If you had asked me 8 years ago when I started running if I would ever run a half marathon, I probably would have laughed in your face. At that time, I could barely run a mile. I wasn’t even sure about running the 5k that I had signed up for in the fall. That year I would go on to run my first race and two more 5ks after that, and then my running hit a slump. It was my senior year of college and running could no longer take precedence over my studies.
I stayed in that slump for another 4 years. I would run here and there, but never any serious training. And I did not run another 5k race until 4 years later, in May 2012. I encouraged some people from my work to run a 5k raising mental health awareness (I worked at an eating disorder/addiction treatment center at the time).
That race was tough for many reasons. At that time in my life, I was the heaviest I had ever been. The weight that I had lost in college had crept back on and then some. I was dealing with some personal stuff and did not have a good relationship with food. And pretending that I did have a good relationship with food and that I was confident in my appearance when I was at work made it just that much harder. The course itself was somewhat challenging – it had this gnarly hill right at the start/finish, which of course was downhill at the start and uphill at the finish. I finished that race in 41:40, a 13:25 minute/mile pace.
I posted this “Transformation Tuesday” picture today in the support groups for our bariatric program and in the two running groups that I am part of on Facebook. The picture on the left is me approaching the finish line at that race in 2012. When I see that picture, I see a forced smile. The shirt is unflattering and big, but I see a body that was not loved. It isn’t even about my weight – it is about how I felt about my body, I didn’t care and I wasn’t taking care of myself. It took everything for me to smile and give a thumbs up when I saw my fiance (now husband) taking my picture at the finish line. As much as I dislike the picture, I am so glad that I have it because it shows me how far I have come.
The picture on the right is me approaching the finish line at the Go the Extra Mile for Covenant Kids Half Marathon this past Sunday. My first half marathon. It’s hard to see, but I have a big smile on my face. And that smile is absolutely genuine. Don’t be deceived – I just ran/walked 13.1 miles. My legs are tired. I’m sweating and exhausted. No part of me wants to sprint to the finish. I had been hurting since the mile 10 marker. But my running buddy kept me going. And then when we ran into Jerry, the 88 year old national record holder for the half marathon, that only made the next few miles easier. When we finally approached the finish, hearing Jerry yell “Go! Go! Go!” and hearing the crowd cheering just fueled this adrenaline in me like no other race ever had before. I know they were cheering for Jerry, and I was cheering for him too! I forgot all about the pain and exhaustion and I just ran.
I finished my first half marathon under my goal in 2:52:20, a 13:10 minute/mile pace. Yes, a faster pace than that awful 5k I ran 4 years ago. But you know what? Without that 5k that brought me back to running, I would never be where I am today. I would not have met the amazing people that I have met through this sport. I would not have healed my relationship with food and my body. Running is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. And although I have said over and over again that I enjoy it and I love it, it was not until I crossed that finish line on Sunday that I knew just how damn important it was and just how much it had changed me.
So, if you had asked me after that 5k in 2012 if I was ever going to run a half marathon, I would have told you no way. “I’m a slow runner! There’s no way I could ever finish a half marathon!” If you had asked me over a year ago when I first started to train for a half marathon if I would ever do a full marathon, I definitely would have said, “I’m not sure if I will even survive a half, let alone a full! That’s crazy!” And if you asked me before my race on Sunday if I was going to run another half, or a full, I would have said maybe to another half, and still NO to a full.
What do you think my answer is now?
Some day, I will run a full marathon. It will not be fast. I may be one of the last people to cross that finish line. But I will do it. Because I’m not just half crazy about running. I am full on, head over heels crazy about running.