Another post I knew I would write sometime even though I have tried my hardest not to write it. However, the stars aligned, so here it is. Hopefully it speaks to someone somewhere. This being vulnerable stuff is scary.
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I ran the Hershey Half Marathon again the other Sunday even though most of the important people in my life had no clue I was training for it. (Yes, Daniel knew.) I’m not totally clueless. I know non-runners really don’t want to hear all the gory details of another half marathon. (Cue rolling of eyes and thinking “Crazy runners.”)
Another BIG reason I didn’t mention my participation in this event was because this was my slowest time for being (somewhat) properly trained. I have excuses why I wasn’t able to train at my peak the past two months… injury, sickness, school start up was C.R.A.Z.Y., but I won’t make excuses.
In general, I am a slow runner, a slow processor, and a person who enjoys life at a slower pace. The problem is when I know other women my age are pulling out numbers well below my own time doing the same amount of training I did, my competitive side comes out, and it’s hard to be proud of my slowness.
I really struggled with this after the Hershey Half until I remembered why I run.
Why do I run all the boring miles? I run because it quiets the voices I battle inside my head, voices that could otherwise rule my life.
Now you’re completely convinced this running-crazed woman has run straight over the edge. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. But believe me, I have it more together right now than maybe at any other time in my life.
For some unknown reason when I was in seventh grade, I decided that thin was good and thinner was better. (Wow, that’s hard to say!) I translated being thinner to my becoming a more valuable and certainly a more attractive person.
Truly I don’t know where this idea originated. Fashion magazines, MTV, and Babewatch were banned at home. My friends and family didn’t diet. I was never told I was overweight or that if I dropped a few pounds, some guy would like me. Even so, I started severely limiting calories in order to achieve thinner.
Thankfully, I didn’t get very far in my self-sabotage. When my friends tried to force feed me and my parents called the school nurse to weigh me one random day, I cracked under the special attention I was receiving and resumed a somewhat more normal diet; however I still read food labels and counted calories like it was my job.
My feelings about being thinner became stronger as I was immersed in more pop culture in later years. Those feelings became the battleground where I spent a lot of time.
Somewhere in high school, I figured out that workout videos were a less-attention-getting means to attaining thinness. After hours of sweating with good ol’ Billy Blanks and his Tae bo routines, I felt slightly stronger even though nothing had dramatically changed on the outside as Billy Blanks had promised would happen in six weeks’ time.
I wish!!! I could say, “End of story. Billy cured me.” But I can’t. Into early adulthood I continued the workout videos and power walking while counting calories and measuring energy output, striving for thinner.
Sometime during my pre-running years, I dropped a few pounds (purely due to stress) and found myself a few pounds below the medically acceptable weight for my height. (I know this number because when you’re trying to be thinner, this number becomes a standard.) Someone told me he/she noticed I had lost weight and said that I was looking good.
The struggle flared stronger.
Thankfully soon after that, my breakthrough came. My neighbor convinced me to start running with her and that journey has brought about new and unwavering levels of respect for my body… as well as the concept of being healthy, both physically and mentally strong, not thin. Calories are no longer the enemy, but the source of strength to help me accomplish things I never imagined doing.
Still, running has not cured me 100% of my “thinner is better” mindset. It still lurks, waiting to pull out its bullhorn as soon as there is a mild hiccup in my routine. In as little as a week’s time of not running, the voices are at full blast, and my mind goes places that do not serve me well.
When people ask me how I can run all those boring miles, I tell them “Running is my therapy.” Most people think it’s an excuse to be self-indulgent, spending lots of time disregarding my family and other responsibilities. But it’s not an excuse. Running is literally the drug that keeps me from believing the lies that my mind would love for me to believe.
From now on, I will not belittle myself as a “slow runner.” I will be proud that I took time to invest in taking care of both my body and my mind, not only on race day, but through all the training that keeps me sane.
(Next topic: How do we keep our young girls from taking this trip to Crazy Town?)