Pittsburgh Marathon, cont. (FINALLY)

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Before and After Photos

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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.

But…

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My Love Letter to Running

Dear running,

We’ve been together for 6 years now, and I feel like it’s finally time for me to express my love and gratitude that I have for you given everything we’ve been through.

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When I first met you as a young girl, I was captivated. I turned to you to play games like Tag and Duck, Duck, Goose. It didn’t take me long to notice and ultimately wonder why you got along with other kids more than me. You made me feel weak as I stood there gasping for air. And the others…well? You made them laugh and smile. Why didn’t I get the euphoria? Why were you punishing me? I thought running was a natural human power, but why did I not deserve it?

As I got older, our relationship worsened. I tried to ignore you until I had no choice but to face you in gym class. I was forced to be friends with you. We played mind games with one another. You caused me pain, and boy did it hurt like hell.

Years had passed, and I finally thought that I was free from your torture. I didn’t have to face you, nor did I ever want to.

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Learning to Love Yourself

Do you love yourself?” If you were to approach me in early 2009 and ask me that question, it would’ve been blatantly obvious that I didn’t. And not necessarily obvious with words, but with the way that I carried myself.

There I was, 20 years old, living a highly sedentary lifestyle in a 230+ pound shell. I didn’t communicate with many people, much less myself. I allowed myself to be bullied into silence by my peer’s comments, which left me feeling completely ashamed and worthless to all walks of life. Some days, I didn’t even want to get out of bed, nor did I feel like I had a reason for doing so. I self-medicated with food, and my unhealthy eating habits spiraled out of control for a majority of my young life. I was alive, but I wasn’t living.

To rid me of this empty void within my heart and soul, I brainwashed myself into thinking that food was my only comfort in life. Food made me feel alive, even just for a short moment…it gave me a high. But once it was gone, the feeling went away.

My hatred towards myself became so strong that I was completely oblivious to the fact that I was slowly killing myself with food…something whose purpose, ironically, is to aid in our survival.

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My Philosophy On Fear

Fear is a primal emotion. And you know what? I’m driven by it. I don’t believe in destroying fear before it destroys you. I don’t want to fight against something that will never cease to exist. I don’t want to waste my energy on the idea in which we can brainwash ourselves into thinking there is control over something that is inevitable. Fear is a natural response to potentially harmful ideas or situations. But fear is a double-edged sword. Fear can be just as destructive as it is constructive.

Where does fear come from? It starts young. Our caretakers often teach us to fear at a young age. Strangers. Heights. Separation. Darkness. Some fears just occur naturally. These fears bestowed upon ourselves teach us that sometimes bad things are on the other side of fear. And that’s okay. That’s why fear exists. It’s part of life, and we learn to adapt as we grow in order to protect one another. Some fears are meant to be a warning signal, so maybe you stop and think, “Should I do this?” “Can I get hurt?” There are no hero points rewarded for intentionally coming into harm’s way.

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