I’ve been thinking lately on my runs, that I’ve been running for 10 years. And it doesn’t feel that way. It doesn’t feel like 10 years since I picked up a pair of running shoes. Or 10 years since my best friend committed suicide. It doesn’t feel that way at all.
I can vividly remember the dark treadmill run/walks in the Kinsolving basement, when I first started out to lose the 20 lbs I gained freshman year from a semester of diet cokes and peanuts m&ms. Or the 1 a.m. runs in the workout room six months later to out run my grief and my tears.
You see I truly started running August 2005, when my best friend hung himself. Words that make me cringe to say because there’s never an easy way to tell people why I run. Running saved me from the grief and the pain from the dark nights when I clung to life, when I refused to cry. Running made me feel alive, when I felt dead.
For the 18 months I grieved, I ran at 4:45 a.m. When others were getting over hangovers or returning home from Sixth Street, I was running the Texas Capitol with the bats and the neon street lights. I became friends with the Texas Capitol policemen, always waving on my loops. I ran into homeless men peeing in the street. I got attacked by a bat. I ran into frat boys who had broken their arms and needed an EMT.
I never questioned my safety because in my own bubble, I was safe. One because I felt safe in the neon light. Two because I was often alone. Three because I was mentally exhausted from losing my best friend.
Within 12 months, I went from about 150-160 lbs, down to 112. I know because I spent many months trying to get down to 110. A number put in my head by a personal trainer at Lifetime Fitness. It was a number I had to achieve during my grief. It was a a number I strived for and never achieved. And it’s why to this day I try to avoid the scale as much as I can.
It was at this time, I decided to do a marathon for my 21st birthday. And at the same time my family and friends started to intervene in my eating habits. In my grief and need to lose weight, I consumed 1200 calories a day. I know because I counted. I counted every one of them. I got up at 4:45 a.m. six days a week to run 4-10 miles, no break, no bend in my schedule. And it was worrying a lot of people.
So I went to the doctor who said eat more calories, more protein, more iron because I had become anemic. She didn’t care that I was a vegetarian, just that I ate more. Then I went to a nutritionist, who wanted me to stop running. And with that door open, it quickly shut.
The nutritionist was apparently not a runner, and apparently didn’t know me. She wanted my first marathon to be my last and for me to stop running after and to never run another marathon. I wanted to scream fuck you to her, but I smiled and silently cursed her in my head. After leaving her office, I decided to do it on my own. I would fix my anorexia (a term I loathe, by the way).
I began slowly to let loosen my strict calorie count. I decided to no longer be a vegetarian, but to become a pescetarian again. Then six months later a carnivore. But my running didn’t stop.
I was a junior in college, trying to heal from a life taken, trying to fix myself, train for a marathon and finish college. Writing it now seemed like such a momentous task and it was. I trained morning, noon and night.
I never logged my miles in college. I only assume that I was logging at least 50 miles a week if not more. How I never got injured is beyond me. But probably had to do with the morning run and afternoon yoga.
I completed my first marathon near my 21st birthday in Arizona in 28 degrees. I would complete my second five months later in San Diego. After that, I wouldn’t complete a marathon (I would train for 2 but got injured during both), I would however, complete 16 half marathons.
You see, I never quit like the nutritionist wanted me to. No, that would be giving up on me and my passion. Running saved me from my own hell and breathed life into me. Running is my church and my religion. It’s there when my grief hits me like a ton of bricks, when my husband and I fight, when work frustrates me, when the sun is shining and I want to feel my lungs burn. Without it I don’t know who I would be. Without it I’m not me.
And I’m excited to see where running takes me in the next 10. Maybe I’ll finish another marathon, maybe not. It’s my decision to make and no one elses.