About a year ago, out of desperation from being so sick with migraines multiple times a week, I put on a pair of running shoes and walked out the door. I had heard that some runners had seen a decrease in migraines after running, and this was my last resort. I had suffered in private for so long and had given up everything….alcohol, desserts, meat, all to no avail. As a flat-footed, asthmatic nerd, running was just about the last thing on earth I ever saw myself doing.
I went walk-jogging a couple of times, and to my surprise, my legs didn’t fall off. At the beginning of September, I set a goal to run 30 miles that month and downloaded Runkeeper to track my progress. To the few people that I told, this didn’t seem like much. ”That’s only one mile per day!” they exclaimed. But to someone who hadn’t run a full mile except for the few excruciating times in elementary school, it sure seemed like a big goal.
I started slowly, making sure to give myself love throughout the whole process. On days where I didn’t feel well, I simply turned around. On days that I was feeling good, I went a bit farther. I remember the first day that I went farther than I expected. I increased my run from 1.6 miles to two miles, and I was so, so proud of myself. Runkeeper was there by my side, congratulating me on small accomplishments as I huffed and puffed along.
In my first month, I visited parts of my town that I’ve lived in my whole life that I had never seen before. We have beautiful trails and nature areas in Fort Collins, Colorado, and I admired the beautiful lakes, hawks, deer, and other life that I had never really taken the time to admire before. I stumbled quite a few times, once tripping on a railroad track, skidding my knees, hands, and losing my pants in front of rush-hour traffic. But, I was so proud of my scuffs. I got them running.
Foot by foot, running began to get easier. In October, I signed up for my first 5K with my husband and dog, and to my surprise, I easily kept up with my ever-athletic husband. It was the first time I had run with anyone. Before, when someone asked me if I wanted to work out with them, I would politely make up any excuse to not have them see my red-faced, sweaty struggle. Plus, I run at about the pace of a turtle, and I didn’t want to hold them back. But after the 5K, I thought, if I can do this, I can do anything!
I signed up for a half marathon seven months away. My runs gradually grew from exhausting 1.5-mile runs to “easy” five-mile runs to energetic eight-mile runs. My closet slowly filled with running gear, I found some friends who run, and slowly but surely, I began to identify as a runner. This year, I finished two 5Ks, a four-mile run, and a half marathon. I’ll be doing two more half marathons in September and October.
Running didn’t have a large effect on my migraines, but it did show me how to prioritize my health. My brother is in a wheelchair; I am very aware that not everyone has the ability to run (or walk). Often, when I would feel tired, I would exclaim (out loud) my gratitude to my wonderful feet and my big, strong legs for carrying me forward. Seeing the transformation of my body and feeling this deep gratitude for everything working in my body set me on another path to really take care of myself (mentally and physically). It was never my goal, but I’ve lost 15 pounds in the last year, and I now have more energy and better skin than I have ever had. I made it a priority to go to many different doctors to get my health on track because I began to truly value this vessel that carries me through the world.
I am an unlikely runner, and I tell people all of the time that if I can do it, anyone can do it. I run with the acceptance that my body is capable of what it is capable of that day, and that it changes day-to-day. I run with love, for it is my strong body that takes me through this world. And I run with pride, knowing that I am on a long journey to live a healthy life.