Outrun the Dark is a brand representing a community of runners who outrun their inner demons. We call them Outrunners. Either for themselves or others, an Outrunner is someone who runs to stay ahead of the darkness, and in the process inspire those around them.
In a series of interviews, you will get to know some of the Outrunners in our community, what drives them, what their struggles are and what has helped them get past them.
Today we had the chance to interview Shawna Clowser from Salem, Oregon. Shawna, mother of two is a special education teacher and is part of our Facebook community group and recently finished second in the women’s division at a local 10k race this past September.
Hello! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are, where you are from and what you do?
My name is Shawna Clowser and I currently live in the rainy Pacific Northwest in Salem, Oregon. I moved here 18 years ago from eastern Washington where I went to college. However, central Washington is where I was born and raised. I lived on an agricultural farm with my parents and younger brother. The town we lived closest to had a population of 4,000 and only one stop light. I am the mother to two daughters (ages 7 and 12). I am also a special education teacher at one of our local middle schools.
What are you passionate about outside of running and your day job?
I am passionate about helping others. I try to think outside of myself and understand how my actions and words will affect those outside of the situation. I have made teaching this to my daughters a priority and can see them being compassionate toward others and always being willing to go above and beyond to see others comforted and in a safe place.
I am also deeply passionate about seeing individuals with special needs treated fairly and with respect. I’ve been working with this population for over 25 years. People get impatient and are scared of things they don’t understand. It’s disheartening to see amazing people treated badly and not able to get the things they need simply because they think differently or move in a different way.
When and how did you start running?
I started running a few months after my youngest daughter was born. It was a way for me to get out of the house without feeling guilty for taking time for myself. I ended up being a stay at home mom for 3 years and needed the time away every once in awhile. I remember the first time I went out and ran. I think I made it 4 blocks before I was gasping for air and my legs felt like jelly. By the time I was done, I’d maybe gone a mile and a half, but my lungs were on FIRE! I ebb and flow from running 5 days a week to 5 days a month. The school year leaves me EXHAUSTED. I rock it in the summer but am still looking to get past that 8 mile mark!
What does Outrun the Dark mean to you?
I am SO grateful for Outrun the Dark and all the amazing people who make it what it is. The people in my life don’t understand what depression does to your mind. No matter how I define it, or try to explain what it does to me, it’s met with anger and frustration. Over the past two and a half years, I have discovered my depression is extremely affected by my stress level. How do I know this? I was working full time, going to school full time to earn my masters, and raising two little kids. I couldn’t stop crying, nothing was fun anymore, and counseling wasn’t helping. I was grasping at straws to find support. Then, the Outrunners community came along at the perfect time. I was beyond excited to see such caring, empathetic, and fantastic people in one place!
What is your favorite part about the Outrun the dark community?
I love the positivity and openness of the group. No matter what the battle is, injury, depression, work stressors, family, loss of a loved one, etc., every member is supportive, encouraging, and a source of hope. The individuals listen to listen, instead of listen to respond.
What has been the most trying part of your life up until now? What helped you get through it?
Like I mentioned earlier, the last two and a half years have been like a never ending nightmare. It started in March of 2017 and is still in motion. I work full time, was going to school full time (9 hours a week of in class time), raising my two young daughters, and managing a household. My husband was not in the least way supportive and I felt like I was doing everything alone.
After a year, I FINALLY realized I need time for self care and just started taking it instead of asking for it. This last January was a low point. I couldn’t see a way out of all the intense stress except for suicide. I didn’t attempt, but it was definitely the first thing I thought about in the morning and the last thing I thought about at night. In May I decided to defer my last 3 classes for my masters and take the summer off. I started running more, journaling, and traveling. I feel much better and have been able to start the school year with a better attitude renewed spirit.
What do you know today that you wish your 20 year old self knew?
I started dealing with depression when I was 18. College was not exactly the super fun experience I was hoping for. I would tell my 20 year old self to ditch the boyfriend, get your ass to class and study hard, and truly get to know your grandparents. They won’t be around forever and you need to ask them to tell you their stories before it’s too late.
What helps you go for a run when you don’t feel like it?
I won’t let myself eat until I run. It sounds bad but I get sick to my stomach if I eat before I run. The sooner I get out of bed, hit the pavement, and get those miles in, the sooner I can eat breakfast. Besides, running always makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. I can’t say that about everything in my life. It adds a positive to my day and I love that.
What is your alternative workout when you can’t run because of injury or circumstance?
I’ve never been injured but my job is very demanding with some very long hours. I will take my dog for an hour walk if I can’t run or play Just Dance with my kids. I actually LOVE Just Dance but I’m sure I look ridiculous. Good thing I don’t go out dancing.
Do you have any quotes live by?
Just. Keep. Moving. I don’t actually know if that’s an actual quote but it makes sense to me and I can remember it.
What book or movie have most impacted your life and why?
Fostering Resilient Learners is a book our entire staff was given a few years ago at the school I work at. It’s about how childhood trauma affects us as adults. I was lucky enough to have an amazing upbringing but I’m a minority. Adults that don’t know, or don’t understand the signs of trauma often misdiagnose them as signs of special needs or learning disabilities. Kids see and deal with so much more than we realize. If we all spent just an extra minute or two listening to children, we could make a big difference.
If you could put anything on a billboard in front of the world to see, what would you put on it?
My first reaction to this question has quite a lot of profanity in it. I won’t do that to you guys so my second choice is “What positive difference are you going to make today?” We have to get outside of our own boxes and be the change we want to see.
Anything else you want to add before we wrap up?
If any of you have the Out of the Darkness Walk in your town, I highly recommend going. It’s emotional but worth every tear to see and meet with people that have and are struggling with depression and suicide. It’s an amazing way to meet others and talk about mental health. It’s not a hush hush topic anymore. We NEED to start opening up!
Hear hear! Thank you Shawna for sharing a little bit about yourself and what you do! And well done for your recent accomplishments in September’s races! Hopefully this will all be beneficial for your half marathon in the spring!