Hello readers! I have an exciting story to share! About 3 weeks ago, I came across a shared screenshot on Instagram from one of my running friends, Elana. It was a post in which Whitney Way Thore announced a pop-up Big Girl Dance Class being held in Pittsburgh on 6/19/18! I immediately signed up and waited for the day to come!
I knew I had to leave work early if I wanted to get to Rex Theater (South Side) before the line got crazy long. I arrived and parked around 5:15. I had a mini meltdown because I thought I lost both my license and debit card. I put them in my skirt before I left work and thought they fell out of my pocket. They ended up getting buried deep inside my pocket, not knowing the pocket wrapped around the entirety of my waist until that time. Crisis averted! I placed my purse inside of my trunk and did so with much difficulty. As I pulled my hand out, I scraped the top of my thumb inside of my trunk.
Only me. I figured, it can only go up from here!
When I finally made my way to the event location, the line had roughly 30 people in it. I quickly got in line to hold my place, while I waited for my friend, Elana, to show up. The show’s crew came around with clip boards, in which we were required to sign a waiver for the show if we were to make an appearance! *Fingers crossed we do!*
Just before going inside.
Anyway…we stood in line for over 1 hour. There was some sort of delay; I’m still unsure of what happened. I’m glad I had a buddy to keep me company while we waited. We heard people screaming and around the corner came Buddy! It was pretty surreal to see someone in person whom I’ve seen on television dozens and dozens of times. He walked down the entirety of the line and waved to everyone. I’m super proud of how much he has accomplished in his continued sobriety and his openness about it. Way to go Buddy!
The day I put on my first pair of running shoes, my life changed. I’m forever grateful that I took a chance with myself. Despite the awkward tan lines, black toenails and chaffing, the amazing gifts running has given me make the not-so-pretty moments worth it.
BEAT AN EATING DISORDER:
Around the age of 10, I started putting on a lot of weight year after year until I weighed 230 lbs as a teenager. Food was my only comfort in life, but was realistically a slow form of suicide. In January 2009, I decided to begin watching The Biggest Loser. By the end of the season, something clicked. I was just 20 years old and not living life as fully as I had yearned for. I needed more out of life, so I made the decision to begin my weight loss journey in early April of that same year. After naturally losing a significant amount of weight in a year’s time, I started heading into the opposite direction due to the fear of gaining and not knowing how to maintain my new body. I ultimately ended up with a full blown eating disorder and chained myself to the scale. At just 106 lbs., I was eating around 800 calories per day, punished myself with exercise for eating something “bad“, got into arguments over food and nearly blacked out on several occasions. Food was no longer comforting; I was afraid of food. I was in complete denial until a family member expressed her concern. Then, I met a runner in late 2010 and everything changed. It took some time to spark my curiosity, but once I started, I never looked back. It wasn’t long before I had to relearn what real food was and why I needed it, especially for distance running. Eventually, my chains shattered, and gone were the days I obsessed about food and my weight. Long story short…running saved my life.
COPE WITH DEPRESSION:
Depression and other mental illnesses run highly in my family, so it came to no surprise that I ended up with depression myself. My teenage years were the worst; I was a walking billboard for the hopeless. Depression robs you of your happiness until you’re just an empty shell. It’s an “I’m lonely even when surrounded by people” feeling. It’s an “I’m in a deep hole with no ladder” feeling. It’s an “I feel nothing at all” feeling. I think a lot of us are afraid to discuss our mental health because of the unfortunate stigma placed against it. Maintaining a good mental health is just as important as your physical health. I wish it were as easy as smiling more or changing my thoughts, but I can’t reconfigure my brain chemistry. I can, however, cope differently. That’s where running comes into play for me. I use running as a tool, a form of therapy if you will. It honestly wasn’t until I contracted Lyme disease and had to take a hiatus for an unforeseen amount of time that I realized how much running helped. It’s easy to get carried away in our everyday lives, and running allows me to take a step back and connect with myself. When I first started running, it felt like I was finally arriving to my own life, and my sense of purpose had been born. Some may think I’m running away from my problems, but I feel like I’m always running towards something better.
I’m about to dig deep, get personal, and talk about my journey with Lyme Disease. Oh…where do I even begin? Four years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to talk about this without breaking into a million pieces. It has taken me quite some time to process everything. So here it goes…
How does someone go from running 2 full marathons and a 50 kilometer trail ultra within a 7 month time frame to barely being able to get through a regular day? A tick. A poppy seed-sized bug tried to steal my mind, body, and spirit. And my journey to finding a diagnosis was nothing short of heart wrenching.
Since this day, my life has never been the same.
On November 11, 2012, I ran the Marshall Mangler 50k. And just a month and a half before, I ran the Wineglass Marathon in 4:14:02, a 10 minute PR and still my true PR to this very day. I was at the fittest and happiest that I had ever been in my entire life.
I finished my first ultra in one piece…mostly. Aside from definite ITBS symptoms, hence the taping of my knee from another participant, I was okay. Prior to running the 50k, I had already made the decision to take 2 weeks off, and rightly so. I mean, I did just run 31+ miles over an 8 hour time frame. For a week following my race, I had stomach pain and nausea. This was no surprise to me because I usually have gastrointestinal distress when I run, so I chalked it up to that.
Here’s the backstory to the picture on the left if you’re wondering why I look like a fish out of water on the “beach.” So…in high school, I took a graphic design class for all 4 years. On the first day of my junior year, we were assigned a project. The project was to show what fun things we did over summer break. The first step was to take a full body shot, and that alone was a horrific experience for me. I hated having my picture taken, especially full body shots. Once that was done, we were to cut ourselves out and superimpose our pictures into a fun location we adventures to over break. Well…I. HAD. NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. My summer break was spent in my bedroom, hiding from the world. No vacations. No fun day trips. Nothing more than the occasional shopping trip with my mom or random hangouts with the handful of friends that I had at the time.
I stared at my computer screen and drew a blank. I didn’t know what to do. I glanced at a few computer screens around me. And the dread set in even further. I saw pictures of elaborate locations that were hundreds of miles away. Me? I was lucky to have traveled more than 10 miles away from home. So. I started picking my brain and came up with a temporary solution to get me through what felt like a never ending moment. I Googled pictures of beaches. And without much thought, I chose an image that looked good to the eye. I pretended that I went on a family vacation to the beach to avoid telling others that I didn’t do anything fun. I don’t know why I cared so much. As an adult, I now know that not everyone has the opportunity to go on vacation every year. And there is nothing wrong with that. But at that moment, I felt dread for the mere reason that I cared far too much about what others thought about me.