This past December, my daughter and I participated in the Savannah River Bridge Run. I chose my verb carefully there. We didn’t do too terribly much in the way of running. We did, however, participate. With absolutely no preparation, I might add.
2018 was a tough year. SUCH a tough year. Running is one of those things we used to love to do together. Very rarely did we actually run together during a race, but we did a 5-K about once a month. We started together, each did our own thing at our own pace during the race, then met up at the finish line. In fact, I think I only did a total of two or three races without her over the course of about five years.
Then she moved away for a while. We each had our own assorted stresses to deal with. Life got incredibly busy and finding time for the luxury of a three-mile run a couple of times a week – or ever – was hard to come by. For me, if I’m honest, running was something that belonged to my relationship with Chelsey. I just didn’t have quite the same passion for running if she wasn’t around to do it with me. Before I knew it, I had quit running entirely.
The whole Catch-22 of that scenario is that when I was running, I felt better, I ate better. The food I consumed was fuel for the furnace, not a source of comfort to battle the loneliness and stress. I was happier, funnier, and way more confident when I was running. If I had just laced up and trotted around the pond a few times instead of seeking solace in the snack aisle, I would have handled the stress considerably better than I ended up doing. Which is to say, not well at all.
Having been a chubby girl who lost 70 pounds several years ago, running was that something-something that appealed to me and helped me to achieve my goals. It changed who I was – or perhaps it simply brought out strength that was inside me all along but had been lying dormant.
If you’ve ever struggled with weight loss, or any type of addiction, you know there is a cycle of shame. You feel bad about yourself because you are overweight. So you stress eat. A lot. A whole lot. And never anything good for you. I’ve never once heard of someone binging on broccoli. About the time you swallow the last bite, those Wonder Twins, Regret and Guilt show up, mocking you for being so weak. “Thought you were gonna make it this time, huh? Loser!” So you feel even more stressed. And you eat some more, trying to fill that hole inside your heart. It. Never. Works.
That was pretty much the place I found myself: So very fed up with myself for being so very weak. Angry. Frustrated. And getting heavier by the day. I wish I could say that this is an exaggeration, but it’s not. For quite a while I’d been able to camouflage my expanding waist line, right up until the time I couldn’t any longer. The options of wearable outfits in my closet shrank as my girth expanded. In those days of frustration, I had even taken to wearing my husband’s shirts when I was at home so that when I went somewhere, the clothes that actually did fit would be clean. And I felt myself starting to think about myself differently. Only not completelydifferently. I’d been there before: when I was so very chubby, so very miserable in my own skin. I noticed recently that I was starting to think like that girl again. That girl who tried to hide so no one would notice how big her thighs were, how swollen her cheeks had gotten. That girl who tried to avoid having her picture taken, or at least drifted towards the back of the group photo. That girl who had forgotten who she is, where her value lies, what she accomplished once when she quit making excuses and starting being stubborn on her own behalf.
So, I showed up for this race. I paid my $35, put on my running shoes, and showed up. That encapsulates the sum total of my preparation. At the time, it was the best that I could do. Knowing how brutal this particular bridge race is, and knowing that I was lugging around 30 pounds more than the last time I ran it, walking was most definitely my game plan.
Having gotten there later than we’d hoped due to the traffic, my daughter and I both needed to hit the porta-potty immediately following the start line. Having made this detour mere seconds into the race, we were literally in dead last. Even the “meat wagon” was in front of us by the time we both emerged. We jogged until we caught back up to our friends. Fortunately, this was on the approach to the bridge, and on flat ground. I was winded but I kept up with her. A couple of times throughout the race Chelsey felt like running, so I shuffled along as best I could, gasping for air after about ten yards. Not exactly the stuff of legends. We finally finished and were no longer in last place. My muscles were already quivery and getting stiff in the cool air, but we survived so I called it a win.
Then I saw a picture of myself taken during the race. I literally cried. All of the positive feelings I had about showing up, doing my best, finishing before the hundreds of people we passed along the way…all of that vanished like the morning mist. I was gutted. Simply gutted. I was also deeply embarrassed at how I looked. Running tights are not especially forgiving. They hide nothing. So the cycle of shame kicked back into gear.
But this post is not designed as a pity party, though you can most assuredly bet that I had one or two or ten within the weeks that followed. That got old pretty quickly. So I had a tough talk with myself. The bottom line is, I have a couple of choices: 1. I can surrender to the Ghost of Christmas Past, keep eating too much of all the wrong things, and return to the miserable days of old, or 2. I can quit whining, quit making excuses, and reclaim all this ground that I’ve lost. I have the power to take back my life.
And that is exactly what I intend to do.
(Of course, there is more to this story. Stay tuned. Part Two – which is a bit more insightful and a whole lot less whiney – will be coming soon.)