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A Newsletter Article I wrote for the new year...

Friday, December 31, 2010

I was encouraged by my running club's President to write 'my story' for the group's newsletter. Sharing that much of myself is challenging for me. It makes me feel vulnerable, but since I did it for the Vermont City Marathon blog in November, I thought why not? Maybe it would help another newbie runner who felt like I did. I know my experience is just that, MINE. Someone else might not have a similar experience, but I'm a firm believer that if you open yourself up and step out of your comfort zone with an open mind and open heart, good things will come to you. Too often I think people would rather stay stuck in their 'victimhood' or play the 'martyr' or just stay the same so they have something to complain about. Staying the same can be comfortable in it's discomfort...the devil we know is less scary than the unknown. Been there. That's why I stayed heavy for as long as I did. I might have been unhappy, but at least I knew what I was in for. Making changes is scary. Not knowing how things are going to turn out...very scary, especially for someone who likes to be in control (that would be me! LOL). I still like control, but I'm learning to open myself up to the unknown more and more and take risks. I have found that the more I put in to something, the more I get out of it, but I have to be willing to put in the energy, the openness, whatever the case may be, to get anything out of it. The host of a podcast series I listen to says something very similar, but I can't remember the exact quote otherwise I would post it. :0)

Writing this article fit with my annual 'Reflections' that I write up as a month by month review of the past year and has me looking forward to 2011 with great hope, joy, optimism, and yes, a little fear! I am still me afterall!! LOL.

From 5ks to 26.2 miles…Becoming a Runner & Becoming a Stryder (Finally!)

I joined the Stryders in early 2008. At least that’s when I mailed in my membership form and check. I didn’t actually go to a Saturday morning run, meeting, or race. Attend a Wednesday workout? Seriously?! No way. I received the e-mails and newsletters and enjoyed seeing what everyone else was doing, but honestly, I was intimidated by all of the ‘real’ runners. I was a new runner, really new, so new, I don’t know if I could actually call myself a runner at that point. I didn’t show up for anything because I didn’t know what to expect. What are the runs like? Would anyone talk to me? Would I be able to keep up? How far would I have to run? What if I failed? Good grief. The prospect of those Saturday morning “fun” runs overwhelmed me with anxiety. It was easier to keep putting off ‘showing up’ to the next week and the week after that and so on.

I started running in 2008 because to be a runner, in my opinion, was to be an athlete and I hadn’t felt like an athlete in a very long time. While I was active growing up and played several sports, as an adult I was more focused on college, work, and graduate school. Being active wasn’t a priority and I lived on fast and convenient food. Needless to say, I gained a lot of weight. In 2002, with exercise and healthy eating, I lost 75 lbs. Unfortunately, as is often the case, in 2003 I started regaining the weight and by 2007, I’d regained all of the weight I’d lost plus about 30 more pounds. I didn’t have a big ‘a-ha’ moment or a health crisis to motivate me to get back on track, but in January 2007, I decided I had to make some changes so I could live a healthier life. In 10 months, by eating healthier and exercising, I lost over 100 pounds. However, since I’d been down this road before I knew I needed to do something different if I was going to keep the weight off and lose the last 30 or so pounds to reach my goal. That’s when I decided to try running. It seemed that many weight loss success stories featured people training for races so I thought doing the same might help keep me motivated.

That’s how I came to join the Stryders. I thought having a group to motivate, inspire, and encourage me would help me reach my goal of running my first 5k. But, I couldn’t get over my anxiety and fear and take advantage of the group so I trained for my first 5k on my own on my treadmill. I ran that first 5k on 10/11/2008, though right up until I pinned my bib on, I was looking for an ‘escape clause’ and a reason not to go through with it. But, I did it. I ran the entire distance (first goal), but didn’t hit my time goal (I was over by 1 minute). My disappointment was short lived though, once the sense of accomplishment sunk in. I had done it. Something a year before I couldn’t have imagined or been able to do. Seeing my name in the Stryder newsletter alongside all of the ‘real’ runners was a boost too. Yet, I still didn’t have the confidence to show up at a Stryder ‘event’, but I renewed my membership anyway.

In 2009, I joined the No Boundaries beginner’s running group through Fleet Feet. I knew I could run a 5k already, but the program gave me the opportunity to train with a group and to run outdoors, something I’d only done a few times. I did six 5ks and two 10ks that year and increased my running distance to 10 miles by November. Running with the No Boundaries group finally gave me the confidence to volunteer with the Stryders for the Silks and Satins 5k and to attend my first Saturday morning run. It was a start, but it would take several more months and a fateful e-mail for me to really feel like a Stryder.

In the Fall of 2009, I saw a notice in the newsletter about the Stryder Master Women’s Racing team and sent an e-mail to Pam, the team’s captain, to get more information. Basically, I wanted to know could anyone join or did you have to be fast and/or a competitive runner? Pam was so welcoming and put me right at ease that I decided to join since I would turn 40 in January 2010. It must have been fate. It’s difficult to sum up the impact joining the team has had on me this year. There is so much I wouldn’t have done if not for my teammates and their encouragement and endless support. Not only did I get to run races with the team in our cool singlets and collect some great prizes, but I got to hang out with a group of amazing women who have taught me so much. Thanks to my teammates, I finally had the nerve to attend the infamous Wednesday speed workouts. A bit intimidating still, but encouraging words from my teammates, Coach Jeff, and the other Stryders, whose names I didn’t even know yet, made those challenging workouts something I actually looked forward to.

Getting to know other runners also inspired and motivated me to step outside my comfort zone and push myself to train for longer distance races, including three 15ks and 4 half marathons this year. My biggest accomplishment is most definitely the fact that on 10/10/10, I became a MARATHONER when I ran the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon. What strikes me most about this achievement is that it occurred 1 day before the 2 year anniversary of my first ever race, that first 5k that I nearly talked myself out of doing. In less than 2 years, I went from a 5k to 26.2 miles and now plan to challenge myself by adding triathlons to my fitness plan for 2011. I couldn’t have imagined any of this back in 2007 when I was closer to 300 lbs than I like to admit.

I am definitely not the fastest runner and I may never place in my age group at a race, but that’s not why I run. I started running to feel like an athlete and to maintain my weight loss (and lose a little more). I continue running because I now see myself as a runner and running is what runners do. Plus, I now have friends who are runners and I enjoy the socialization and camaraderie. “For Friends, Fun and Fitness!” is the team motto and that sums up exactly why I run. It may have taken two years, but I not only see myself as a runner, but also as a Saratoga Stryder (and couldn’t be prouder!) and I have the singlet and hoodie to prove it!
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