One year ago, I started a journey. With my husband at my side, together we decided to try and better our lives so that when we someday got to go to Disney with our family, we would be able to enjoy it without hesitation and panting breaths. It was not a quick journey. It was long and painful and it was just how I imagined a marathon must feel.
It was May of 2013. Since January, I had been watching a friend who started boot camp, drop pounds daily. She was doing something I had never been able to do in my life, lose weight. I had never considered myself obese, but I was. As a matter of fact, I was morbidly obese. Okay, saying that makes me teary-eyed. I was so big that it hurt my stomach to bend over. It hurt to breath when I knelt down. When I pulled my knees in close to my chest... they never got close. When I looked down, I could only see my belly. I hated it! I hated everything about what became of my body. Only my husband's help and his continued motivation would get me through these first few months. And they did.
In May I started to walk. I documented the entire journey in miles so that I would know what I had done. I documented it so that I could see visually what I had done and where I was going. Below you can see my first three months and the frequency of my walking. The purple represents walking events. The red represents biking events and the blue represents running events. For five weeks, I was very focused and determined to be faithful.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Sometimes Friday, I also did 30 minutes of bootcamp. I have a friend from High School named Laurie Alves, who runs her own training camp called Stronger Fitness. I met with her at 6:30 am 2-3 times a week for 30 minutes of exercises online. For the first three months there where very few weights involved, which was a good thing, because I couldn't do much. I was good to not want to throw up at the end of the 30 minutes. I liked it because it was private, I didn't have to worry about looking stupid or not being able to do something. We worked via webcam to get the job done. Within these three months, I could see the difference. I was losing weight. I was losing inches. I was finally seeing something change when I never had before.
With a slight, newfound confidence, in my schedule, I decided in late July to join the North Texas Runners running group. As far as running is concerned, it was the single best thing I did. Had I not joined the group, I wouldn't have met so many motivating people willing to pull me in and show me the right way to do things. Although I began running in mid July, my mind didn't consider me a runner for quite a bit longer. You can see by looking at the calendar's below the transition from walking (purple) to running (blue) is starting to take shape. Some weeks I was a little bit more eager than other weeks, but I continued to push through. My schedule may not have been consistent, but my persistence was and it paid off quickly (if you consider turtles quick).
I decided sometime in August that I was not going to run the Showdown in October as a 5k, like I had done so poorly and untrained the year before. I was going to run the Showdown Half Marathon this time and I was going to do it right. I was finally training the way I wanted to for so many years. Between bootcamp and my long runs on Saturdays, my distance was finally starting to increase and my body wasn't falling apart. It would have been such a great start to my half marathon journey, except I couldn't wait anymore. So in late October, feeling more mentally ready than ever, I decided to join my fellow NTX runners and run the Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon, before the Showdown Half.
This picture was taken over 5 months into my journey. At this point, I had lost close to 30 pounds and was on top of the world. I ran and finished this race in record time. This was my second half marathon ( the first being 1-1-11) and I ran this one in 2:46:41. I was so proud because my first half was 3:07:37. This was a big jump and I knew I probably couldn't get much better.
With this newfound confidence, I steamed full power into the next race. I was so excited, I just knew I was going to rock it. In October, the Showdown arrived. The morning of the race, I didn't have a good feeling. Before the PBF Half, I had focused so closely on drinking and eating properly. I fell off the wagon on this one. I knew I wash't drinking enough, but obviously there was a lesson to be learned. At mile 8 I got a stabbing pain in my shoulder blade. By mile 9 I was nauseous and starting to hyperventilate. By mile ten I thought I was not going to finish. I was walking the rest. For the first time in months, I was walking again. I was so mad at myself. I finished the race by the grace of God and a fellow runner dragging me. I should have immediately seeked medical attention, something I look back on and regret immensely. It could have turned out so bad. Thankfully it didn't. But now I knew the repercussions and it will not happen again if I can avoid it. I finished the race in 3:07:04. What a let down to come so far and then fall so far again.
Lea Anne Turns 40
I don't really have a smile on my face every time I run. I honestly don't always enjoy going out for a run, but I do it. I do it today because I know in some tomorrow I will want to run again. And if I don't run today, tomorrow might not be possible.
Before I knew it, I had 6 half marathons down in less than 4 months and I was no longer walking during the week. The best part was my New Years Eve run resulted in such a tremendous boost to my PR. I finished in 2:18. In my mind, I knew I had reached the pinnacle. I dropped my time by 49 minutes from the race before. No way. I thought, "I may never run that fast again, so I am going to soak in the joy today." A little bit of Nancy-isms set in.
And in true Forrest Gump Style, I continued to run. I didn't know where I was going, I just ran. I ran The Cowtown Half, The Rock & Roll Half, The Fairview Half. And once again I reached a milestone. I PR'd again. In the Fairview I ran in 2:17:13. My time continues to get better. It doesn't happen every race, but it continues to happen. I now know that part of running and success at running is confidence. I don't go into every race feeling 100%. I felt sure that the Fairview would be a tough one for me since the route is similar to the Showdown, but we can't always predict the outcome.
It was during these last few races that the itch to try something else started to bubble to the surface. So many friends were attempting a full marathon. I didn't think I was ready but I knew it was something I needed to try. In college, I watched in awe of those that could run that far, never expecting that someday I too would attempt one.
The date was set for the OKC Memorial Marathon and within a month of my last half, I took it head on. I know I didn't prepare perfectly. I know my body fell apart the week before the race. I know everything was telling me to just wait and complete it in December. However, this was what I needed to do to finish out my year of transformation. Before the race, I knew it would not be a great time. I knew things where not in my favor. But I also knew, (after my husband convinced me), that I never walk away. I may physically, but mentally, I will be back to fight another day. And so I did. After three hours of sitting in a parking garage sheltering from a storm. With a 2 hour delayed start to the race and a steamy starting gate, I began the race. The early morning run became a midday run and the steamy start turned into a sunny hot day. With temps nearing 85* I ran... for 6 hours. It was not a time to shout from the roof tops, but with 35 MPH sustained winds and 50MPH gusts, and 7 miles with straight headwinds I would not complain about my time and just be thrilled that I finished at all. Although I couldn't run the last few miles because of the bronchitis aggravated be the winds, I did sprint the last half mile. If not for me, for my friend Olivia who is always there at the end with me (in spirit and in army voice).
I did it. I finished out the most amazing year of accomplishments in my life. While this doesn't compare to getting married and having my little boys, for me it was huge! Those smiling faces above have made this year one that I will never forget. This year has been just like running the marathon I just finished, At times it was stormy, steamy, hot, sunny and windy all at once. At times I didn't think I could do any more. But I pushed. I will continue to push. I may not run a half marathon every month. I may not put all my miles in every week, but I will not give up. I know somewhere in me there is a 2:16 half waiting to happen. I know there is a 5 hour marathon in there too. Maybe someday soon I can share with you about those. Until then, I will continue to run the race set before me.
1 Corinthians 9:24
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
I get that prize every time my feet hit the pavement!
A wife, mother, teacher, life-long learner and an avid runner.