Running for Health, Home, and Happiness
I’d like to share my fitness story in hopes it might help or inspire someone else. I always considered myself healthy, but I was never athletic nor did I exercise, unless you count chasing our little boys. In 2007, I nearly died from the loss of a partial molar pregnancy – my first girl. Besides losing my baby, the experience left me extremely physically weak and emotionally devastated. I felt I didn’t want to live.
One day my husband took me out for a walk on a local track. For the first time in months I actually felt a little better! It was so therapeutic to be outside in beautiful nature and was liberating to be moving forward. We progressed to jogging and I finished a 5K. My son ran the race with me. He ended up winning first place in his division due to his sweet resolve to stay with me. I started running regularly for my mental as well as my physical health. It was literally like turning on a light, balancing my chemistry and restoring a brighter perspective.
Miraculously we were blessed with a baby girl a few years later. I trained for and ran a half marathon to get back in shape and beat my typical postpartum depression and hypothyroidism. It worked great! But in 2013 I had another painful miscarriage which left me confused and despairing again. After many weeks of grieving, I decided that for my family’s sake I needed to take charge of my health and start running again, making a marathon my new goal. I talked my husband into it, and we trained for several months, painfully pushing back our “wall” each week. We ran at different paces, so it wasn’t always easy to stay together, but it was worth the effort. All that talking time strengthened our relationship!
I was ecstatic at the Pacific Crest Marathon starting line to be reaching our running dream together. Halfway through the race, however, my husband, who was wearing some old shoes, hurt his foot (plantar fasciitis) and couldn’t run another step. Even though most couples were running separately, I didn’t want to leave him alone since I knew he wouldn’t leave me. Encouraged by some friends who’d made a surprise trip to support us, we walked/limped the remaining 13 miles. I was proud we endured and finished, but still felt like we never reached our goal.
Now, I was ready to try sharing my health with a child one last time. The child was born the next spring, and though I was 37, due to all the running and eating right it was by far my easiest pregnancy. For the first time, I had no threat of gestational diabetes. On top of that, one nurse commented I had “runner’s legs”.
This year my fitness goal is to be able to get back in shape enough to run every step of a full marathon! I’ve lost five pounds this month since I started running again. We were very excited to learn about The Pacific Northwest Marathon, especially since it’s on a Saturday (“Chariots of Fire”). Our 16-year-old has been running every day after school since I told him about your marathon. He was born with only one kidney, and was told by doctors, “no contact sports.” But, running is something he can excel at, and he loves how much stronger it makes him look and feel. I just want to attest that running is worth the time and effort you give it. I recommend it to everyone as medicine for so many things!
Overcoming Sickness: Building Health
My fitness goal is to run the Pacific Northwest Marathon in 3 hours, 35 minutes.
Ten years ago, I was at a low point in my life. I had a serious eating disorder that had progressed to the point that I could no longer deny that I was sick. I sat across the desk and listened to a doctor tell me that my body was shutting down and that I would die if I didn't make changes. With her encouragement, and the support of my family and religious leaders, I made the difficult decision to enter the Eating Disorder Center of Denver (EDCD). May 6, 2015, a few days after the Pacific Northwest Marathon, will mark ten years since I completed my treatment at the EDCD. I can think of no better way to celebrate how far I have come in the last ten years than to run a marathon in a Boston Marathon-qualifying time.
When I left the EDCD in May 2005, it was really just the beginning of my journey. I will probably always struggle with body image issues, but running allows me to enjoy the miracle of the human body and what it can accomplish. I ran my first marathon in January 2011, but I fell short of my time goal. This time, I am training differently. I looked at several different marathon programs and found a program that will help me become faster. I also started my program earlier so that I could more gradually build up my mileage. Finally, I have been focusing more on hydration and nutrition, which was something I completely neglected in my last marathon.
Although it can be a challenge finding time to run since I have a 10 month old and a 3 year old, I have been able to stick to my training schedule so far. If I am able to stick to my training schedule and stay healthy, and if I have good race day conditions, I am hopeful that I will be able to reach my goal. I am no longer that skinny girl I once was, and few people would say I look like a runner, but I want to prove to myself that I can push myself to my physical limits and achieve something that was never possible when I was that undernourished, skinny girl. I want to demonstrate that health is not simply a number on a scale. And I want to celebrate the ten years that I almost didn't have.
Believe in Yourself
My first true fascination with running happened a long time ago at the young age of 11. I remember running the mile dash in my 6th grade class, leading the pack, and feeling invincible as I came to the finish line. Cheers from my peers helped develop a sense of confidence in a shy and timid young girl. My P.E teacher suggested that I try out for the cross country team, but as I looked down at my worn out running shoes – my only pair of shoes – the feelings of inadequacy because of poverty crushed any confidence I had. I barely had enough food to eat, didn’t own any good shoes and had too many responsibilities, so my love of running was put on the back burner.
