Since I lost 390 pounds, I have been training for a marathon. This has been a goal of mine for over two years now. I never ran a mile in my life until I turned 32. Even when I was a kid, I couldn’t run a mile in gym class—I was always the last one to finish. This became the norm for my life, and I had accepted the fact that I would never be an active person.
When I decided to quit drinking and turn my life around, I still didn’t think that I would ever enjoy exercising. All I knew was that it was a healthy thing to do, and I should be doing it! The first time I got into exercising, I started by walking in place for five minutes. I did this every morning and gradually increased my time until I got up to an hour. After that, I started walking outside. The first time, I could only make it a few doors down before I exhausted myself. Gradually, I increased my distances. That next day, I went down an extra house and back. Eventually I walked my first mile. It took me about twenty—five minutes.
Not stopping there, I kept adding distance until I was walking five miles every morning. I used the Runkeeper app to track how many calories I was burning and how fast and far I was walking. This routine became habit, and along with healthy eating, it helped me lose massive amounts of weight. The more I walked, the more I began to notice my times going down. I hadn’t pushed myself to walk faster, but the whole process became easier. My pace also increased as a result.
After a while, I decided to get into running. It was a very slow process at first, but I approached it the same way: building a habit. After a year of working at it, I had increased my distances and ran 5Ks, 10Ks, and even half-marathons. Today, I run five days a week, averaging over 35-40 miles. Pushing myself to run faster is new to me, and I’m still getting used to it. Usually when I hit a record time, it just happens, and not because I’m actually trying to. Now that I’m actually trying to get my times down, I’m finding it takes a special kind of effort. I really have to reach for the motivation to do it.
While I was in the process of losing weight, there was something in my personality that kept me motivated. A large part of it was my ability to dream. Throughout my life, through my depression and alcoholism, through my obesity and self-defeating tendencies, there was always something lurking in the back of my head. I imagined that there was more to be accomplished and I somehow always believed that I was capable of more. It took me a long time to follow through with that belief, but when I finally did, I had the strength to take my life back.
It’s cliché that one should believe in one’s self. But there is a truth to this, to knowing that whatever I’m trying for, no matter how futile it seems, is not impossible. The human body is capable of amazing things, and I have experienced this firsthand. As I have pushed myself to this point in my life, I will continue to push myself to accomplish more. The next time I wake up in the morning and decide to go for a faster time, I won’t just push harder. I won’t just increase my pace and work harder. I will remind myself that I can accomplish more, and that anything is possible.
A run I ran recently reminded me of this. It was seven in the morning on a Thursday. The humidity was 90 percent and the temperatures were already beginning to rise. When I stepped outside, my running partner, Jackie, was already waiting for me. Jackie and I had been training for a marathon, and we were already running several days a week. Tuesday and Thursday runs were routine for us, but this day, we decided to go a little faster. I had already begun to speed up my short distance runs, and today we were running over eight miles.
After we stretched, we started our warm up walk. The sun was peeking out through the early morning clouds, and I could feel the warmth on the back of my neck. I began to wonder if the small water bottle attached to my hand was going to be enough. I started my music and left one headphone out of the ear closest to Jackie.
The “activity started” cue chimed in my ear as we broke into a jog. At the end of the street, we entered an empty park. It was still early and the only sounds came from the birds in the fir trees on the outside of the field. Soon, we approached a red, wooden bridge and crossed over a small creek. A sharp hill rose in front of us and I started picking up my knees. I could feel my heart rate increase in response, and my breathing quickened a bit. At the crest of the hill, we crossed another street and continued onto a dirt trail.
My headphones chimed again: nine minutes and fifty-one seconds. We had just hit the first mile mark. I was feeling good despite the heat, so I nodded at Jackie and we pushed forward a little faster. A few weeks prior, I had hit my fastest single mile time, but I hadn’t tried it over longer distances. The second mile time beeped: nine minutes and thirty-seven seconds. Still feeling strong, we pressed on.
As I listened to my music, my mind began to wander. I had always wanted to complete a 5K race in under thirty minutes. I realized if I just pushed a little harder, there was a chance I could do it today. Rounding another corner, I started pushing the pace. My stride lengthened and I could feel the arthritis in my knees acting up. I quickened my steps and shortened the length, and instantly the knees felt better.
The humidity finally got to me and I could feel my shirt cling to my chest. I didn’t know exactly what my current distance was, but I knew I was getting close to the three mile mark. My heart rate rose and my breaths became deeper. I looked over at Jackie and nodded again. This was my chance to finally hit that time.
Jackie fell back a distance as I pushed on. I could hear my heart beating in my ears and I began to wonder how much was left. At this point, it didn’t matter. I was committed. Around the next corner, I finally heard the timer ring in my ear. My last mile was at nine minutes and twenty-four seconds. I had finished a 5K in just under thirty minutes. I slowed to a walk and the rush of endorphins hit me. This was something I had wanted to accomplish for a long time, and today, I had finally done it. Jackie caught up to me and we smiled and high-fived each other.
We continued to walk for a while and I took a few sips of water from my bottle. There were still another five and a half miles to go. Still reeling from my victory, we began the remainder of the run.
Training for a cause: Four years ago, I was 625 pounds. I met an amazing woman from London, England who taught me not to take life for granted. Jackie has a disease called Myotonic Dystrophy, and she has to stay active and healthy in order to keep her symptoms under control. Knowing that others are out there fighting for their lives against illnesses motivated me to turn my life around and get healthy.