with how quickly my body healed.

My niece planted the seed that I should run the Thanksgiving “Turkey Trot” in town. I enjoyed walking, but never felt like I could run. It was not something I could ever imagine. I was not an athlete growing up. I never participated on a team. As a child, sports were not encouraged by my family. I barely watched sports.

The next thing I knew, I was training for the 5K Trot.

I was training by myself and had no idea what I was doing except trying to run further every time.

The day of the race finally arrived.

It had snowed the night before and the roads were slushy and slippery. I was so impressed with all the people running. There were men, women and children of all ages. I could not help but be amazed at how well the younger children were doing. I kept talking to people as we ran trying to find out if they had a story to tell or if it was their first time running a race. It was exhilarating. We finished the run in approximately 35 minutes. I did it! I ran my first race. Now I am hooked!

This is where the story gets even better.

I told my coworkers about my new love of running and we started running together. These women have been my rocks both during and after surviving domestic violence and ending my 25 year marriage. To support me, they decided to run the Ridgefield Half Marathon in September.

I trained with them, even though I could not run the race (I was part of the Women’s Center of Danbury Domestic Violence Survivors walk the same day).

The day of the Ridgefield Half Marathon arrived and I knew I needed to encourage my friends. My event was over before they would be done, so I met them at the finish line. I will never forget the pride I felt for them in that moment. Though I did not run with them, I felt like it was my accomplishment, too. We were a team in an individual sport.

It was then that we decided to sign up for the New York City half marathon lottery. It was a lottery after all-what were the chances that we would all get in? We decided that we would not run unless all three of us got in, so we were taking our chances. “All for one!”

The day before my 54th birthday we found out that we all got a spot.

When I first ran as an adult, I was fleeing my ex-husband as he chased me. Today I run for me and the self-confidence running gives me. I am proud to say that I finished the Half Marathon in two hours and 25 minutes.

I look toward my future and the wonderful things that lie ahead. I am reminded that good things do come to those who run.

  • Lisa Whelan

    Lisa Whelan is an elementary school teacher from Ridgefield, Connecticut. She is also a member of Safe Horizon’s Speakers’ Bureau, a group for abuse survivors to tell their story, and influence positive change, through media and public events.