From gymnastics to volleyball, track, competitive soccer, and collegiate cheer. I’ve always been on the go for as long as I can remember.
But in my senior year of college, I had stalled out. Years of constant partying paired with an awful diet left me feeling run down, burnt out, and just plain crappy. Finally, on a whim, I signed up for my first race: The Nike Women’s (half) Marathon in San Francisco (okay, so I had ulterior motives. The finishing medal is a Tiffany & Co necklace. Talk about incentive).
Flash forward, past graduation, to August 2013. I had been suddenly offered a job opportunity in Salt Lake City, Utah and within a week of accepting, it was “goodbye, California” and “hello, new city”.
Before, I was half-heartedly training. Jogging here and there whenever I felt like it, nothing serious. However, in Utah, running became a means of exploring my new city and an outlet for the endless amounts of stress brought on by work. It was my comfort and for a while, it was my only friend out here. By the time October rolled around and it was race time, I had logged enough miles to consider myself unstoppable.
My first race was the most miserable athletic experience of my life. I made every mistake in the book. I started too fast, I stressed over my times, I had over-hydrated and under fed myself, and I honestly thought I would win. Halfway through, I wanted to cry. Nope, scratch that, I did cry. The full-on ugly Kim Kardashian cry, too.
Afterward, my friend laughed and said, “Come on! You just finished your first race! That’s such an accomplishment! You should be proud of yourself.” But I couldn’t see it that way. I wanted to give up running, why bother when I would never win anything?! But by nature, I’m not a quitter. So I hunted down the toughest race I could find in the area and vowed to do it right this time. I found a grueling trail marathon in Park City: The North Face Endurance Challenge Series. It was perfect!
I found a coach, picked up some proper running shoes, read books, and cleaned up my diet. Halfway through training, I was on track to complete my first ever marathon…and then I lost my job. I quickly found a retail position but my new training plan exceeded my new $900/month income. I had to cut corners. I scaled my nutrition plan way back, I wore my shoes out until they had holes, and I ate only enough to keep moving but I was determined to compete.
I couldn’t have been happier with my decision. After a very long 6 hours, I sprinted through the finish line of my first marathon with the biggest smile on my face. I felt amazing! I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than I was at the finish line. I couldn’t stop laughing and grinning, the picture of pure joy. Later in the day, I learned I had placed Top 10 Women’s Overall and had taken 1st in my age group. Uh, wow.
While the road to my first marathon isn’t particularly tragic, it was incredibly challenging. I faced down a million signs telling me to turn around, to quit. I’m heavy for a distance runner. I was poor but I found a way to nourish myself without sacrificing my belief in whole foods. I was working long hours at a miserable job with no relief in sight. I was also diagnosed with a bio-mechanical issue in my foot and was told it could only be corrected with extremely expensive custom inserts or with surgery, neither of which I could afford.
But these obstacles weren’t enough to stop me. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful support network comprised of my family, friends back home, and my coach. That is what I want to be for those of you following me on this journey: a supporter. Working toward what seem like impossible goals is daunting and frankly, terrifying. But I’ve found that the biggest limits we face are the ones we impose on ourselves.
I found my heart on the trails in Utah. After spending hours alone with myself, the nagging voice telling me “you can’t do this” faded away. It was just me, the rhythm of my breath harmonizing with my steps, and the sounds of nature. Regardless of what you’re training for, be it a 5K, 10K, an ultra, or just life… I want you to actively take steps every day to achieve your goal.
Because if not now…when?