This guest post is by Teri, one of our new runners who only started running a year ago, ran her first half marathon in September, and yesterday ran the Walt Disney World half marathon with 3 other Team G runners. This post is a good reminder that becoming a runner is part of a journey, one that will have ups and downs. Whatever the reason for running, you need patience, and perseverance, to keep moving forward.
It’s Not About the Running
In two days I will embark on the final few days of a journey I have been on for a long time. I am running the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, but for me this experience represents much more than a race. Growing up I was the fat kid…at least that’s how I viewed myself. The biggest tennis player (never mind I had a killer backhand), the cheerleader with the largest thighs (never mind I was so loud nobody wanted to sit in front of me), and because of it, I was self-conscious. I wasn’t really that fat, but in my mind I was, which contributed to a lot of issues I had to deal with later on in life. I didn’t run…I played the baseline in tennis so I didn’t have to run…and I had no intention of ever doing so. I hated anything to do with exercise.
Fast forward 10 years (and a husband and two kids later). I happened to be volunteering on a committee at my son’s school with a long-time friend and gasp, a runner. He mentioned he would be out of town for a few days prior to our big event to run the Disney marathon. We talked about it for a time and I just shook my head…I thought he was absolutely bug nuts to pay to run. Why anyone would want to do that was absolutely beyond any scope of comprehension for me at that time in my life. I wished him well and went about my business. I joked that if I was EVER going to run a marathon, or half, or let’s be honest…a mile, Disney was the place I’d do it. I must make myself clear…there was no way I was ever going to do it. But the seed was planted, 8 years ago.
Over the years I gained weight, lost weight, gained weight again and moved away from an area I’d lived in for 40 years to a place where I knew no one, and went through some very difficult and trying times. I ballooned to over 210 pounds…never once considering the seed. God, however, was tending the seed and patiently waited for it to take root and germinate. I got fed up (no pun intended) and started weigh watchers…and walking. I have a good friend who is as “dedicated” (we’ll say) as I am when we set our minds to it and she graciously walked with me…day after day…week after week without fail. When we started I would huff and puff just doing a leisely pace but improved with every week. One day she said, “Okay. We’re going to run from here to that fire hydrant down there.” Wait. What??? No way. Not me. Not gonna happen! Well, we ran what felt like 85 miles to me (in reality it was really only a block) and I truly thought I was going to pass out. We walked the rest of the way home. A few days later she made me do it again…and again…and again. Now mind you, we walked about a mile in between each block of running (and believe you me it took me that long to recover), but it was more running than I’d ever done! We continued in this manner for a few more weeks until she asked me to try a kickboxing class with her. I went, not because I wanted to exercise, but because pounding and kicking the heck out of a bag sounded like pretty good therapy! One class and I was hooked…2X a week I’d sweat and kick and punch out all of my frustrations! I decided to try another class and got hooked again…In a couple of short months I was in the zone…I would participate in a class and then hit the treadmill for 4-5 miles of walking afterwards…5 days a week Yes, the weight was coming off and it was great…but something was happening to me. I was getting stronger…shaking that fat girl image in my head.
Because of all of the classes, I got to know some pretty great people….some very encouraging people…people who told me I could run. I would go on the treadmill and walk for 4 minutes and gasp my way through a minute of running and repeat. I did not run fast…and I did this for a month. Then a month of 3 minutes walking and 2 minutes of running which I’m pretty sure almost killed me. I had just started my month of 2 minutes of walking and 3 minutes of running (which was not something I enjoyed at ALL) when a couple of my new friends started asking when I was going to come and run with them. Turns out they’re part of a Christian running group that runs together in my town. Um…no. No thanks. I’m not a runner. Never have been, never will be. Every day, they’d ask and every day I’d say no. It took month of badgering…yes badgering and I finally caved. Fine, I’ll run with you this Saturday….I told them this mostly so that they would see how slow and awful I was and stop asking me!
February 22, I went to our local running store and told them I was running the next morning for the first time and what did I need so I didn’t freeze to death? The staff hooked me up and the next morning I was back at the store (where the team meets every Saturday) anxious and not at all ready. I looked at all the people walking in and how they all looked the part. I felt very far from the part…and I wanted to be anywhere but where I was. When I asked how far we were going, they smiled and said something like “Oh, just a couple miles”. Turns out we did 5 that day…and I survived! I was totally hooked and jumped in with both feet! Within 6 weeks I did my first 5k and had signed up for my first 10K. A friend from work who was also in the running group mentioned he’d always wanted to do Disney…and the memory of that long ago seed came rushing back. Could I do it? Run 13.1 miles? I guess, it’s time to find out so we registered last April…before I’d ever run more than 5 miles.
In subsequent months I ran a 10K, a half marathon, a couple more 5ks and another 10K. I ran through rain, snow, cold, humidity, heat…I ran at 5:45 am 3-4 times a week…evening runs, afternoon runs and everything in between. I’ve dealt with physical injuries, mental struggles, and negative speak. And I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything. Because through the past almost year, I have gained more than I ever thoguht possible. I’ve met some of the most amazing people through running…runners truly are the most encouraging, supportive, caring people I’ve ever known. It’s never about beating each other…it’s always about being the best we can each be as individuals and with a rare exception or two, I have felt nothing but comraderie, support and love from every one I have encountered. Running, and the friends I have made through it have changed me.
I started running to lose weight…to get healthy, but that’s not why I run now. I run because of the fabulous people I get to hit the roads with. I run because it gives me a strength inside I didn’t know I had. It teaches me to never give up and how to deal with adversity that comes my way.
There are so many people that have been a vital part of this journey…to that dear friend from Fargo who long ago allowed God to plant the seed and who has been a support for me for many years and will be at the Disney races as well this weekend; to the friend who pushed me to run a block knowing it was not something I wanted to do…and for all the training runs/exercise classes/therapy sessions we’ve had along the way; to the pair of crazies whom I love who badgered me into running with them that February morning and have come to be some very dear friends; to my running mentor and dear friend for all of the training schedules, tips, advice, encouragement and friendship; to the members of the running team I am a part of…the support, advice, encouragement, and inspiration has meant the world to me; to my local running store staff for making us feel like family every time we walk into the store and for your excellent advice and care; to my family for allowing me to spend crazy amounts of time, energy and money on things you don’t understand but know make me happy; to the countles, faceless, runners out there who inspire me every day with your dedication…thank you all.
You see, the half-marathon race at Disney on Saturday is not about the running for me. It’s about doing the impossible. It’s about telling that fat girl that has lived inside of me for so long that she’s no longer welcome…no matter my weight. It’s about perseverance, dedication, heart, strength, friendship, strong will, and changing the way I view myself. It’s about allowing God to plant seeds…even when the chance of them growing to fruition seems absolutely impossible. It’s about finding myself and proving to myself that I’m strong. When I cross that finish line…running will be the furthest thing from my mind…the baggage I’ve carried will be gone…I will have left the last bits of it out on the course…as I’ve done throughout this part of my journey. My journey will continue…as will yours…it’s what we do in that journey, how we allow ourselves to be changed that is the greatest gift of all.