Featured anyBODY Runner Christina S.

May/June 2012

Why I run:
Today, it’s because I can. It’s because my body physically can do it. I can go out and mentally know I can run 3, 5, 10, or 13.1 miles. It harkens back to high school when I couldn’t run the mile. I didn’t know how to run. I started too fast, never having had to run before for anything and dying before we were halfway through. There is a method to running that we were not taught and it’s awfully hard to take a sedentary person and make them run a mile. 

I have a friend who is an avid running advocate. She runs. She loves running…for the pure joy of running. I supported her because it was her passion, but never saw it as something for me. She always said I could do it, but it took a long time before I thought to try it myself. Eventually I wanted to see if I could do it. I found a one-mile race locally and trained. I didn’t think I could manage more than one mile after that. And I did run it. I trained for several months to run one mile…not 3.1 as in the Couch to 5k program - months just to run one single mile. And I finished…last. But, I ran the whole thing.

What keeps me going now is the thrill I get from completing a race…any race. I don’t care what the distance is; I still am amazed that I can cross the finish line. I can cross the line and be happy every time…regardless of the finish time. Sure, I have goals I want to meet each time, but the thrill of crossing the line…that’s what keeps me going.

What I get out of running:
I’ve always been an overweight person and running has and is helping me shed pounds. Part of what I get out of running goes along with being overweight. I do not look like a runner. I do not look athletic. I look like I sit on the sofa and do nothing. So, when I tell people I run or when I go to a race it gives me a positive feeling about myself. It’s like a secret; one that by looking at me you wouldn’t be privy to. To be overweight and know I can run a half marathon while others who are fit can’t? It’s an amazing ego boost. That may sound rude or selfish, but when you know how you are judged for your physical appearance it helps make toeing the line easier.

It has also helped me realize that I am how I define myself. I was laid off of a job in 2009 and I was really upset over it. At the time I was finishing an MA, which helped keep my self-confidence from plummeting. I eventually got hired for another job, but was let go after the training period. While I hated the job, it was still a huge blow to my self-esteem. In the long run, it has been a blessing I was let go, but that’s another non-running related story. But I was training for my first half marathon (2011 Disney Princess Half Marathon) at the time and crossing the finish line made me realize that I am defined by how I want to define myself. Work doesn’t have to be how I see myself, though I’ll admit it’s still hard to let go of that. Running that race made me see I can do anything I set my mind to. It takes dedication and a plan. I may falter along the way, not reach all the steps along the way, but I can do it. It may take longer than I thought, may be harder than I thought, but I can do it. If I can run 13.1 miles, I can do anything.

What my life would be like if I did not run:
I’m not one of those runners who do it solely for the love of running. I don’t think I ever will be that person who when they can’t run (for whatever reason) pines for it. I do it because 1. I know it’s good for me 2. It helps with my weight loss efforts and 3. It makes me feel better about myself knowing I can do it due to my size. I know I would miss the conversations with my running friends. I would miss commiserating about bad runs/hills/crazy races. I would miss the understanding what it takes to accomplish certain goals or distances. 

I’m not sure what I would be doing if I didn’t run. I started running because I had a pair of actual running shoes I had been fitted for when I decided to try it (apparently running shoes are also good hiking shoes, according to the sales person I had years ago). I suppose I might go for a walk for exercise. But, I have a feeling I would not be as into being active and losing weight as I am currently. When I run, I tend to work harder at eating healthier and doing other activities, especially now that I belong to the YMCA. I now challenge myself with a cardio kickboxing class, I use the treadmill to either get a weekday run in or work on hills, I use the stationary bike for cross-training, and I work with a trainer to strengthen my core and just push my boundaries. I believe I wouldn’t be doing any of this without running. I would still be the lazy person I was before who didn’t care. It’s a work in progress, but I think running has helped me get active and generally stay active.

What I would say to a new runner:
No matter how much you think you can’t, you can. It doesn’t matter how slow you are, how long it’s been since you’ve done anything athletic, how busy you are, how “out-of-shape” you are, how many people say you can’t (including the little voice in your head!), how long it takes, how slow you think you are or how slow you actually are, how awful you think you look in your running clothes, how many set-backs you have, how much further you think you should be, how many times you have to repeat a week in training, or how you think people will look at you while you’re out running. If you want to do it, you can. You can run. You can train to run a mile, or 3.1 or 5 or 6.3 or 13.1, or 26.2. It’s a matter of deciding you can. Once you make that decision, no matter how long it takes, you can do it. 

I would also tell a new runner that not everyone can start running using Couch to 5k. I couldn’t. I wasn’t in shape enough to run the times listed in the program. And the first time or two I tried, I was discouraged and stopped. I felt like a failure. I felt like I did every time I tried to do something athletic. But then I decided to try something else. I belonged to a gym that did stations of 30 seconds each. So, during the cardio stations I ran in place. I then started doing 60 seconds of running, then 90 seconds. I continued to add 30 second segments until I could go 5 minutes. Eventually, I went outside and ran on a track at the park until I could run 1 mile. A slow one mile, but a full mile. So, if you can’t manage the Couch to 5k program it doesn’t mean you can’t be a runner. Don’t give up. If you really want this, you can. It may take longer, but who cares? Running is for you. And each time you accomplish a goal, each time you finish a run, each time you exceed your goal you are successful. You are a runner.

What else does the new runner need to know?
I would like to emphasize that for anyone who is overweight or has never run before, running can be intimidating. It’s not like swimming, riding a bike, walking, or going for a hike. It may seem like you need all sorts of “things” – GPS, specialized shoes, tech-gear clothing, gu’s/beans/bars. It may seem that the only people running when you pass by are in shape. It may seem like people will look at you funny because you don’t fit the running ideal. But running is equal opportunity. Anyone can run if they want to. No matter your size, shape, or weight running is accessible. You have to work at it, just like anything else, but it can be mastered. You can run a 5k, a 10k, a half marathon, a marathon, or any other distance length if you put in the time and effort. Or you can go out and run for the fun of it. You can just go out and find new paths, courses, or trails to run. It’s a fantastic form of exercise and if you’ve always been afraid to try it conquering the miles helps you realize you can do anything. It’s the whole cliché you hear on t.v. – if I can do it, anyone can! But it really is true when you accomplish your running goals, you can do anything you set your mind to!

Age: 36
Height: 5’4 ¾” or 5’5” which is what I tell people!
Weight: 155
City: Manchester
State: PA

Follow Christina at http://nevertrade.blogspot.com/

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