I have always been a runner. I grew up in a running household, following the swift steps of the siblings before me right onto the cross country course and the old red and new powder blue tracks. I honestly didn’t question it deeply, if at all. I loved to run, I was fairly good at it, and I wanted to run every day.
However, as I got older and the ticking of time and the pounding on pavement reminded me of my injury-prone knees, I had to compromise my running schedule. I had to trade in days on for days off. I had to decide whether I was going to join in on the post-work drinks or take the few hours to go to the gym. I had to choose between sleeping in after a night out working late or getting my ass out of bed to work out, to get a run in.
I began to slack off, more and more. My bed became cozier each morning. My work became more important. My relationship with running waned against my relationship with alcohol and each new, exciting night out in a new city.
The obvious happened. I gained a little weight. I grew more unhealthy, losing discipline with what I ate, with what I drank and how I balanced my own work-life. My skin grew pallid and dry, my teeth staining over time, my lungs not as strong. I would get 1-3 runs in during the week, but these runs were laughable. Every mile I went out on, I began to feel worse and worse. Until, over time, I felt as though I was an imposter to the sport I once loved. Meeting up at a run club made me feel as though I did not belong there anymore. It was a surreal feeling, as though I could not quite remember my past life as a runner. It was as though I had dreamt the whole thing up in my head.
Somehow during that time, I made my way into my first marathon. Well, more like I fell into it. My job hooked me up with a free entry and I couldn’t say no. I pinned the bib number to my singlet, promised to rep my company and joined the thousands of runners on the Texas starting line. I went out devastatingly slow and somehow managed to negative-split (running the second half faster than the first half). In the end, it was a disappointing time, but considering the shape my body was in, I was happy with it. It knocked something over inside my head, though. It was as though my past-runner self was crouched behind a dark panel and that race knocked it to the side slightly revealing her. But, the lighting was still dim.
I pseudo-trained and ran another marathon, this time in NYC. With additional mileage under my belt and the knowledge of what it meant to run 26.2 miles, I was able to take off 20 minutes from my first time. This was a joyous and welcomed improvement. My spirit was lifting and my body was reminding me of everything I was capable of. The past-runner in my mind was now getting up out of hiding, brushing the dust off her knees and starting to stretch.
And then, life started to happen around me. My sisters began running harder and more often. One even entered into her first marathon. Friends and strangers were not just taking up the sport around me, but they were FLOURISHING in their health. 6-Packs splashed my Facebook wall, MapMyRun miles were noted prominently, and PRs were listed triumphantly in statuses and on Instagram. I overheard people talking in Whole Foods and on the street around me about their training. It was as though the running bug had bitten everyone.
With my past-runner self stretching patiently in the corner of my mind, I knew that I had to proactively take charge. I was not just going to become a good runner again. I had to change my life to accommodate it. I started dating a very health-conscious, motivated and gym-geared guy. I left my job in sales (although it was within the running industry) and chased after freelance work, something I had wanted to do since I graduated college. I mapped out a training plan that would get me in shape for the next marathon and keep my knees and joints healthy and happy, too. My life began to take shape and morph back into the runner—and person—I wanted to be.
I changed my eating habits, as well. I began to eat healthier, trying to take in 4-5 small and nutrient-packed meals a day and loading up on more fruits and veggies. I began to listen to my body and take rest when I needed it and push to the extreme when possible. Every minute of the day, a water bottle is within reach. My cupboards in the kitchen are lined with women’s multi-vitamins, fish oil capsules, Vitamin C supplements and proteins that I take daily.
And now? Now, my head isn’t as foggy or cluttered as it was a year ago. My body feels strong. Every run I feel more powerful and more in control. My past-runner is no longer stretching in the corners of my mind— she’s here, mid-pack, waiting for the right moment to surge to the front. There is always another marathon to train for, after all.
Thanks for the love. Run with your heart, xo Babs