'Only' Running a 5K Is Nothing to Laugh About
Just over 5 years ago, I weighed 70 pounds more and couldn't run a full mile. Now an accomplished marathoner, I'm a firm believer that no goal is too small and you'll never know what you're capable of until you give it a try.
If you told my former 203-pound self that she was going to run a marathon one day, she would have slapped you.
OK. Maybe slap is a bit harsh. But she would have definitely laughed, and then fell into some pool full of self despair.
It was the summer of 2008 when I decided I wanted to do something about my weight. After stepping on a rickety old scale circa early '90s and seeing a number over the 200-pound mark, I felt disgusted. Helpless. I knew I couldn't continue pretending my size didn't bother me, uncomfortable in my own body. It was the summer of 2008 when I picked up running.
Back then, I was a counselor and dance instructor at an overnight camp located in Connecticut. It paid well. It wasn't far from home. I thought I would meet my future husband there; the whole nine yards. My biggest worry? Getting to the mess hall plopped in the center of the 140-acre campus on time for lunch. Actually, that probably was a close second to making sure my ponytail was the perfect unawkward balance between side and straight back. Considering my day-to-day stressors were insignificant, that summer felt like the perfect time to finally do something about my weight. The perfect time to stop accepting being obese as the norm.
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I decided that in addition to sticking to the salad bar, albeit filled with lackluster options and unfortunate dressing choices, I would pick up running. Granted, my fitness gear was anything other than rad, consisting of primarily old youth group T-shirts and $7.99 cotton leggings from Walmart. But every day, despite how hot it was or how much I wanted to sit and read Seventeen plopped in front of my Costco box fan -- I would shimmy into those leggings, throw on a T-shirt, and run. A full mile.
I would return from my run drenched. The humidity invading my personal space, my sports bra heavy with perspiration. Heaving, I'd remove my soaked clothing, shower off grime and inevitable bug residue, and continue on with the rest of my day -- satisfied that I'd taken the 10 minutes (or so) to better myself. I did that mile run every day for an entire two hot, steamy months.
It wasn't until the last day that I finally tracked how far my daily excursions were bringing me. It wasn't until that last run down the twists and turns of Summerhill Road that I found out I was really only running a half mile. A half mile. To recap: I ran a half mile every day for two months when I thought I was running a full. It took me 10 minutes. I ran a half mile every day and I was winded.
I was OK with that.
After leaving my summer home that half mile became a real full. Then, that full mile became two. And then three. Soon, I was running myself thin (well, thinner). I was enjoying running. I was feeling better about myself and feeling my hard work pay off. I signed up for my first half marathon a little over a year from the day I took my first half mile run. I finished it in 2 hours, 43 minutes, 43 seconds.
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This past October, 5 years after I started running, I ran my first full marathon. 26.2 miles: 4 hours, 3 minutes, 22 seconds.
... She really would have slapped you, I swear.
If I never ran that first half mile. If I had given up when I thought my half mile wasn't enough. If I never believed that every step made a difference. If I only knew what was ahead of me. There are a lot of "ifs." Believe me, I understand that it's always easier to make excuses than take on a challenge. But if you don't make goals for yourself, you'll never really know what you're capable of. You'll never really know if you could do it.
You owe it to yourself to find out. Today, I couldn't be more thankful that I did.
Looking to start running yourself? Check out these helpful beginner running links: