Transforming one’s body from couch potato to athlete is no easy feat. Especially when negative self-talk and emotional demons get in the way.
Click “submit,” I thought, staring at my computer screen. A few minutes went by until finally the haunting click of my keyboard mouse submitted my registration for the Fifth Third Riverbank Run 25K. I had no idea the journey I had just signed myself up for, but I knew I needed something: something to kick me into a whirlwind of challenges and failures which would ultimately lead me to victory.
I was not always a runner. I absolutely hated running with every fiber of my being. I would begin the mile run in gym class with a slow but steady jog. As soon as I knew my gym teacher could no longer see me, I would walk, huffing and puffing with each step. I hated seeing my peers run past me looking effortless. I wish I could do that, I remember thinking.
My hatred for running grew stronger in high school. Over those four years, I put on between 40 and 50 pounds. I hated myself. I hated wearing anything but a baggy sweatshirt and jeans. I shamed myself into believing this was who I was going to be: miserable. When I graduated, however, something seemed to snap. Closing that chapter of my life meant a new beginning to me not just for my life and education, but for my soul and spirit. It was during my first two years after high school that I began going to the gym on campus and walking the scenic back roads. I discovered these times to be moments of reflection and self-awareness. A lot of these times were not fun—a lot of raw, honest self-talk took place. You’re ridiculous, the negative voices would hiss, you’re not worth feeling good about yourself. But it was during these walks that I discovered I hated feeling the way I did about myself. I hated feeling miserable and worthless. It was during these walks I discovered enough anger to finally do something about it.
In 2011, I ran my first 5K. For the girl who hated running a mere mile, 3.1 miles was no small feat. I remember feeling exhausted and raw with emotion. All of the negativity of my past crept its way into the present and filled my mind. This battle was not going to be easy, I thought as my legs pulsed and contracted beneath me. But I knew fighting the battle was necessary. I needed to rise up and look my demons in the eyes and fight. With every last part of me, I pressed on. My legs ached, my body felt empty and raw. I came up to the finish line, lifted my arms and crossed it. As I slowed down to walk, I became extremely aware of my body and the work it does for me. My legs, back and core carried me. The blood pumped strongly and pulsed throughout my arms and legs. My lungs felt wide open as they rose and fell with air. I did it, I thought, I really did it. Feelings of accomplishment, self-worthiness and ambition rushed over me. I felt physically and spiritually strong. I wanted to feel this way all the time.
In the spring of 2012, I ran my first 10K with the Fifth Third River Bank Run. My addiction for running grew stronger as the feelings of accomplishment and self-worth increased with each new mile. In 2013, I ran the 10K once again, but finished knowing next time I had to go big.
This year, I signed up for my first-ever half-marathon and 25K, both of which will take place within a month of each other. I’ve shared this decision with family and friends to which I, unsurprisingly, receive the same response: “You’re going to do what? Do you even know how far that is?” I know how far it is and full disclosure, it terrifies me. When asked if I’m excited, I choose to say ‘yes’ because if I don’t, I let my past demons get that much closer. Sure, I’m a much better runner than I was three years ago, but the self-talk and negativity stills lingers.
Something I find so incredibly refreshing is how supportive and real the running community is. At first glance, yes, it can be intimidating. A lot of them look at one mile or even three miles as a warm-up. But I’ve come to discover how encouraging they are.
I’m reminded frequently by experienced runners that everyone started in the same place; everyone ran/walked that first mile. You will have bad days. You will have days when you feel defeated and beaten down and it will be bad. Really bad. But then you will have a really incredible day, when you feel invincible and like the most valued person in the world because you freaking did it. You overcame your self-doubt and demons.
I am currently in my ninth week of training for the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon and the River Bank Run 25K. Yes, I have bad days. Yes, my demons win sometimes. But I know just around the corner is that moment all runners can tell you about: that moment of empowerment, ambition and self-worth. I’m not training to prove anything to anyone. I’m not running these races because I feel like everyone else is. I’m putting in the hours, the sweat and the pain for me. I run because those demons need to be in their place and that place is not the present.
This story was originally published at The Rapidian