Monday, January 3, 2011

A tale and some tips from a formerly fat, "I'll never run" chick

So, if the mere thought of running initially gives you hives and you have a pretty good feeling that those in your life will chuckle at the idea of "Who you? Running? Nah... Come on..." then you've come to the right place.

I was in those shoes a year ago at this time. Running seemed so foreign and out of my league that I think I threw down the gauntlet and started telling people that I was going to take up running out of boredom and a need to cause a little stir of shock. Yes. It was actually shocking to my friends, family and most of all me - to say I was going to run and not just run - I was to run a half marathon. I might as well have said I was going to the moon. It was that unbelievable and farfetched.

"Run a Marathon" always found its way onto my lifelong "to do" lists. I'm not sure why. As a former chain smokin', tequila swillin and fast food eatin' mess - I don't think I ever really believed I would run one - it just seemed something to add to the bucket list. But, one day, on a spur of the moment whim (or via demonic possession) I found a half marathon scheduled in May and signed up.  And then I panicked.

What had I just done? RUN 13 MILES? My ADD barely allows me to be comfortable in a car for 13 miles, what the heck was I thinking? It didn't matter what I was thinking - once in, I'm in. So I decided to take it one step at a time. Literally.

My first "training" consisted of running for one minute. And I use the word "running" loosely. I'm pretty sure that three legged turtles could WALK faster than my run but, none-the-less it was "run like" and not easy. I huffed and puffed but I continually found a way to put one foot in front of another. There wasn't always running, sometimes there was lots more walking/crawling/bitching and moaning than running but I stuck in there.

Slow but steadily, I began to see myself get better. Manage a minute longer, go a bit faster, struggle a little less and I began actually enjoying it. 

My 1st half with a nice fellow runner I met along the way
It's almost a year later and here I am - able to run 13 miles without walking - and training to run a full 26.2 in June - (for the record, I've walked during my previous two half's and there's no shame in that) and while my pace is still a little slow for my liking, I think I could take a three legged turtle. So what have I learned? 

1.  Goals + Accountability - The only thing that kept me motivated to do this was that I committed to a huge goal and started telling everyone about it. I started this blog, which made me not only checkin with myself everyday but I knew others were watching. It kept me responsible in those moments of wanting to back out. The race fee was over $100, people had faith in me, I felt a certain (real or imagined) obligation to keep plugging away in those early days.

2. Perseverance - You don't have to run fast, you don't have to run far, you just have to commit to yourself to never give up. My last half I practically crawled the last 3 miles - but I didn't give up. Don't you give up. Weather too bad outside to run? Do you have a friend with a treadmill you could hit up? Or a kitchen table to run around or an old Sweating To the Oldies workout DVD? While those alternative workouts might not quite match - making something happen instead of using it as an excuse to skip a train day, not only works to keep you physically on track but mentally makes you feel accomplished. You've gone from being a victim of things out of your hands to taking control and making it happen - that pays off in ways you can't even describe.

3. Follow a Program - I find I need structure. There are plenty of programs to get a newbie from the couch to the road, not only is it easier to 'lean on' a program to tell you what to do rather than guess - a good program will guide you along at a rate that's not too fast (as to cause injury) or too slow (to stunt your running growth.) There are many great programs out there that can get you going - drop me a note if you'd like suggestions.

4. Birds of a Feather - Most of my friends and family still don't fully get what I'm doing - by reaching out to other runners, mainly through running blogs - I've made some good friends, gotten some excellent tips and have found an amazing community of support, cheerleading and ass kickin' as needed. Without my new found running buds, I don't know how this journey would've panned out but it certainly wouldn't have been as rewarding.

5. You will LOVE it - I was never prepared for the transformation that happened to me. I started doing this for a little weight loss, maybe a little shock value but never did I expect to find a whole new life.  If you hang in there through some of the tough parts, on the other side you'll find that not only does runner's high exist you can expect: a healthier body, a sense of accomplishment, newfound belief in yourself, pride, passion, less depression and a list of a million other life changing things. As someone who has never seen herself as an athlete, this accomplishment has filled a void like nothing else could come close to. Setting small goals and continually crossing mental (and physical finish lines) becomes building blocks of personal growth that you'll never know if you don't try. Small victories - "Wow I ran for 2 straight minutes!" Or the first time you can run a mile - these small but HUGE moments add up to make you different than you were before. Each finish line is a gift, each mile is a lesson learned, each step is a path to this new person, a YOU, you never knew existed. 

So, if you've been sitting on the fence, feeling a little "possessed" to do something crazy and run - I'm going to tell you in the most cliched way I can think of... Just do it. You'll never have a run you regret. You might have to drag yourself out there, you might question your reasons for being out there during the run but after - you'll always feel better than you did before.

