If you asked me five years ago what I thought about running I would have said it sucked, plain and simple. Running was a tedious, monotonous, and damn boring task. I hated the thought of stepping on a treadmill, and staring at my pallid sweaty reflection struggling to stay upright for fifteen minutes. I hated the idea of wasting half a day running, stretching, showering and stretching some more. But, most importantly, I hated the idea of running because I hated everything — because I hated myself.
So what would compel me, an avid pessimist and Debbie Downer, to start running? An accident actually.
As I explained before, I found my passion for running in the summer of 2010, after a decade long battle with depression, half-hearted relationships and self-loathing. I never set out to become a runner, but it happened when my dear friend invited me to participate in Tough Mudder. For those unacquainted, Tough Mudder is 10 to 12 miles of pure hell. It contains obstacles no one of a sane mind would try, and while it is not a race, per say, it is the self-proclaimed “toughest” event on the planet. (I make it sound amazing, I know.) But I saw the disclaimer and death waiver, I read the “not for the faint of heart” warning, and jumped all in, totally unprepared for what lay ahead but totally unable to turn down a challenge.
I ran my first mile through the suburban streets of Northeast Philadelphia. I struggled to breath, my feet throbbed and my calves ached — the typical “running” complaints, all of the things that make most people stop. But those things were what captivated me. Not only had I made it, which was something in its own right, but I wanted more. I had desire. I had motivation, and I had feeling. And even though that feeling may have been a late night Charlie horse, it was feeling all the same.
That run was everything. I was in control, and though I didn’t know it yet, I was literally making strides for my life.
It started with little goals. I would push a block or two further one day and run a second or two faster the next. Before long one mile turned to two and two to four. By the time I ran my first 5-miler (a practice run, not an event), I was hooked.
My marathon mantra is simple: “you’ve gotta put one foot in front of the other; put your other foot down, down, down.” (Thanks Revenge of the Nerds!) But the reasons I run are complex. I run to keep my body out of bed and my head above the covers. I run to overcome my past, to escape my present (though I’m not always proud of this one) and to realize I can endure anything the future may throw my way. I run because it is the only time the voices in my head tell me I can — because it is the only time I tell me I am good enough or strong enough. I run to feel. I run to remind myself I am alive.
On Sunday, I will run the MORE/FITNESS/SHAPE Half Marathon to #LetItGo, and I would like to encourage my fellow runners to do the same.
The idea is simple: We all have stories we hang onto, moments which have forever changed who we are (for good or ill). We all have skeletons in our closets and baggage stuffed beneath our beds, and I, for one, am tired of being weighed down by this crap. I have taken control of my body, now it is time to take control of my life, and so on Sunday, each pack of GU or PowerGel I use will have a message written on it, a moment or memory I am ready to let go of, take control of, and toss aside. At the usual fueling increments I plan to read my note, consume that carbohydrate blast, and #letitgo, leaving it somewhere in Central Park.
I am going to use this race as a way of healing some of those past traumas. I am going to use this race to change my story and, in my case, to shift my mentality from victim to survivor.
But your moment doesn’t have to be major. It could be something small, like letting go of the resentment you hold toward your boss or husband for that argument you had last Friday or simply stating “you are a not bad mom” — and, the hard part, believing it — or it could be something that has held you back for 30-plus years, but I encourage all of my running friends to consider this.
Trust in yourself as you trust in your legs. Use the strength and fellowship of your peers to strengthen your resolve, and use your physical strength on the asphalt to strengthen your mind and your soul.
Tell me why you run, and help make the #LetItGo running movement catch on.