I Never Thought I'd Be A Runner, Now I'm #FierceAndStrongAF

I never thought I’d be a runner…

I’ve always been a clumsy person. I played sports in school. Not because I was talented, I was from a small town and that’s about all there was to do. My friends were on the team, so I was too. When I say I was “on the team” I mean I sat at the very end of the bench and only went in when we were losing by a ton. Even then, when I would go in for those two minutes, I'd immediately get four fouls because I was so hopelessly clumsy that I would fall into people and get called for a foul! Not kidding. True story. I might actually have the record for most fouls in the shortest amount of time.

Then when I graduated high school and went to college, exercise wasn't something that was on my radar. Starting college was rough for me. In my first year, my high school friends got into a drunk driving accident. One friend died in the ride, my father had a massive heart attack, and then my mother started having seizures. All that on top of living in a new, very large town and trying to take a full class load. It was nuts! I didn’t just gain the freshman 15lbs, I gained the MIZZOU 22 as we called it!

Flash forward a couple years later, and I have a bachelors and a master’s degree and worked in a field I loved. But as the stress of being 25, single, in a new stressful career, and just life in general, my self-talk got progressively worse. I wasn’t in the place in my life that I wanted to be.

I had gained some weight and each time I went home to visit, the women in my family would ask if I was pregnant. My response was always the same, “Not pregnant. Just fat.”

My friends, we had the makings of a full-on quarter-life crisis on our hands. I never felt enough. I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough, cool enough, fit enough. I just wasn’t ENOUGH. I wasn’t worthy of a place in this Universe.

Then, New Year’s Eve 2015 hit. I was at a friends’ house with my awesome boyfriend of a couple years. All the guys gathered in the basement and watched football while the girls hung out upstairs. I knew everyone and they were super nice, but I looked around the room and all my insecurities seemed to be staring at me. Here I was with all these beautiful women. Each one was engaged, married, or pregnant. And then there was me, the token unmarried, childless friend. That kind of stuff will really play on a small town Midwestern girl’s mind when she's taught the goal of life was to get married and have babies ASAP.

That night I downed a bottle of wine, kissed Boyfriend at midnight, and swore to make a change. So much of my life felt like it was out of my control. I needed something that I had power over. I needed something interesting to talk about at dinner parties and to make myself feel like I was enough. What could it be? I would run a marathon.

At the time I didn’t even know how far a marathon was! I have no idea why that’s what came to my head or how that plan came about, but there it was. I would run a marathon. So New Year’s Day 2016, I donned my warmest clothes and took a 1 mile run near my house. I felt so powerful at the end of it. I wrote myself a letter to reread when I felt unmotivated and needed to remember exactly how I felt that New Year’s night.

I trained for 10 months for that marathon. I made every mistake you can when you're training to run a marathon. I undertrained. I didn’t eat right. I even got lost while running the marathon! Just all the mistakes.

All the weight of the last 10 months hit me at the starting line and I started to panic and choked back the tears. It took me over 7 hours to run it, and Boyfriend had to argue with them to keep the timing and finish line stuff up for me to cross, but by-gosh I ran that marathon!! The MO’ Cowbell run in St. Charles, MO will always have a special place in my heart.

After the race, everything in my body hurt. I couldn’t walk right for days. I was certain I had done permanent damage and would never be able to move again (I’m a little dramatic when I’m hurting). But then a funny thing happened, a week after my first marathon was the Chicago Marathon and I saw all these pictures of people I knew running for it. I started to get the runner’s itch and on a whim, I signed up for the lottery.

A couple months later, I found out that I got in! I trained a little better. I ate a little better. And when October came back around, I was able to shave an hour off my previous time!

Now I’m hooked.

This year I ran my first half marathon (in my New Year’s Eve declaration I skipped right past half marathons). I have gotten some friends into running too and we’re running two other half marathons together (Go Girl in June and Urban Bourbon in October). I plan to go to the Twin Cities marathon this year and hopefully someday, I’ll get to the other major marathons like NYC and heck maybe someday Boston!         

Here’s the thing about my story. Not a lot in my life has changed since I started running. The women in my family still ask if I’m pregnant all the time, and I have to say no, it’s just my belly. In fact, I’m one of those runners who actually GAINED MORE WEIGHT by running. I’m still in my awesome and stressful career. I’m still not married, and I still don’t have kids. I am still with Boyfriend and we’re still crazy happy. Nothing really in my life has changed.

But *I* changed. I look at my body now and remember that this body carries me through 26.2 miles in a matter of hours. This body carries my over finish lines and beats all the odds. That voice is still there telling me I’m not enough sometimes…but now I have this big booming voice that yells back, “I’M FIERCE AND STRONG AF!!” I’m here. I deserve a place in this Universe and I’m #FierceAndStrongAF.