“I hate running” or “I can’t run” used to be the things you would hear me utter when people suggested that I take up some sort of strenuous physically activity for my own good. I was that person and I honestly believed that I did hate running and couldn’t possibly ever be a runner. I wasn’t particularly athletic as a child or adolescent and I didn’t know anyone who ran. It seemed to me that this activity was only for a select group of individuals with a particular physical build and penchant for pain. I always had an excuse to not try. I had no time, or I had sciatica, or a sore knee. There was always a reason not to try.
Then there came a moment in time a little over four years ago when everything changed. Nothing drastic happened. I just experienced a quiet epiphany. I observed people around me and I got honest with myself. I knew that if I didn’t do something to lose weight and get fit I would start to experience serious health problems moving into my mid life stage. I was tired and heavy and I felt buried inside myself. I didn’t really recognize the person I saw reflected in the mirror anymore, and I tried not to look in mirrors too often. The thing that motivated change the most was my fear of becoming a person who would require medication and other medical interventions to address health issues that were self induced. Also, I didn’t want to feel confined and limited by my own perception of what I was capable of.
I started walking and for some months that’s all I could manage. My pain and discomfort was real because I was very unfit. Gradually the walking turned into short bursts of jogging, and then one day I jogged for two miles without stopping and I knew I’d made a major breakthrough. My breakthroughs were private and I quietly pushed through my own boundaries as I ran on my own over months and watched with amazement as the weight dropped off me and my strength increased.
On the first anniversary of my commitment to change I weighed myself and I’d lost 56 pounds. Six months later I ran my first half marathon distance.
This is how I came to love running and how I now consider myself a runner. It changed my life for the better and covering all those miles, pounding the pavements throughout my neighborhood I thought a lot about my work in communities with people that I have grown to love, respect and admire. I thought a lot about the hardships and challenges they overcome on a daily basis living with various diseases. On one of my runs, shortly after becoming an event director at one place I worked, it occurred to me that we should offer a 5k Fun Run in addition to the traditional 5k Walk we had always coordinated. I thought this would be a great way to get a new group of people to our event but there was another striking connection that motivated me to start organizing.
I know that runners, in training, especially when they are starting out like I did, just need to focus on each step, pace themselves and persevere through discomfort. Sometimes a run can feel great and at other times not so great, but runners keep going. You just have faith that each step counts, each mile counts, each run counts. You just have to have faith that your effort will create positive change. It’s like working on a large scale community event. You know that each volunteer hour counts, each walker or runner that turns up counts, and each dollar that is raised counts. Like training, every bit of effort counts. Runners know this and people who work for social change know this too. When you are trying to achieve personal goals to make your own life better it takes effort, perseverance and commitment. When your goals are about something greater than yourself and when you strive to make life better for others, the same principle applies. It takes effort, perseverance and commitment. So, every day I work hard to make things better in my community and every day … I run. Every step, every breath, and every bit of effort counts.
First written in April 2014, re-edited on November 8, 2015