XO
Jen

PS: New runners check out RunnersAddict site that invited me to write this New Year's special blog for more tips, motivation and advice from real runners everywhere.


20 comments:

Jason said...

You rock. You Rock. YOU ROCK!

Beyond being a dedicated athlete you are a true inspiration and motivation to those you touch with your words.

I am beyond thrilled to have met you and believe that you can do anything and will do anything you put your mind to.

Your story is going to be told and re-told by me at the Marathon Makeover North Dallas meetings because it is everything we stand for.

WE ARE STOTAN!!!!

Jen said...

Aw, thanks Jason - likewise - your words continue to motivate me every day! xo

Meggie Dials said...

Congratulations on all you have accomplished and keep up the great work. Your post was great and glad to see another blogger on the RunAddicts project.
Meggie (www.seemeggierun.com)

Melyssa said...

Wow, a marathom. I've been running since July. But starting all over due to an injury, so no marathons for me. But this post is quite motivating, so we'll see. You rock!

Jen said...

Thank you Meggie and Melyssa for swinging by and for your kind comments! :)

Hope you'll visit again soon!

Gypsie said...

This is just the post I needed! I just had a baby mid-October and on 1 Jan 11, I signed up for my first marathon - The AF Marathon on 17 Sep 11. Here is the kicker, I haven't "run" since Nov 09 when I finished my first and only half marathon. Can you suggest a plan to get me there?

I think you found a new follower. This was a great post!

Jen said...

Hi Gypsie! Thanks for finding me and your kind comment. You can check out the link on the side of this blog: novice training for marathon - I am using a coaching program that is linked to my Nike + that I really like.

Let me know if that will work for you - if not, I'll investigate a few other options.

Caratunk Girl said...

Love it. You are amazing!!

Caroline said...

I love reading this post Jen!
I am a few days away from my first half and I can relate to a lot of the things you wrote about

Jen said...

Thanks Caratunk Girl and Caroline! I know -- I'm so super excited about your first half!! Yipppee!!

Julie @ Hotlegs Runner said...

I'm so proud of you BBF! Love this post! Just a few more months and you'll be a MARATHONER! woohoo!

Jen said...

XO thanks Julie!

dannie chOOng said...

woohoo, nice article !!! all the best on your first marathon at San Diego. train well and run safe yeah...

Jen said...

ty dannie!

LilyWren said...

I have come late to the blog (very late) but I have just got a treadmill and am wanting to get from shuffling to running and, for some reason like yourself, am telling people I am going to run... I am overweight, 40 and haven't run before but, for some reason, I want to do a marathon lol!

I am inspired by your words! You have done so well!! I am glad I came across your blog. Better late than never :)

x

beutifull jane said...

You are all fantastic champions ! Your motivation alone is inspirational! Keep on at it and stay injury free...slow and steady wins the race;))!!xJane

Jen said...

Thanks Jane!!

Nurse Anne said...

Hi Jen. My name is Anne. I am so glad I came across your blog. I've been obese for years now and decided to make a life change in January when I got on a scale. I've lost 35 pounds so far and still losing weight. I signed up for the 10k in June 9th 2012 to keep me motivated. People think I'm crazy too but I don't care. I've been training on my own based on the Marathon training books I've purchased On-line and thinking about joining Portland Fit but I'm a little scared. I just want to let you know that you inspire me and I'm going to keep on working hard to accomplish my goal of becoming a runner. Thank you so much.

Nurse Anne said...

Hi Jen. My name is Anne. I am so glad I came across your blog. I've been obese for years now and decided to make a life change in January when I got on a scale. I've lost 35 pounds so far and still losing weight. I signed up for the 10k in June 9th 2012 to keep me motivated. People think I'm crazy too but I don't care. I've been training on my own based on the Marathon training books I've purchased On-line and thinking about joining Portland Fit but I'm a little scared. I just want to let you know that you inspire me and I'm going to keep on working hard to accomplish my goal of becoming a runner. Thank you so much.

Nurse Anne said...

Hi Jen. My name is Anne. I am so glad I came across your blog. I've been obese for years now and decided to make a life change in January when I got on a scale. I've lost 35 pounds so far and still losing weight. I signed up for the 10k in June 9th 2012 to keep me motivated. People think I'm crazy too but I don't care. I've been training on my own based on the Marathon training books I've purchased On-line and thinking about joining Portland Fit but I'm a little scared. I just want to let you know that you inspire me and I'm going to keep on working hard to accomplish my goal of becoming a runner. Thank you so much.