In high school, that tingling feeling of running came back as I found myself running beside one of the star cross country runners in my school. I was able to keep pace with her, and that feeling of happiness and confidence was alive. Although it was just another running drill in P.E class, the feeling of trying out became indented in my mind. Yet, I still struggled with self confidence and self esteem. It's amazing how doubt can create fears in oneself. My mind became filled with reasons why I wasn’t good enough. Soon, I caved in and listened to that doubt. Unfortunately, running got put on hold.
In college, I would sit on the bleachers and watch the cross country team train at sunrise. Their bodies were molded and chiseled through years of training to compete at the college level. Any thoughts of trying out were short lived as the excuses and fears became more real. So I became a spectator of the sport, and running just became a dream for many years.
I got married and for the next 12 years raised 4 beautiful children. I became a mother. My days were long. There were many sleepless nights, and at times just moments of pure exhaustion. Motherhood is one of the noblest roles one can have, but at times it can be the most demanding and frustrating of jobs. I spent days at home, sometimes lonely, and so absorbed in motherhood that I forgot who I was. Although I loved being a mother, and I still do, I forgot myself. I forgot who Eliza was. I was going through the motions, sometimes just trying to survive.
For a whole decade, my dream of running was forgotten. It was collecting dust in the deep soul of mind and heart. As I entered my 30s I was hit with a feeling of not accomplishing anything big and grand (looking back I know I accomplished the biggest achievement of all: being a mother). I lashed out in frustration at my supportive husband. Through wisdom, he gave me the best advice ever. He told me the reason I was feeling miserable and unhappy was because I didn’t have a hobby. At that moment, that was the last thing I wanted to hear, but it was what I needed to hear. I was actually upset that my sacrifice of putting everyone ahead of myself wasn’t good enough or appreciated. But I knew that I needed to be Eliza in order to be a great mother. He was right. I had no hobbies. All I did was clean house, change diapers and wash dishes. That would make anyone miserable and crazy.
Slowly, this crazy idea of running reentered my mind. 30 pounds of excess weight, due to pregnancies and lack of exercise, didn’t make running very easy. I joined a local gym and just started to walk. At first I could only run for 30 seconds before my lungs would hurt so badly. I could taste blood in my throat and my legs ached. I couldn’t believe how badly out of shape I was. Sometimes in my mind I believed I was that fit teenager running 6-minute miles, but then reality would sink in and doubt would creep in. But this time, I didn’t give up.
Slowly, I increased time, one minute the first week and then two minutes the following. My body hurt and ached. I cried many times because I was frustrated. Running is a slow process and I wanted results fast. It took a couple months before I could run even a mile. I was slow, but determined. I kept at it even when I was constantly filled with doubt.
My determination and dedication to myself slowly squashed that doubt out of my mind. I believed in myself. One mile became two miles, two miles became three miles and so forth. Only being able to run about five miles consistently, I did the craziest thing ever – I signed up for a half marathon – 13.1 miles. I didn’t realize what I got myself into, a new world of amazing adventures.
Three years ago when I started training, I had no friends who liked running. I had no support and didn’t even know that “running clubs” existed. I just trained myself. It wasn’t easy. Whenever I brought up running I would always encounter a naysayer or two telling me I was crazy and that my knees would wear out. But I was happy. The countenance on my face had changed. My attitude of being the best mother ever was reclaimed. So if my knees did give out, at least I was happy doing something I had wanted to do for over 20 years. Running saved me. It allowed me to put my self pity under a rug and replace my soul with belief, happiness and confidence.
My first half marathon didn’t go as I planned. I had to walk some of the last two miles just to finish, but that feeling of exhilaration in accomplishing something that I never thought I could do was amazing. It was a physically painful experience, but that feeling was shortly forgotten once it was replaced with a fire and burning sensation of doing something amazing.
During the race, I vowed not to race again. That was silly. Less than two weeks later, I signed up for my first full marathon – insane! I think it is true that runners are crazy.
Now, I’ve run numerous 5k's and 10k’s, 8 half marathons, three marathons and thousands of training miles. And I’m still going.
Through running I found myself again. I learned that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. My motto is, “Fear not, doubt not.” Doubt in myself stopped me from doing what I loved. Running made me a better person, a better wife and a better mother.
Whether you run or not, believe in yourself. Believe that you are worth more than gold. Experiment with your talents and dreams, and amazing things will happen. It took me over 20 years to believe in myself, and now I’m living my dreams. Don’t let your dreams fade!