Growing up, I was overweight and very unhealthy. It wasn’t uncommon to find me sitting in front of the TV for hours and finish an entire bag of chips. I even developed high cholesterol and high blood pressure starting at age 12, much to my Doctor’s dismay. In school, P.E. classes were my least favorite, and the activity I dreaded the most was the inevitable one mile run that occurred once every semester. One year, I even faked an ankle injury just to get out of it. Something about having to run long distances made me cringe every time (yes, one mile to me was considered long distance). I could only run about 10 seconds before I was out of breath and had to walk. I was always the last person to finish, felt pain all over my body, and no one would ever pick me to be on their team when the activity had anything to do with running. Basically, I. HATED.RUNNING.WITH.A.PASSION.
Fast forward many years to 2010. I was 20 years old and an undergraduate in college. My many attempts to run a mile without stopping failed each time. I ran for a little bit and almost always had to stop to catch my breath a few seconds later. As I was running with my running buddy one day, I received advice that would reshape my life forever:
“You have to THINK you’re able to run a mile if you ever want to do it!”
“Hmm,” I thought, “I guess I have to change the way I think while I’m running.” Of course, I had my doubts. Really? That’s all it takes? Just a change in the way I thought about running? I always thought the ability to run long distances had to do with good genes, a strong pair of legs, and an excellent cardiovascular system. The people who could run long distances could do it because, well, they just could. It was natural, and I couldn’t do anything to change that about myself. Or could I?
Soon enough, I made it a goal to be able to run a mile. I had to readjust my pace, clear my mind, and before I knew it, I ran and completed a mile. And boy, I was SO proud of myself. I continued to run a mile at least 3 times a week and increased my mileage to 2 miles. “2 miles, that’s all I can ever do,” I told one of my girlfriends. “If you can run 2 miles, you can run 3.1. You should sign up for a 5K race,” she said.
Ugh, 5K’s. I remember back in grade school, our teachers encouraged all of us to sign up for the Fort Worth Cowtown 5K, a huge, local running event that everyone and their mother signed up for. I always thought my classmates who participated were crazy. Who would want to run 3.1 miles on the weekend, and for fun?! But there I was, agreeing to sign up for a 5K. My 2nd grade self would have slapped me across the face.
My first 5K was the Undy 5000, an event put on by the Colon Cancer Alliance to promote early screen for colorectal cancer, in October 2011. My mom, my friend and her mom, and my cousin were there and were going to walk the 5K, but being competitive I decided to run it. My exact thoughts as I started was, “How am I ever going to finish this? WHY did I decide to run instead of walk?” But nonetheless, I started running. And I kept running. “Just keep running. If you stop now, it will be even harder to start running again,” was what I kept telling myself. I crossed the finish line and I couldn’t believe it! I began running 5K’s on a regular basis for the next year and a half. I was hooked, and I felt like I was on top of the world. However, I looked at the 10k, 15k, half marathon, marathon, and ultra marathon runners with envy, but I still stuck with my 5Ks.
Fast forward to fall 2012. This particular occurrence was one that I would remember for the rest of my life. I was in the break room at work, talking to my boss. She was telling me about the time she ran a 10K.
“Phew, a 10K,” I said. “I don’t think I could ever do that. I can’t run a 10k.”
There it was. That word again. “Can’t”, the word and feeling of convincing doubt that makes you very certain of your inabilities. Even more dangerous, it was passive. It was like I didn’t mind not being able to do something that I always wanted. The word “can’t” gave me an excuse to not try.
After thinking about that incident, I came to a revelation. If I kept telling myself that I couldn’t do something, I wouldn’t. The only person that was holding me back from my goals was me. Nobody was telling me I couldn’t. I promptly signed up for the Hot Chocolate 15k and the Cowtown Half Marathon (yes, the same event I used to hate) held in February 2013. “I’m going to make this happen,” I told myself.
After days of training and mental preparation, I crossed the finish line at the Hot Chocolate 15K and 2 weeks later, I crossed the finish line at the Cowtown Half Marathon. Crossing the finish line shattered every inch of doubt I ever had about myself. I went from being absolutely sure I would never be able to run long distances to actually doing it. And if I can do what I thought was impossible, what other things am I capable of doing? The answer was both frightening and uplifting: anything.
This victory I had with myself spilled into all areas of my life: school, work, ambitions, goals, and dreams. Every time I come across an obstacle in any situation or think about something I’ve always wanted to do but was too scared to attempt, I reflect back into my childhood and my journey with running. With some hard work, consistency, and a determined mind, you too can achieve what you once thought was impossible.
Just remember, it IS possible—just a tiny change in your attitude is all you need.