What I’ve learned from being a runner.
I may or may not have over shared on social media that I ran a marathon. Not sorry for that, but in case you missed the news, I ran a marathon. Geez, Rach, brag much? Maybe it’s considered bragging, but I’m going to call it pride. Pride in an accomplishment that was eight years in the making.
I’m going way back. Way before I was anywhere near ready for a marathon. I think the back story is an important place to start. In the last six miles of the marathon, as I was digging deep to find the energy and determination to finish, my mind wandered back to the beginning of my running journey.
Eight years ago (2012) I was a different person. Same body, different mindset. That person was in search of the happiness she had lost sight of. (I talked about this more in my post about divorce.) I had moved back to my parents’ house with my two year old. I was overweight and unhealthy. I lived on Dr. Pepper and mac and cheese. I faked happiness on social media, but real happiness was the goal. I had a warped sense of what real happiness was, but I wanted it.
I decided I would start running because I believed at the time it was the way I could continue consuming bowlfuls of mac and cheese and also look good in a swimsuit. Legitimate. Obviously that would be the epitome of a happy life. Right? Oh, old me, bless her heart, she didn’t know happiness starts internally not externally. Nevertheless, I set out to be a runner in an effort to obtain my idea of real happiness.
Turns out, running wasn’t the path to endless comfort food, cute outfits, and one of those perfectly fit bodies you only see in pictures. It was not a means to an end. Running did not make my comfort possible, instead it became my comfort. It was my therapy. I just didn’t know it then.
The first time I headed out for a run I made it less than two minutes before I was doubled over. After I was sure my lungs weren’t collapsing and caught my breath, I took off again. I kept doing this over and over until I hit 1 mile combined. It took forever! I was sure this was not my thing. I woke up the next day with throbbing shins. I had painful proof that I was not a runner. But I also felt a spark of something. Determination maybe.
I threw on my active shoes, (No, not running shoes. I had one pair of Nikes that were for the purpose of physical activity, but I know now they were not made for running.) and I did it again. And again the next day. So far it didn’t have me looking any way but beat up, but it had me feeling a certain kind of way
That feeling was unexpected.
I actually got progressively slower each day for the first week. I had every reason to quit, but I didn’t. The slower and harder it got the more my determination grew. That feeling I didn’t understand, but I liked.
A mile with no walk breaks was my goal. I remember the day I did it. Mostly because of my tank top. It was not made for sweating in. The more I sweated the bigger it got. When I hit one mile I burst into tears like I had just finished a marathon. What can I say, it was the first goal I had set and achieved in a long time, and I did it for myself. I was proud, another foreign feeling I wasn’t used to.
Just for giggles, let’s get a clear image of what this looked like. A fairly sturdy mom, and by sturdy I mean chubby, standing on the sidewalk in a suburban neighborhood drenched in sweat, in a tank top that had grown by double, snotty crying. Let’s just say no one was confused by why I was a single mom.
What’s interesting is I didn’t think of this as a funny scene until just now. Right now as I am sitting here in a trendy coffee shop typing this up. Because for the first time in years not only had I met a goal, but I had not thought once about my outward appearance. I wasn’t trying to hide any rolls, lumps, or bumps. I wasn’t mad at my body for not being what it used to be. I was in awe of it because it had just done something it had never done before. That was the moment running became something different to me. It became my comfort. My therapy.
When I started running I only cared about it changing my physical body. I was chasing an appearance, an idea. What it actually changed was my mindset and perspective. It taught me to celebrate what my body can do and accomplish, and without even looking for it, in the form of determination and pride, happiness came because it was always there waiting for me to look in the right direction.
2013- I ran in my first 5k on Mother’s Day. I finished in 29 minutes. My son cheering for me at the finish line was everything.
2015- I ran my first half marathon.
2016-2019- I ran 9 more half marathons
2020- I ran my first marathon
Running made me unintentionally feel better.
Feeling better makes me intentionally do better.
I started out running to look better. I continued running to feel better. Now I run to do better.