Four years ago, I headed out for my first run on a cold, dark, snowy January morning...
I decided to start running as a New Year's Resolution, in 2013, in hopes of getting that "runner's body" that is plastered all over fitness magazines. The image of the women with washboard abs, smiling from ear to ear, with a long ponytail, sports bra and short shorts. My first run that morning was far from that image as I was bundled in two pairs of yoga pants, a heavy sweatshirt, scarf wrapped around my face and snots dripping from my nose. This was a rough time in my life as I was just moving away from an eating disorder, and entering into a deep depression. I signed up for my first race, a 2.38 mile trail race, and began my training with as little running as possible, 5 minute walks with 1 minute of running for about 1-2 miles, 3-4 times a week. I dreaded the running part, but I loved being outside, especially early in the morning when the world around me was asleep. It took months of training before I was able to run a couple miles without walking, and finally race day came. Although I had never run on trails before that day, I had so much fun and felt so much pride crossing the finish line. I continued running through the Summer, with my longest run being around 4 miles, and then when the next Winter came, I lost my motivation to be outside in the freezing cold. I quit running and started other gym activities. My relationship with food hadn't changed and my depression worsened. I was vegetarian at the time, which was a way to cope with some severe digestive disorders. I came upon Michael Pollen's book, "Omnivore's Dilemma", and went vegan practically overnight after learning about factory farming and the agriculture industry. I had never thought about where my food had come from before and now my eyes were wide open. I began educating myself and the more I read, the more I discovered this whole other world of compassion. I started learning about vegan long distance runners like Matt Frazier (the "No Meat Athlete"), Micah Risk (co-founder of Lighter; Boston-Qualifier) and Scott Jurek (legendary ultrarunner and author of "Eat and Run"). After reading stories of their successes, I decided to give running another try. One Saturday morning, I headed out for what was supposed to be just a couple miles, but something inside me sparked. I thought about those other runners, I thought about the animals who were suffering and my own personal demons. I became a ball of emotions, and the more I ran, the better I felt. 6 miles later, I came home and immediately knew that this was something I needed to keep doing.
Shortly after, I signed up for my first half-marathon. 13 miles at the time seemed impossible, but after training through the next Winter, and learning more about the sport of ultra-running, 13 miles didn't feel like enough. As race day approached, May 2015, I decided to sign up for a marathon. Then as my first marathon approached, October 2015, that didn't seem like enough either, so I signed up for my first ultramarathon and to use my first marathon as a "training run". During this time, I went for my first trail run, and that made my passion for running even stronger. Running on the trails brought on new challenges, a change of scenery, and a sense of peacefulness that I hadn't felt before. December 2015, I ran my first ultra, a 32-mile local trail race, on rocky, technical trails, with a low-finishing rate. Within 6 months, I had gone from running my first half to running my first ultra, with some fast finishing times for a beginner. My relationship with food and my body had completely changed. Food was fuel and I needed plenty of it to be faster and stronger. My body wasn't an object anymore, it was a powerhouse, and although I never achieved that perfect image that I had strived for in the beginning of this journey, I now had the confidence that I could do so much more than I thought I was capable of doing, and I was proud of this body I now had. Not because of how I looked, but of the places it had taken me.
Running has changed my life, and there is still so much I have yet to do!
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