Overcoming Big J
“Big J” is what they called me. For most of my middle school years, this was the nickname I was chosen to carry and carry I did. Being heavier set for most of my life and not possessing one athletic gene in my body (thanks to my middle brother for hogging most of them), I began to believe that “Big J” is all I would ever amount to. I was average at just about everything I tried and, obviously, because I wasn’t skinny, I never thought of myself as beautiful and wouldn’t fit in with the popular kids.
Through high school and even into college, I struggled with my body image, my self-confidence was through the floor, and I attributed every negative encounter with a human to my weight. Though I wasn’t around the group that donned me “Big J” anymore, mentally I absolutely believed the lie that, because I was bigger, my value and abilities were worth just a little bit less in the world. For whatever reason, I always had a secret dream of being a runner. I so desperately wanted to be one of those people who would say, “I’m going to go for a run” and casually run 4 miles. But at every attempt, I would make it about 7 minutes before essentially needing an inhaler and stretcher.
Fast forward to my first-year post-grad school. I was living with friends in Atlanta and experiencing my first year of “adult life”. It was exciting, it was terrifying, and it was incredibly freeing. And remember those people I talked about? The ones who could just casually go run 3 or 4 miles? I LIVED WITH ONE. There were days I was inspired, there were days I was mad, and there were days I was ashamed. I came really close to shutting the door on my secret dream; maybe Big J just wasn’t made to be a runner.
And it was in that moment that I had a realization: I WAS NOT MADE TO LIVE THIS WAY. Who the hell decided that:
- I was ok with being called Big J.
- Kelly Johnson was not capable of anything she put her mind to?
I realized that I had spent 25 years being told and telling myself that I was incapable, unworthy, and invaluable, because of my WEIGHT. So, I decided to do something about it.
With a LOT of grit, perseverance, and one heck of a cheering squad, I completely changed my lifestyle. But, it wasn’t about the weight. Yes, the numbers were going down, but it was about choosing a healthy lifestyle. Then one day, I tried it: I went to the gym with my running roommate, hopped on a treadmill, and started running. I ran, and ran, and ran, and was continually shocked every time a few minutes passed by and I was STILL going. Before I knew it, I had been running for THIRTY MINUTES. And that was the day that everything changed.
Fast forward 2 years, I have now run 2 half marathons, a 25k, and my first full marathon last fall. I began running to prove to the world that you could do anything you put your mind to. But what I realized, during mile 17 of that marathon, was that the world already believed I could. In reality, this journey was for me: to prove to MYSELF that I could make the impossible possible. The only one telling me that I wasn’t strong enough, that I wasn’t fit enough, that I could not be that kind of athletic person, was ME.
So, here’s to you Big J: You set out running to prove a point to the world of how strong you could be, and in end, proved to yourself how strong you’ve always been.
For more from Kelly Johnson, you can follow her on Instagram.