Naming this week’s blog post, “I am a Runner” is making me a little uneasy. Since I am not a natural athlete and regular exercise was never a part of my past, it feels strange to declare myself a runner. I am a runner even if I doubt it. I think declaring it publicly will help me realize it is true.
As a child and teen, I hated sports. I was always overweight and uncoordinated. I dreaded P.E. in school. Since I was bad at physical activities and I had to change in front of my peers in the locker room, P.E. was the ultimate nightmare. P.E. didn’t end with college unfortunately. I tried tennis and quit before I failed the course. Thank goodness for aerobic classes where I could hide my awkward self in the back.
As an adult I tried again to find a physical activity I would enjoy. I joined the YMCA with all the other moms. The treadmill was tiresome. I did the “Total Body Conditioning” class and struggled through each session. I used my second pregnancy as an excuse to quit. The Y turned into a place I took my kids for sports, not a place for me to exercise.
I did have a brief period of exercise enjoyment when I bid on a personal trainer for a fundraiser. I didn’t think I would win it, but I did. The ever-supportive husband and I worked with a great trainer for a few months. I can’t say I loved the strength training routines, but I survived. I did however enjoy the spin classes she made us go to at the Y. I was surrounded by toned and athletic people, but it was OK that I was fat and slow. When the instructor yelled to turn it up to ten, it didn’t matter that my ten was someone’s two.
Unfortunately our move cross-country put an end to my burgeoning exercise routine. For our first year in our new home I was depressed and instead of using my new walkable surroundings to my benefit, I ate my way around town. It wasn’t until my ever-supportive friend, N., suggested I try the Couch to 5K running program. Me, learn to run? At this time I weighed my all-time high of 283 pounds so the thought of running seemed ridiculous. N. offered to watch my kids so I didn’t have any excuse not to try. I had shoes and a babysitter so off I went. This was the beginning of my newfound love of running. I was slow as molasses, but I felt good. The Couch to 5K program and a gentle, but firm nudge from my friend started me down a new exercise path.
My running routine was interrupted a few times. After my gastric sleeve surgery, I took a break to recuperate, but I did walk until I could run again. Last May I had to stop running due to the pain of my abdominal hernia. About four weeks after my abdominal hernia repair and tummy tuck surgery, I started running again. It felt so good to be back!
One of the best rewards of my latest surgery was running a race on Thanksgiving. What turned out to be a five-mile race instead of three miles was just what a I needed to prove to me that I was a runner. As I wrote in my post, “Running Down the Scale”, I just told myself I had to finish. I did that and set a new PR (personal record) that I was proud of.
That brings me to one of the most important reasons I love running: it’s about my running pace and no one else’s pace. Sure, I don’t want to be the last person over the finish line, but if I am, that is OK. All I have to do is finish what I start. I strive to improve my pace, but not to beat anyone else’s. I may not be a fast runner, but I am a runner…just because I run.
The 5K Hot Chocolate Race I ran on Sunday really made me believe I should call myself a runner. I did this race with my 10-year-old son and his friend. Well, we started the race together, but after the first half mile, they were gone. At first I was annoyed and embarrassed. Didn’t they want to run with me? Ah, no, Jen, they’re two athletic kids who love to run and compete. Hanging out with the 45-year-old mom with a previous running pace of 13:22 wasn’t that exciting I’m sure.
It turned out to be good thing they ran at their pace, because I could then run at my pace and not kill myself keeping up with them. I put on my music and enjoyed the run. I walked some of it but I ran more than I thought I could. I finished with a PR (personal record) pace of 12:08.
The kids finished four minutes ahead of me, but we all enjoyed our chocolate treats together. No guilt for me when I indulged in hot chocolate and snacks! I earned it! And my gastric sleeve is my constant tool to keep me from overeating. I could eat a bit of the snacks, but nowhere near what I would have consumed in the past.
While I am already looking for another 5K race, I don’t believe racing makes me a runner. Just getting outside and running is what makes me a runner. This formerly uncoordinated and obese woman finally found her athletic grove. It took me over 40 years to find it, but it was well worth it. I think everyone can find some type of exercise to love. Whether it’s a group class, swimming or even walking, all you need to do is move. I am happy to call myself a runner, but more importantly I am happier to call myself a healthy woman.
You are a true inspiration, sister! Thank you for the beautiful encouragement you provide us that so clearly comes from your heart (your healthy heart!)
Thank you so much, Rachel! Your encouragement and inspiration help me more than you know!
I just found your blog and read almost every post. What a positive outlook you have. It’s refreshing and I admire your success. I’m a cyclist and a swimmer but I’m thinking about running. I’d like to do a sprint triathlon some day. You have inspired me. Thanks, Tracey
Thanks, Tracey! Congratulations on your journey! It is well worth it!
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