Sunday, May 22, 2011

I used to be a fat girl...

My love affair with running started when I was 22 years old. That was 8 years ago. Maybe love affair isn't the correct term. It was more of a love-hate relationship. I was fat and I HAD to do something about it. Pushing 200 pounds at 22 years old doesn't do much for the self-image. Weight had been an issue for me for a long time, but I had never been that big.

I started by going to a nearby lake and walking/running on the trail. It was slow going, painfully slow. Naturally, I expected more out of me than I was getting, so I started getting frustrated with the whole thing. I started thinking that maybe it just wasn't for me. I had never been into sports in high school and I HATED running, why would I even think that it was something I would enjoy?

My mom had been running for quite a few years at that time. She had lost a lot of weight with running and I remember being in awe that she could actually go out and do 8 miles at a time. She basically coached me through this trial period. She taught me the fine technique of splitting my "runs" into walk/run intervals. Walk for 2 minutes, run for 1, working my way to walk for 1 minute, run for 2. She taught me to use landmarks as goals, rather than distance or time. With her help, I eventually ran my first full mile! While I don't remember how long it took me (I probably didn't even time it back then), I do remember how it made me feel; powerful, invincible, amazed at my own coolness!

I kept on like that for awhile, just kind of "pretending" to be a runner (hell, I still feel like I'm just pretending sometimes). I decided to run my very first 5K (The Turkey Stuffer) on Thanksgiving Day of 2003. It was awesome! I couldn't believe how fun it was. The atmosphere and excitement was something I didn't expect. So many runners! Old people, young people, kiddos jogging along with their parents, groups of women walking and laughing together. My only goal was to run it, and I did, at a dismal pace... it took me 42:41 to finish it, a pace of 13:45. I placed 620 out of 642. I listened to Classical music on a Walkman, of all things. Regardless of my horrid time, I was proud, and I enjoyed every painful minute of it. I remember getting home, taking a shower and putting on the race shirt and sweats, then it was nap time. I felt that I earned it, I also felt that I earned the massive amount of food I ate later at dinner.

Since then I have done enough 5Ks to have lost count, a handful of 10Ks, a couple oddball 8Ks and one 15K. The next time I did The Turkey Stuffer 5K, in 2006, I was a couple weeks pregnant (didn't know it, couldn't understand why I felt like throwing up the whole time) and I finished in 31:36. Much better! I did another 5K just a couple weeks later (still had no idea that I was pregnant), my time was even better. I believe it was a about a week later that I found out I was pregnant. I had already quit running by then because every time I did I ended up getting sick. It is no fun to do a pathetic 1-mile run and come home to throw up, or not even be able to finish the run because of unexplained queasiness.

So, I was pregnant, totally sedentary the whole time. Well, I went on walks, sometimes. I gained 63 pounds. I was massive, I was a hippo! My ankles looked like tree stumps, my feet like footballs. My ass got huge, my belly was ridiculously large and I was just plain uncomfortable from about 5 months on. I had morning sickness for the first 3 months and then just felt yucky the rest of the time. Turns out, I had severe edema (water retention). It was so bad that my doctor was worried that the skin on my legs would split like over-cooked hot dogs! Thank God they didn't! From ultrasounds my doctor had figured that my son would be a whopping 11 pounds! She scheduled me for a C-section 2 weeks before my due date. The date came, I had my little boy and the C-section seemed pointless; he was "only" 9 pounds 1 ounce. While that's a pretty big baby, he still wasn't as large as predicted and I feel like I got ripped off, I probably could have done the thing the way a woman is supposed to. Anyway...

It took me about 7 months to become active again. It started with walks. My sister and I would take our boys (her son is 4 months older than mine) in the strollers for walks 3 times a week. My son would scream the whole time. Not a lot of fun. After a couple months of this, I decided I wanted my "me" time back. I wanted to work on becoming a runner. I ditched my kid with my husband and met up with my sister. She had her son in a bike trailer and she would ride her bike beside me while I tried to gallop along at my pre-pregnancy pace... right. Eventually we decided to do our own thing. She would go ahead while I did what I could do as far as running went. It took some time, but I found my pace. I worked back up to 3-mile runs. I was happy again :)

