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 Tara Miller from Pennsylvania. Tara is part of our Facebook community group and can’t say no to working on improving the lives of people and her cats. Apart from being an active runner and all-round positive vibes person, she is also training for triathlons, getting her creativity on, and we are fortunate to have her here to share her story.
Hi! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are, where you are from and what you do?
My name is Tara Miller. I live in a little town called Danville, PA. I grew up in PA, but have lived in Pennsylvania, New York, California, and Washington. I work as one of the psychology staff at a State institution for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who also have mental health needs. I have worked in the mental health field for almost 20 years.
What are you passionate about outside of running and your day job?
I have two rescue cats who both have special needs; Chulee and Simon. Chulee has diabetes (and no teeth!) and requires constant care. He gets insulin injections twice a day. Simon, is very shy and reclusive. Sadly, he was abandoned as a kitten and never really socialized well. He’s 13 now and has never changed.
I also love to read, do creative crafty projects, train for triathlons, and invest in all forms of self-care. I’m passionate about animals, LGBTQ+ rights, women’s issues, and mental health recovery.
When and how did you start running?
About two and a half years ago, I quit smoking cigarettes. I had been a die-hard smoker for about 25 years. I smoked upto two packs per day. I was in a relationship with a non-smoker and she helped me to decide to quit. While I am no longer in the relationship, quitting smoking stuck when I realized that I had to do it for me. After I quit, one night I went on a walk with my parents, and while they decided to go back to the house and I wanted to do another lap around the neighborhood. I was walking pretty briskly and decided to start to run. I made it one lap, and I felt amazing. I was hooked from then on out. That was three months after I quit. I ran/walked my first 5k the following month. I’ve never looked back.
What does Outrun the Dark mean to you?
Outrunning the dark means that anything is possible. Even in the darkest of days, there is still hope and there is still the promise of whatever recovery looks like to you. There is never a bad run. I always feel so much better after a workout, especially after a good run. I push past what is holding me back in that dark place and move into the light. I struggle with Schizoaffective Disorder and have struggled with psychosis, depression, mania, and anxiety. I am now pretty much symptom free and I attribute that to outrunning.
What is your favorite part about the Outrun the dark community?
I just think that it’s such a positive and supportive environment. I love to hear that others are making their lives better in such a great way. We all support each other and there is no judgment. It lifts you up and helps propel you to become better than you were yesterday. It’s motivating and uplifting.
What has been the most trying part of your life up until now? What helped you get through it?
Last May (2018), my Dad passed away from multiple cancers. He was diagnosed in April and passed in May. He was only in hospice for 5 days. It just went that fast. My Mom and I took care of him till his last breath. It was a very difficult time. We also lost our house and most of our lives as we knew them. It was such a hard time. I stopped running and stopped exercising for a few months. I realized quickly that I needed to process my grief in a healthy way. So, I got back out there and outran my sadness and emptiness. Slowly, throughout the past year, I’ve got a better hold on my grief and am thankful that I turned to running/swimming/biking to relieve my heavy heart.
What do you know today that you wish your 20 year old self knew?
It does get better. When I was 20, I was undiagnosed and living a crazy life. I didn’t understand my symptoms or that they were causing me to be broken. In my 20’s…I eventually endured countless hospitalizations and frequent bouts with self-harm. I’m now self-injury free for 17 years. It does get better. Find your passion, find what helps you move forward, and take care of yourself!
You only get one life, so treat yourself well!
What helps you go for a run when you don’t feel like it?
I always know that I will feel better after I workout or run, so I push myself to do it. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to psyching myself out. I sometimes make excuses in my head, but there is also a part of me that knows that this is when I need to run most! I set high goals for myself, and I know that I can’t get to them if I don’t move. I just push on and let the motivating side win out over the doubt.
What is your alternative workout when you can't run because of injury or circumstance?
It’s always ok to take rest days. But part of my training is also swimming and biking so that helps me on days that I don’t run. I also love the elliptical, and it’s a heck of a workout. I just incorporated some strength training into my workouts (and I can hardly walk today!). My gym also has a pilates/barre/yoga fusion class I’d like to try and a floating yoga (in the pool) class that I’d like to join.
Do you have any quotes live by?
I have lots of quotes I love, but I developed a mantra that I live by. When anxiety kicks in and I feel like I’m on the edge, I simply repeat, “I’m at peace with myself and the world around me”. I’ll say it as many times as I have to until the anxious feeling dissipates. It helps ground, anchor, and center me in the moment. When I was having really bad anxiety a couple of years ago, I came up with my mantra and it has helped me ever since. Couple that with some deep breathing and I’m good to go. It really helps!
What book or movie have most impacted your life and why?
There are so many books and movies that have impacted my life. I love reading Brene Brown. I also love books on psychology (just because of my profession). But I read the book “Middlesex” by Jeffery Eugenides many years ago, and it helped me to finally come out as gay. It really changed my life and helped me live my truth. It made such an impact and allowed me to finally be free and who I truly am. Definitely a must read.
If you could put anything on a billboard in front of the world to see, what would you put on it?
Be at peace with yourself and the world around you. (My mantra for everyone to share!)
Anything else you want to add before we wrap up?
Recovery is possible. Resilience is possible. Life is amazing. Follow your passion. Live with meaning. Find happiness in the most unlikely places. Take care of each other. Live in joy and peace. Take care of yourself. And…RUN!
With those suiting words, we want to thank Tara for her time and for being a great contributor to the community!