My story is not that different than anyone else. I graduated from college, started my first real job as a child welfare caseworker – a field completely unrelated to my degree, of course. I got married on 07/07/07 and we adopted two dogs – Grace and Sadie. Back then, I would have told you I lived a great life, until I discovered – and not without a whole lot of things going really wrong first – that there is more to life and more to me. I wanted more, I needed more, but I had no idea where or with what to start.
I did know that I never felt well, I was always tired, and for all the happiness I thought I had found, I was pretty down on myself. I had no self-esteem, no self-confidence and I didn’t believe in myself for a second. I had steadily been gaining weight since my sophomore year of college and since graduation, the pounds really started to pack on. I even felt fat in my wedding dress. For my entire life I had struggled with a thyroid disorder that left me worn out and feeling sluggish most of the time, but it wasn’t until I found myself about 75 pounds overweight (the heaviest I had ever been) and on the border of becoming a full-blown diabetic that I decided to do something about how I felt and looked. The first step was to get my mind set straight – and for me, being told I could, among many unpleasant things, die an early death – did it. I hated myself greatly, but I wasn’t ready to die!
One day, I set out for the lousy park behind my apartment that offered a “track.” Okay, more like a bumpy path with graffiti and cracks all over it, but it was a place to run that did not involve traffic or driving to get there. Sure, I had run Cross Country – in middle school – I don’t think I had run a step since then. I had no idea what to do, except put one foot in front of the other, which I did. I ran for 30 seconds that day and went home breathless and near-tears.
But, after the first step, the rest just seemed to fall into place. I started strength and circuit training with a personal trainer one, two, and then three days a week. I started eating the right foods at the right times, I started writing everything down, and I started running. I ran around that track once, then twice, and then I ran a mile and a half, much to my complete and utter shock. Don’t get me wrong and think it was all a breeze from there. The changes I made in my lifestyle came a little at a time, and I had the constant encouragement of my husband, family, and friends. My very first steps were small. I walked into the gym. I walked one lap around the track. I ate breakfast two days a week instead of drinking coffee. I swapped out one serving of rice for a vegetable. I drank more water. I started getting books on fitness and nutrition. I started talking to other people about what they did to stay healthy. And I ran– for 30 seconds at a time.
Compared to those first baby steps, I have taken amazing strides over the last two years. I ran my first half marathon on August 30, 2009 – my 28th birthday – in just over three hours, and I have run many more half marathons since then. I ran my first full Marathon in Pittsburgh on May 15, 2011 in just under 7 hours (Hey, I never claimed to be fast!). I have worked hard to learn about and eat the foods that are critical to keep me fit and healthy, including going gluten-free towards the end of 2012. I drink water almost exclusively. I enjoy hearing about the personal fitness and weight-loss journeys of others. I am working hard to develop a strong body and achieve my weight-loss and fitness goals.
My life became different – and not only in terms of fitness and nutrition. I had lost over 50 pounds, stabilized my thyroid hormones for the first time ever, decreased my cholesterol levels dramatically, and was no longer at high-risk for developing Type II Diabetes. I was happier, healthier, and I enjoyed my life so much more than I used to. I wanted to be around others again – especially my husband and was no longer embarrassed by the way I looked around him.
I observed the people around me changing too. My mother, Darlene, started running at 61 years old (after having always dreamed of being a runner) with the No Boundaries program and ran her first 5K in August 2010. I crossed the finish line by her side. My sister, Mollie, also started running, and trained for and completed her first half in May 2010. The three of us shared common goals and frustrations for the first time ever. We were athletes – my mother and I for the first time. And, of course, my father, Bill, is the best support crew a team could ask for.
And, running has brought me so many wonderful opportunities to meet new people and form some of the greatest friendships of my life.
But, even my journey has been riddled with setbacks from time to time. Not unlike my running – you have a good day, and then three bad days; you love running then you never want to do it again; you have a crappy 5K and a perfectly wonderful 4 mile training run the next morning. Like anyone, I’ve had my fair share of injuries – including a nagging knee problem.
Still, life has a way of dealing you an unanticipated hand just when things seem to be going well. My mother passed away unexpectedly on April 21, 2011 while on a four mile training run two weeks before her first Quarter Marathon. We buried her in her running shoes the day after Easter, and I and many of my fellow runners ran the Cap City Quarter Marathon (her goal race) in her honor. I know my mom was there that day, but it just doesn’t seem fair. She worked so hard to cross that Finish Line. I know we carried her memory through, and she was awarded a medal with such heartfelt kindness that is brings tears to my eyes still.
Running has not been the same for me since that day. Everything has changed and since then, everyday has been a struggle for one reason or another. My mother was my biggest fan – in everything I did, but especially in running. She always believed in me, even when I did not want to believe in myself. I have found support and comfort from the running community, both in person and online and am grateful for the outpouring of kindness my fellow athletes show.
In recent months, my life has yet again taken a plunging twist and I have lost most if not all of my endurance and strength after suffering a deep vein thrombosis that lead to a pulmonary embolism (or blood clot) in my lung. I have not run except for a few steps since May 2012. I’m back to ground zero, with even more health concerns than I initially had. I know my mother would never want me to stop running because of all that has happened, and I also know she would be the first one to encourage me to start getting my life back, which I will do one day at a time-again.
Welcome to my journey. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoy sharing it with you.