I entered my first post-baby 5K when my son was about 14 months old. That is the last 5K I have done and so far it's my best 5K time; 30:55. Three months later I started school and again I lost touch with running for about a year. I finished school in 2009. I started running again towards the end of school and ran an 8K in July of 2010. I gave myself an hour to finish it and I actually exceeded my goal: I finished in 47:28! Then in September I ran my first 15K. I ran every single step of the thing! My legs were PISSED by the end of it! I'd say about 1/2 mile before the end they were wanting to give up, but I couldn't possibly walk my way past the small gathering of finishers and supporters. I finished that thing in 1:31:07 (that is the only time I didn't have to look up on the internet, it is forever stuck with me). I placed 3rd in my division, but here I must admit something; there were only three people in my division. Whatever! I got a medal!! And I won a pair of nice running socks in the raffle. While that was such a huge race for me, it was rather bittersweet; I had nobody at the finish line to cheer me on. My husband had to work, my sister had made plans to go fishing (really, fishing??) and my mom... well, my mom and I were at odds at the time. I did make a "friend" there who had finished before I did and she was all about the high-fives and the "good job". Thank goodness for random, running friends.

So, here I am. I've been at this "sport" for nearly 8 years. I have a few races under my belt. None of them great victories aside from the fact that I have done them. That doesn't bother me. I will be, at most, mid-pack and I'm totally OK with that. I run for me, and only me. Well, that's not exactly true. My son knows I run and he has developed a liking for it. He sees other runners and will exclaim, "Hey, he/she is running! Like mommy does". He has actually ran laps with me. Two laps, non-stop (granted, at a very slow pace) and he wanted to keep going! A couple weeks ago, after I had finished my 2-mile easy run, I met up with my husband and my son on their way back from the library. We were walking home and my son wanted to run with me. So, we did. We ran, holding hands, for about 1/2 mile. If my running will instill in him a love for it, so much the better!

I am currently training to run a half-marathon. It's time. I've been at this gig long enough, there is no reason for me not to. I don't know if I will ever be up for a whole marathon; that just seems crazy to me. I recently watched finishers come in from a marathon and, really, the pain on the faces of some of them!! My sister's boyfriend actually ended up in the emergency room a few hours after he finished. Runner's colitis sent him there. Ugh, no thanks!

So, this half-marathon training... I'm loving it. I have a schedule that I am following. I have found that I am a better runner when I have a training schedule telling me what kind of run I am going to do today. I wouldn't have the first clue as to where to start with training. It's nice that there are such cool websites out there that make it easy to be told what to do.

I recently found this awesome social networking website for runners/athletes. It's great. I'm hooked. I'm making friends that inspire me and support me. I am cheering on random strangers for getting out and running, or cycling, or lifting weights. I love that site more than Facebook. Wait, no, I said that wrong. That sentence implies that I love Facebook; I don't. I never have. It's a way to keep in touch with some people, and a way to get annoyed with others. Sometimes friends on FB can be inspiring, but it's really not common. I have received more support from people on DM that I have never met than I have from people that are friends/family on FB. That's not to say all of my FB people are not supportive, I just feel that many of them are sick of hearing about my runs, or never cared in the first place. So, I now save those posts for the site that is made specifically for that purpose. We all have something in common and that is our love for our sport. It seems to be a feel good place, where whining about sore legs is the norm and drama is not.

With that said, there is something I need to fess up to. I don't want to. I'm embarrassed and disgusted with myself for it. But, since I have people that are supporting me with my running, maybe they will support me through this... I am a smoker. I am quitting, or trying to quit. It's tough. No, it's not tough... It's damn near f'n impossible. How the hell can I call myself a runner when I do the most non-runner thing there is? Aside from legs, what is the most important body part for a runner?? The lungs!!! And what do I do to these lungs of mine? I fill them with poisons! Not while I'm running, of course, but still. I have drastically cut back. I mean, a lot! But still... 2 cigarettes a day is still too much. You would think that I could just cut this out of my life so easily by putting it into perspective, but I haven't been able to yet. If I can run a 9:17 mile now, what could I do if I didn't smoke?? My goal is to have these awful things out of my life before I do that half-marathon. I WILL do that!! Even if I have to fork out the cash for Chantix. I can't be a smoker any more. There, I've done it, I've let this embarrassing skeleton out of the closet. I want to hide it from other runners, but if I want to be true to myself and get past this nastiness in my life, I need to own up to it.

So, there's my novel. I had no idea that I would end up being such a windbag. Next post should be much shorter, I hope...