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!
In 2017, Eliza faced serious setbacks that almost derailed her life. This year, she is more determined and stronger than ever. As she overcomes her obstacles, she is bringing her friend Sonja along with her. In December, the two of them were winners of the Pacific Northwest Marathon Run With a Friend Contest. Come to the race in September 2018 and meet these inspiring women!