Here’s a quick recap for those of you who don’t really know me or have lost touch. I got hurt badly in a fall just before law school. Already significantly overweight before law school, the injury, horrible diet (can you say free pizza?) and hours and hours of studying coupled with a completely sedentary lifestyle added up to a middle-aged woman who was not just morbidly obese – I was “super obese.”
Some years later, through changes in diet, DDP Yoga (check it out – it’s amazing) and putting on a pair of running shoes for the first time in my life, I lost over 100 pounds.
My Facebook feed was full of photos of the meals I prepared and notifications from Nike Running Club that I was going for a run. When people “liked” my post, the app would cheer. It was really motivating! I attempted a half marathon in 2015 and was “swept” at mile 8 (I couldn’t maintain the minimum pace). I didn’t give up. I was training for a “rematch” with the same half marathon course when I read a Facebook post written by a law school classmate who I considered a close friend.
I don’t remember the exact words, but the gist of the post was that people who aren’t serious athletes shouldn’t post about their workouts – that we just are attention seekers and our “friends” don’t really care about our workouts. Especially guilty were those of us who enter a competition and fail to complete it. I was devastated. He didn’t write my name, but I was all of those things. I did manage to finish the 2016 half marathon attempt (just barely), but afterward, I lost my mojo. I would run a few times a month, but I never got back into a predictable schedule.
I stopped posting, so I lost the “cheers.” I stopped running, so I lost the endorphins that exercise releases. I started eating potato chips again. Life took some really tough turns, and instead of going for a run to ease the anxiety, I turned back to food. Over time, I packed on nearly 50 pounds of weight.
As a self-employed person, my health insurance premiums became really expensive. I switched from traditional health insurance to a health share plan, and in order to be approved, I had to agree to work with a health coach. He doesn’t tell me what to do. He helps me to set goals, and when we check in every week or so, he asks me how I did. With his help, I’ve dropped 30 pounds.
I’ve missed running. I’m very slow, so running any distance requires a significant time commitment for me. My “homework” from my coach a couple of months ago was to sign up for a race. I signed up for the Cleveland Rite-Aid Marathon Weekend 5K / 10K Challenge which was held this weekend (May 19-20, 2018). The “overachiever” in me couldn’t just sign up for the 5K. I had earned 3 medals in 2016 for completing a challenge, so registered for both the 5K and 10K and I set out to repeat that feat.
Here in Ohio, the weather has been miserable. To top it off, my left foot has decided to grow some benign, but uncomfortable “lumps.” These two factors combined to make a very serviceable excuse to skip training runs. I skipped lots of them. Basically, I didn’t train – I just ran a couple of times when the weather was nice.
I checked the weather forecast mid-week. Saturday and Sunday were supposed to be stormy. I ran the 5K / 10K in 2016 when Cleveland had sleet, hail and thundersnow (yes, that’s a real thing) in mid-May. I nearly didn’t pick up my race packet.
By Friday morning, the forecast had improved. The forecast showed clear windows for both races. I posted about not being ready and about my food hurting, and a running friend (an ultramarathoner, no less) encouraged me to join the ranks of the injured and undertrained and do it anyway – so I did.
Saturday was the 5K. I did really well. I ran the fastest 5K I’ve run since I started running again. I was stoked. Sunday, I arrived at the start and it started raining. I very nearly turned back, got on the train and made my way back to my car. The voice of my “friend” was back in my head. I was going to finish near the very back of the pack. I hadn’t made it to anywhere near 6 miles in my training runs, and to be honest, other than yesterday’s 5K, I had only run once or twice in the past month.
I was just about to allow my “friend’s” imaginary voice that was telling me that I did not belong on the course to persuade me to return to the car when another law school classmate saw me and talked to me for quite some time. He was running his first race. That brief conversation gave me a minute to chase the other classmate out of my head.
I was sore from the 5K. I held back the first half of the race because I knew that I was under-trained and I was virtually certain to run out of steam. I was fine until about mile 4.5 when we had to climb a really steep hill. I was really tired. I wasn’t in pain, but it was hard to make my feet go faster than a slow walk. My pace had dropped, and that guy’s voice in my head was working on me again – “You didn’t train for this. Nobody cares about your posts. Nobody cares about your run. You’re a fake!”
I was discouraged. I felt like crying when a voice cried, “Betty!” Yet another law school classmate stopped in the middle of her own race to grab me and wrap me in a hug. Take that, “mean guy.” People do care.
The last mile and a half was slow, but I didn’t care. I was soaked to the skin (the rain never did completely stop) and out of energy, but I had a grin on my face that nobody could erase. I crossed the bridge over the Cuyahoga River that was just before the finisher’s chute. I collected my medal. I found my way to the tent where I received another medal for the completing two races in one weekend, and ran into yet another law school classmate. She cared, too.
This is a long, long story. The moral of the story is be careful who you allow as a “tenant” in your head. Nearly every time I post on social media about a run or a race, I receive a whole bunch of “likes,” which I translate as a positive thing. Maybe it *is* attention seeking, but if that little reward keeps me on the track or trail, I think it’s worth it. Anyone who is not interested has the power to block, unfollow or simply “mute” me on social media.
I allowed one post by someone who was probably going through his own issues YEARS ago to be an excuse not to do things that are good for me. Even sadder, that same guy wrote a post a couple of months ago apologizing to his social media friends for basically being a jerk a couple of years ago. Months later, I was still allowing his years-old post to be my excuse for not trying.
I ran more than 9.3 miles this weekend, most of them in a cold, miserable rain. I didn’t use an app that “cheered” me, but I received live, in person love from people I haven’t seen in person in years. I collected 3 medals to hang from the cane that I used to need to hobble around my law school. Most importantly, I’ve issued an eviction notice to the imaginary “friend” in my head because I don’t want to renew his lease. It’s time for him to go.
The announcer at the race said that 15,000 people were registered for today’s events. The fact that I found three people I knew, some at just the right moment to keep me from “throwing in the towel,” and one to share my joy in having finished went beyond coincidence. I believe in miracles, friendship and a bit ‘o luck. Today I experienced all three.
To all of the people who have told me that I am an inspiration and the reason they started doing something hard – whether it was going back to school or exercising – even running: I’m back. Being told that you’re an inspiration can be uncomfortable. I wonder why people say that sometimes because I am so imperfect. Perhaps it is that very imperfection that inspires. I get back up time and time again. It’s okay to stumble. It’s okay to lose your way from time to time. Finding your way back to the path is what matters. Thank you for believing in me when I stopped believing in myself.
To the friend who accidentally found his way into my head: I didn’t write this to call you out. It looks like your life today is going in a fantastic direction. I miss you and I’m proud of you….I just don’t want you in my head anymore. Okay?
The moral of the story is: when you have to choose between listening to people who love you and want you to succeed and people who are going through a hard time and complaining about something they don’t like on social media, choose wisely!
Peace out, I’m going to go hang up my medals!