From Unlikely Runner to UNSTOPPABLE

If you had told younger me that I would be a runner, I would have laughed hysterically in your face.

I spent my entire childhood and adolescence as the “cute but chubby” girl, being made fun of for my weight; I was the perpetual “fat friend” (and even referred to that way) to the prettier girls in high school. I hated running. I hated anything athletic, bar snowboarding in the winter. I was an art kid and band nerd to the core. I sought love and acceptance in the wrong kind of relationships, one of which haunted me because he was verbally abusive; it was common for him to call me a fat cow to my face, or tell me that I looked like a man.

I graduated high school, and life went on—or so I thought. I got married, started a family, a career. But eventually, I started having problems with my cycles, experienced multiple pregnancy losses, and was eventually diagnosed with PCOS. I spiraled into a deep depression. I was advised to lose weight but was told that it is difficult to lose and maintain weight loss when you have PCOS. I gave up—in a nine-year timespan after graduating high school I managed to pack on ninety pounds. My health problems compounded and I was advised at my yearly checkup that if I didn’t change my lifestyle, there was a good chance I would not live to see my children graduate. That was it—that was the catalyst I needed.

I started walking with my children for a mile a day, then it progressed to finding the time to walk on my own at a faster pace. While walking, I could still hear them though: Those voices from my past calling me “fat cow,” “the fat friend,” and I felt anger. I felt the rage from my PCOS diagnosis and the pain of my pregnancy losses bubble to the surface on every walk I took. I started to channel that rage into a faster pace, and before I knew it, I was running. I felt a power and strength that I had never felt before! I would prove them wrong, especially “him”--him, who made me feel like I was unworthy, him who singlehandedly destroyed any self-esteem that I had left from the relentless teasing through the years. I would prove to myself that losing those pregnancies wasn’t my fault and that PCOS wouldn’t dictate the direction of my health.

In the blink of an eye, I went from running blocks to running miles. On a whim, I signed up for a 5k, determined to prove as much to me as to “him” that I was much stronger than he or I gave myself credit for. I’ve never looked back: I’ve run countless 5k’s and 10 k’s, have placed top three overall twice in a 10k race series, and am training to complete my 9th half marathon next weekend.

“He” tried to message me and reminisce about “the good times” and that he missed me: That rage came back into play full force, only this time I didn’t hold back. I knew I was strong enough now to say to him what I needed to say—and he’s never contacted me since.

It has been four years since I started running; not only did I lose 100 pounds (and maintain that loss), I gained the confidence and self-efficacy that had long been lacking in my life. I developed the ability to fight those negative voices (others and my own) with all of my strength—to quell them when they rise, which they still do from time to time.

Running has also changed other areas of my life: It precipitated a major career change—I’m studying to become a certified personal trainer now. I want to empower others to dig deep and realize that when all seems hopeless, they are so much stronger than they realize. I’ve already managed to convert one other “unlikely runner;” that alone is a success.

This is me repping the #SportsBraSqaud last summer at the Freakin’ Fast Half Marathon—there’s nothing like celebrating an AG award by stuffing your face full of pancakes!

For more from Jesseca, you can follow her on Instagram @willrunforjava