I have been stressing out about The San Francisco half marathon. It is very hilly (especially compared to where I live) and I only have three hours to complete it. My current half marathon PR is 2:55:59 and that was on a course that only contained 42 feet of elevation change. Needless to say I have been really questioning myself as a runner and whether I can actually complete this race. Then, I listened to the most recent episode of my favorite podcast Two Gomers Run for Their Lives. The Gomers were reflecting on when they first began running and it made me do the same.
The first time I remember being overweight was in the second grade. My parents told me that I “was tall for my age, and that I had big bones.” It was true, I was tall for my age, but I was also fat. I spent the remainder of elementary, middle, and high school, hiding my body image issues behind fake confidence which bordered on arrogance. I grew bigger in college, and then graduate school. It wasn’t until I was 29 years old that I decided I needed to do something. I joined the YMCA and started going to water aerobics and yoga class (because no one could see me in the water and we did yoga in the dark.)
Me when I first started.
After working out for a year I had lost 5 pounds. I was frustrated. I new nothing about nutrition and didn’t realize that just working out wasn’t going to get me the results I wanted. I read everything I could find on nutrition, stopped eating processed food, and the weight began to slowly come off.
My friend and I went to visit her mom for a few days one summer and she was running a 5K. I had no idea what a 5k was but my friend and I went to cheer her on anyway. I arrived, expecting to see lots of very fit runners but was surprised to see a variety of shapes and sizes. My friend and I stood at the finish line and cheered for all of the participants. Some were fast, some slow, some ran, some walked, but they all finished! I began to think “if they can do this, then I can do this!”
When we got home, I went to the YMCA, got on a treadmill, and walked. I didn’t stop until I had reached 3 miles. It took me over an hour, but I knew that if I could walk 3 miles I could complete a 5k (I didn’t know about the .1 yet). The training began! I would go to the YMCA 3 times a week and get on the treadmill. Two months later I walked my first 5k in 59 minutes. Not only had I finished but I did it under an hour!
With my friend’s mom after my first 5k.
I decided the next step would be to learn to run. I found a couch to 5k plan and started working toward my goal. The only problem was, in week one, you were supposed to run for one minute at a time. I could barely get through 30 seconds! I kept at it and worked up to running for an entire minute. I stayed on week 1 of the plan for about six weeks before I finally was able to move to week 2, but I kept at it. In the mean time I signed up for my next 5K. It was a smaller race and I came in dead last, but there was a very nice lady who waited at the finish line to get my time. I had finished this one in 50 minutes! I may have been last but I finished 9 minutes faster than my last 5k and I even ran a little!
With my friend and her mom after my second 5k.
My friends mom was running her second half marathon and we went to cheer her on. I knew I could do a 5k but a half marathon was way out of my league. I stood in the rain with pom poms cheering as runner after runner finished the race. I knew then that this was something I had to do. I signed up for the Women’s half marathon in Nashville and started training. I did’t tell anyone because that way if I failed no one would know. I didn’t tell anyone until after my 8 mile training run. It was only then that I thought I might actually be able to finish. I finished that race and went on to run 10 more half marathons and 2 full marathons!
So now, when I get frustrated with myself for not being very fast, I will think back to that first 5K (only 4 years ago) and remember how far I have come…and how far I can still go. Thanks Gomers for reminding me!