When I get depressed, I suffer from severe pain deep in my muscles and not many things help it. During a particularly rough few months, two different massage therapists asked me if I had considered trying running as an outlet. They each told me that my muscles felt like they needed that kind of release. No, I told them, my body is not meant for running. They both disagreed. Then my therapist asked me if I had ever considered running to get the endorphins going and release some stress and tension. He thought that might help with the pain. Wow – three professionals in less than a month all recommended running. Maybe I should consider it, I thought to myself. To further support the idea, several of the moms I am friends with are runners and had been trying to get me to run with them and do races with them. “Come on – try this 5K. It’s only 3 miles”, and “You should try this obstacle course mud run with me. If you can run a mile, you can do this”! At that point, I couldn’t even imagine myself running a mile. But one day, it all changed.
After all the professional recommendations, I got curious and did some research on how to start running. I picked a charitable 5K race and signed up. Then I downloaded a free 8-week 5K training app on my phone. I faithfully went to the gym or walk/ran outside on nice days three days a week, sometimes four if I could fit it in to my schedule. I felt myself getting stronger. The muscles in my legs got leaner and firmer. I lost inches from my waist and (shockingly) from my arms and abdomen. I could run further and longer each time. And my mind felt more clear. My family told me that I was less moody and I noticed that I was less grumpy after I ran. When I am angry, a run usually helps me grasp control of my emotions.
Not every run is wonderful. Some days it is hard to go. Some days it is hard to move. Some days I feel like I’m dying. Some days are brilliant, though. But I committed from the beginning and I did it! Last September, I ran my first 5K and actually RAN the entire way. It was my fastest time up to that point. One of the best things about that race was that I had company to run with. Running with someone is really great – the support and the psychological push you get to keep going and not let the other person down is amazing.
Two weeks after that 5K, I participated in the Savage Race, a 6.9 mile race with 25 obstacles. There is army crawling through mud under barbed wire, walls to scale, ropes to climb, ice water to jump in, and much more – in the rain in September in Maryland (ick!). It is a team sport. If my friends hadn’t been there, I am not sure I would have been able to finish. As it was, I wasn’t able to complete all of the obstacles – I fell off several things and got stuck here and there – but I attempted every single one and I finished the race with the support of my team. I got that finisher metal – my first. It felt amazing! Who knew that my body and my mind could do that? It was grueling, but only once and only for a second did I think, “Why on earth am I doing this”?! The rest of the time, I was focused and determined – and muddy!
Next, I ran two more 5Ks – a Halloween run and a color run fundraiser, where we got squirted with colored powders as we went along the course. Then I ran a 10K across the Bay Bridge in Maryland. That was beyond amazing! Again, I ran with someone and we found a good pace and, although were not fast, we finished. The best part was the view. It was breathtaking to see the gentle waves and the sun reflecting over them. There was a fantastic breeze, too. It was a glorious experience. I also got my second finisher metal and a cool t-shirt.
I am signed up to run a 5 miler in December (brrr!), and in January I am flying from Baltimore to San Diego to run my first half marathon in the Tri-City Medical Center Carlsbad Marathon and Half. My husband saw that IBPF is an official charity for this marathon and encouraged me to run in it. I have been training hard and am very excited. I am also very nervous. I’m nervous in part because I’m very slow, but I have coincidentally seen several articles and memes that address slowness. Basically, “A 12 minute mile and a 7 minute mile are the same distance,” so it’s ok to not be fast – the key is to just do it. They also say to not judge yourself based on your speed because there is always someone faster and no matter what speed you run (or walk), you are lapping the person on the couch. Additionally, I read that you shouldn’t think about your speed if it makes you feel bad about yourself because running should build you up and make you stronger, not break you down. Just get out there and do it. Think positive. Look for the beauty around you, if you are outside. Listen to your breathing and meditate. For more advice and a lot of good laughs, read Confessions of an Unlikely Runner by Dana Ayers. She makes running seem like a great idea for everyone – and is hysterical!
The moral of the story is that, for me, running has been a lifesaver and great therapy. It has not only helped me become more physically fit, it has given me an outlet to relieve stress, bolster my self-esteem, meet a new community of like-minded people, and learn that I am stronger than I ever thought I was. I realize that it is not a solution for everyone, but if you can, I suggest you don’t rule it out. I was surprised that I was wrong my entire life and now I have a new love – running!
Support Beka in the Carlsbad Marathon by donating to her fundraising page.
Read the rest of Beka's posts for IBPF here.