My Running Story

28 Apr
For nearly all my life I have been involved in some form of athletics. My parents encouraged my brother and I to be very active and often took us hiking or on long bike rides for family activities.

In elementary and middle school I played numerous sports. Soccer, softball, hockey, volleyball, swimming. I tried it all, but I exceled at basketball and track and field which is where I focused my efforts in high school.

 In high school, I was on the varsity basketball team and the varsity track and field team (I ran 200m hurdles, 400m dash, 400m relay, and did long jump). I trained essentially year-round.

High School Bball

Summer would offer a bit of a break, but even then I was still attending traning camps and would run on my own to keep in shape. For five years I followed this schedule. It was tough, demanding and at times I hated playing sports competitvely. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being on a team and I have a lot of great memories from those years, but 2-4 hours of training 6 days a week will leave anyone drained.

I had the option to continue playing basketball in college, several schools offered financial aid and even full rides. But I knew my heart wasn’t in it, so instead of using my senior year to prep for college basketball I studied abroad in France.

Studying in France provided my first real break from sports in years. Suddenly, I had all this free time on my hands. No more 3 hour basketball practices, no more weekend tournaments. I was used to being able to eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight, which was fine when I was burning calories like no one’s business. But in France I was eating whatever I wanted (crepes, cheese, wine, croissants, pastries, happiness!) and getting next to no exercise. Sure I was walking, but my body was used to intense daily exercise, and now it was getting none.

I started to gain weight. I distinctly remember feeling quite homesick one afternoon, going out the grocery store in town, buying a box of oreos and eating the whole thing.

I started trying to go on short jogs but I had never before been out-of-shape and it bothered me that I couldn’t even run half a mile. So, I let jogging fall by the wayside and ended up in a vicious cycle of feeling unhappy with myself and the way I looked and trying to cure that unhappiness with rich food. I had an absolute blast living in France and loved the experience but by the end of my time there I had put on 15-20 lbs (I avoided actually getting on a scale) and was horribly unhappy with myself.

I was blessed with good genetics and my family is all tall (I’m 6’2, my baby bro is 6’4, and my dad is 6’9) and naturally pretty lean. We can carry a bit of extra weight and it doesn’t really show, but I had put on more than a little weight and it was clearly showing. My pants were too tight, my tops too constricting, and you couldn’t have paid me to go near a swimsuit.

I returned home that summer and started preparing for college. My diet returned to normal and started incorporating exercise back into my routine and by the time I started school I was almost back to my normal weight.

Of course college held it’s own special set of challenges (read lots of booze-fueled all-nighters) I started to gain back some of the weight. Through most of my freshman and sophomore years I was very inconsistent with exercise. I would go to the gym every now and but I didn’t put much effort into it. I tried switiching to Lean Cuisinies and similar to lose weight, but not surprisingly, that did very little.

Finally, about half way through my junior year I decided it was time for a change. I started going to the gym, several times a week. When I first started I could barely run for 10 minutes at a time, and I was slow. Like slower, than slow. But I kept at it. Suddenly 10 minutes became 20, 20 became 30, 30 became 40. And I was getting faster. I started eating better, incorporating more whole foods- fruits, veggies, fish, whole grains- into my diet.

After a 2 months, my clothes started to fit better, I wasn’t ashamed to look in a mirror. I was sleeping better, had more energy and generally had a more postive outlook. Towards the end of my senior year I started reading healthy-living blogs where a lot of the girls had gone through similar experiences and were now running half-marathons, full marathons, triathlons, etc. I thought well if they can do it, maybe I can do it one day to!

Throughout 2010 I grew more consistent with my running. I crafted a training plan and started to think about future races. Once the New Year hit I decided it was time to go for it. So I signed up for my first race, an 8K. Then I signed up for another, a 10K.

I’m currently signed up to run 4 races in the coming months, and a triathlon. For the past 3 months, I’ve been training for the Marine Corps Historic Half-Marathon (my first!) which I will run on May 15, 2011. In June, I’ll run my first trail race and compete in my first triathlon. And in October I will run my first marathon with Team in Training (I’ll do a separate post about my decision to join the TIT team).

And while I still have days where I look in the mirror and think ugh, my butt’s too big, or why don’t I have awesome six-pack abs, or whatever else I may think, most days I love my body. I love what it can do. It can run 10 miles, it can swim for an hour, it can lift weights. It can bike, climb, hike, and dance. It can do all kinds of incredible things, and I’m so grateful that I can finally appreciate that fact. Running has given me so many things, endurance, greater self-confidence, better health, mental toughness, but one of the best things it has given me is the ability to truly appreciate just what my body is capable of.

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