When I began running my goal was to make it to the stop sign at the end of my street–.04 of a mile and I thought I was going to die. I was and still am 100 pounds lighter than when I had my daughter and had walked the weight off; walking miles and miles a day, as well as eating right. I had quit smoking prior to losing weight, as well. Youth was the only thing that had kept me, an obese smoker, from dying of a heart attack or suffering any number of preventable diseases.
At my heaviest and most miserable, I decided I would have no more excuses or reasons not to take control of my health and once I started, I never looked back. I had been walking for years when I decided to run last year. With all my success at achieving a healthier lifestyle, I still never knew how difficult running would be. I swore I never would. I was convinced I would get injured or that I would hate it. For that entire year first year, I did hate running. I suffered sore ankles (buying the correct shoes remedied this), stiff muscles, and fatigue. I was even attacked by a dog—I still have the scars! Running hurt and exhausted me, but I stuck with it. I remember being able to only run two miles…then three…then four. After I consistently run a certain mileage for a while I tell myself, “One. More. Mile.” And I just do it. A month ago, something clicked and I increased my distance and learned to “disappear” into the run. I fully understand the “runner’s high” now. I sleep well, look better, and am mentally and physically stronger than I was before. I’m up to seven miles without stopping—I have amazed myself! But next week seven miles will not be good enough for me.
I will run my first race in two days, a 10K run. It is a small step, but one I never thought I would do, or even be able to do. I am stronger. I am healthier. I am a runner. People who don’t run don’t understand what it means to be a runner and exhaust your body and force it to do something it does not want to do. It really is more than putting one foot in front of the other, more than weight loss—it is my own determination and will to succeed, to push myself beyond what I believe I am capable of doing. It is as much mental as it is physical. Physically, I want to stop two miles in. But my mind won’t allow it. I have to make myself keep going after my body decides to quit. I am scared of racing Saturday; of falling out, of not being able to run an unfamiliar course with a bunch of strangers. A small voice in my head keeps telling me I can’t do it. I have to keep telling it to shut up. I won’t win Saturday or even place in my age division, but I will finish having run the best I can. And if running can be any sort of metaphor for life, then that’s all that matters. I will not quit.