It was the weekend before the 4th of July and Elizabeth McMillin was headed out for her usual Sunday morning run. Each week, the California-based entrepreneur chooses between the San Clemente Beach Trail or runs into the Dana Point Harbor and back.
The camera is focused down on her Saucony running shoes rhythmically striking the pavement, one in front of the other. “Sunday before a holiday that hits home. You all know what means . . . Emotional [rollercoaster],” the next part reads.
McMillin’s husband was at the end of a long deployment with MARSOC — one of many periods of separation that have characterized the last few years for her family. In fact, in the short two and a half years of her son’s life, he’s only been with his dad for about three months. So far in 2023, the number is just seven days.
As soft instrumental music plays in the background, the caption on McMillin’s reel continues: “Here’s how I got through this week.” She then details how each mile of her run is spent on a specific feeling that “got to live in that mile, be acknowledged, and sorted through.” After that mile, she explained, she leaves that feeling behind and moves on to the next.
During this particular run the feelings are: overwhelmed, sad, proud, alone, weak and embarrassed, angry, hopeful, and grateful.
McMillin has been sharing her Sunday runs for more than a year now. She posts a picture weekly of her watch with her pace and mileage and the emotions she processed during those miles.
Sundays have always held special significance for her and her husband.
“Sundays were our day to just be. We would go to lunch, we would do whatever it was just to be together,” she said.
After her husband deployed last year, she realized she was having a really tough time on Sundays, so with help from her mom in watching Maverick, she started going for runs.
“I started just posting about it and people got attached to that story,” she said. “I’m a business owner, I’m a mom, I’m a military spouse, and I’m a runner. I also have deep emotions that people connect with. I don’t know what my calling is, but I’ve always wanted to help people.”
McMillin’s therapy runs have resonated with her growing Instagram community — she said she often gets messages about how much she has helped followers navigate their own long-distance relationships. It has even led to some real-life connections, like what happened one Sunday when McMillin was out for a run and was flagged down by a follower driving by.
“He had been following me online and recognized me, so he pulled over on the PCH and stood next to his car and said, ‘I just saw you and thought, This girl needs a hug,’” McMillin recounted. “He said, ‘I just wanted to let you know that your posts have been helping me so much with my relationship with my girlfriend. Like if you’re doing it, we can do it, too.’”
McMillin started running in college, but never on an organized team. Even when others tried to convince her otherwise, she resisted.
“I didn’t drink, I’ve never done drugs, my biggest vice was Diet Coke,” she joked. “I said, this is my outlet and if you make me do it as a job, I’m not going to enjoy it. I just started running as therapy. I’m not fast. I let my mood set my pace.”
In addition to all the other hats she wears, McMillin is the founder of a company called HiiT Nutrition that makes an edible, protein-packed cookie dough that is vegan and free of gluten, dairy and soy. The dough comes in flavors like iced oatmeal, brownie batter and chocolate peanut butter cup.
The busy entrepreneur knows firsthand how difficult it is to balance the mental load of so many different roles and responsibilities. In addition to seeking out positivity and people who support her, she said other spouses shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when they need it. Finally, she emphasized the importance of finding an outlet like running, which allows space to reflect and work through the challenges that life brings.
“Find your outlet, find your reset button,” she said. “Think about all the things you’re going through and find a way to reset.”