How Running Changed My Life


It was the summer of 2003. My newborn was three months old and my life was falling apart around me. I was now a single parent, living alone and struggling to juggle a seven-year-old, a newborn, and unemployment. To make matters worse, I was grossly overweight and unhealthy. My confidence had completely evaporated and I was at my wit's end. I knew I needed to do something but I wasn't quite sure what that something was. My primary care provider was the first person to turn on a light switch in my head. "I can give you more medicine for your back pain, but the solution to your problem is simple - your spine is not designed for the weight you are placing on it. Lose weight and if the pain does not go away, we can look at other options." I stared at him blankly. Losing weight was work and it was work I was not prepared to do. I wanted the medicine, the temporary fix that will alleviate me of all personal responsibility for my predicament. As I drove home, I thought about what he had said. Intellectually, I understood what he said but experientially, I wasn't sure how to begin. I watched runners run gracefully along my city streets and wondered what motivated them. How did these people become runners? What or who inspired them to lace their tennis shoes and pound the pavements?

Weeks later, still doing business as usual, I browsed the collection of books at Barnes and Nobles and found a book called, "How Running Changed My Life: True Stories of the Power of Running". The book ignited a spark in my heart to become a runner. I had no idea how to begin but knew that I would not win the battle if I didn't even try. So I decided to start. I bought a pair of tennis shoes and began to run. I was 276 pounds and cars would honk as they drove by. I wasn't sure whether they were cheering me on or mocking me. I just ran anyway. Run for 5 minutes, walk for five minutes. Run for five minutes, walk for five minutes - that was my initial strategy. My very first run changed my outlook in that single day. Consistent running started to change my outlook on life. Months passed and I started to see results, and before long, I could run for miles without pausing except at traffic lights. Running gave me a newfound freedom. My confidence grew and I joined a gym to build muscle. I can't explain it but the more I ran, the more I grew from the inside out. I concluded that there was nothing I couldn't do if I committed myself to the sport of running.

Running seemed like a really small thing that ended up having a very big impact on who I was becoming. When I felt tired or confused, I would simply put on my tennis shoes and run. I stopped seeing myself as a victim of the circumstances that plagued me but rather as a student of those circumstances, eager to figure out what I could learn from situations that confronted me that I could not change. Running taught me how to win despite what life might throw at me. I discovered that winning is never about the stimuli but more about how I react to the stimuli. I learned to pause and access every situation before deciding as I used the solitary times during my run to ponder on my next steps. This way I stopped falling into the trap of making permanent decisions based on temporary circumstances. I began to see the benefits in the quality of my decisions, my mental health, and my body image. I started to see myself as being worth the effort; that my life meant something and that I had something special to offer the world, and that the fact that I had failed in many ways did not automatically label me a failure. If I could take my failures, learn from them and commit to doing better, I can ultimately become a winner at this thing called life. Running gave me a brand new perspective on failure. It taught me to never write anyone off provided they wanted to change their lives. My job is to tell anyone willing to do better, they could. They can because I did.

Unfortunately, due to a busted Achilles in 2019, my running life is on pause. I have taken on biking with the same intensity as I did with running. I hope that someday soon, I will be able to run again. I am happy to say that I am now gainfully employed with an awesome career in higher education and going to grad school this summer to pursue my doctorate. I love this quote by Ronald Rock that simply says: "I don't run to add days to my life, I run to add life to my days."

No comments:

Post a Comment