Running Gave Me the Strength To Believe In Myself
Most success stories begin with a loving family and a ton of support, or so people want you to believe. True success comes from those dark, painfully sad moments in our lives. True success comes from how we overcome those moments. In my short 27 years, I have had more dark and painful moments than I would have liked. Now, my story, although has its sad moments, isn’t a sad story. It’s a story of success. But we have to start from the beginning to not only appreciate it, but to see where it came from.
I was primarily raised in foster care from age 4 to 16. At 18, I moved out of my biological mom’s house due to her abuse and was taken in by my wonder parents who I had met only 2 years prior. Throughout my years in foster care, I was often told I would become a nobody, that I was a nobody, and that I couldn’t accomplish anything. During what is supposed to be the most important time in a child’s life, I was moved from home to home, rejected at each. I became very self-conscious and had no faith in myself.
Whether it was growing up in foster care or living with my abusive mother, oftentimes I would either go without food or the food I had was from a box, creating an unhealthy relationship with food that I continue to struggle with now. I also was not active. I had severe asthma and thought I could never be athletic, although I wanted to be, mainly because the athletic kids had friends and family that came to their games. I would have dreams of me running with no asthma and when I woke up the next morning I would feel alive until I tried to run and realized I couldn’t.
I was never taught how to eat healthily or ease into an activity, so I would give up before I even began. When I was 18, shortly after I moved out of my mom’s, my adoptive dad gave me his hybrid (road/mountain) bike and I started to ride. In the summer of 2008, I would ride 20+ miles before breakfast, and then another 20+ before dinner. The freedom I felt on the bike was nothing I had ever felt before. Slowly, I saw what my body could do, but I was only 18 and didn’t appreciate it until I could no longer do it. Cycling when I was 18 wasn’t about getting fit or being healthy like it was for other 18-year-olds. Honestly, those were the last things on my mind. Cycling was an escape for me. It was a thing I could do by myself, where I could travel on empty Oregonian back roads and be one with nature.
When I started college, I stopped riding. The ‘freshman 15’ became the ‘freshman, sophomore and junior 20,’ at least. I dropped out of college halfway through my junior year and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. I brought my bike along, too. I would ride from time to time, but I had lost what attracted me to it so long ago and ended up selling it.
About 8 months after moving to Las Vegas, I met and started dating my first boyfriend. I was 22 years old and oh so young, but I was happy, or so I thought. About 5 months into our relationship, I found out he had cheated on me in the past and was starting to do so again. I thought he was the best I could do. I was at my heaviest: 170 pounds on my 5’5” stocky frame. I had never felt loved until him and his family (other than my parents) so I stayed with him. I tried to forgive him, but the forgiveness wouldn’t happen because I felt it was my fault.
About 5 months after I found out he cheated on me, he broke up with me and I felt my life was out of my control. I felt that the only thing I could control was how busy I was and what I ate…or didn’t eat. Within 4 or 5 weeks after the breakup, I went from 160 to 125. Now some may think, 125. Wow, great! No! On my frame, at 125, I looked as sick as I was. I would go 2 or 3 days with little to no food because I couldn’t sit down for long without thinking of my ex and feeling sick.
So I stayed busy. I would also get a rush from the dizziness and weakness I felt from starving my body. It became like a high for me. It took me about 4 months to realize I was sick and I needed help, but finally, I sought it out. I slowly started to eat, to deal with the emotions I felt, and to slow down my life and take control. Sadly, my ex and I got back together 2 more times, so we dated off and on for just shy of 3 years. All 3 times, he cheated on me…
On December 8th, 2013, a little over a year after I dropped down to 125, I was healthy again and at 140. So I laced up my non-running shoes, started Week 1, Day 1 of the C25K program, and started my running journey. My first mile took me over 20 minutes, maybe close to 25, but I did it! I continued and finished C25K, bought myself proper running shoes and a real road bike, and was running and cycling from time to time. I was happy.
Then, I partially tore my Achilles due to my lack of nutrition and continued to run on it for 3 more weeks until I no longer could walk. I was down for about 4 months. Coming back from that was not only scary but hard as heck! My pace sucked, my breathing sucked, my lungs and body hated me, but I pushed through and started my journey again.
For 2 and half years I ran off and on, with no training plan or races. I just ran when I felt like it. Then, at the end of February 2016, my friend talked me into running my first half marathon, the Summerlin Half, which was just 6 weeks away. At the time, the most I had ever run was a 10K, but I started training. Two weeks prior to running the half, I ran 12 miles in 3 hours. It was my longest and hardest run ever. Then on race day, I told myself I would run the half in 3 hours. I completed it in 3:00:24!
After that, I decided I would race a half marathon in every state. I have no desire to run a full marathon, but that’s what I said about the half before I ran it. In May 2017, I ran my second half in San Diego with a finishing time of 2:55:35 - my current PR. In September 2017, I ran the Oregon Fall Half, finishing in 2:59:03 while injured. Since my half in September, I really haven’t been running. I have felt unmotivated and weak, and running just hasn’t been enjoyable.
On December 27th, 2017, my best friend ended our 5+ year friendship because she thought that I whined and had no faith in myself. Yes, I know what you are probably thinking: then she really wasn’t your best friend. At first, I was incredibly hurt, but the next day I tried to talk to her and didn’t react with anger like I wanted to. Instead, I took her words to heart, letting her know that as well. She has yet to speak to me after her hurtful words, and I am heartbroken and angry. She is my friend and sister, and I will be here when she needs me, but I am also focusing on me now.
Throughout my life, the one thing that I have learned best is that when someone treats you like crap, whether it’s a bully, your best friend, or even your mother, it isn’t your fault. I’ll repeat that for you. When someone hurts you, physically, mentally, emotionally, it isn’t your fault, even if they blame you. They are the ones struggling, and because they love you, they take it out on you. Think of this: when you are having a bad day, what do you do? You probably lash out at those you love the most because you want to hurt someone and make them feel as terrible as you, and the ones you can hurt the most are those you love. So after years of being rejected by foster homes, my own mother, my own family, guys, girls, everyone, I sit here today and know I did everything I could and loved these people as much as I could.
Today, I am 3 weeks away from turning 28. I have run 3 half marathons and am planning my 4th and possibly my 5th. I just started an 8-week running base journey so that I can have a strong foundation that I can then train on for my next races. I have pushed my body to limits I didn’t know existed. I have overcome my asthma, for the most part. I have lost friends but have also gained a self-respect I didn’t know I lacked. I have learned to not beat myself up over my slow pace, but to embrace it, for it just means I have a lot of PRs ahead of me! I am resilient. I am a runner. I am a half marathoner.