The news left me lost, terrified. I felt powerless, but I knew I needed to take control. It's always in these tense situations that we have moments of clarity--an ability to step outside ourselves without realizing it. For me, this manifested as a strange and urgent desire to move.
That afternoon, I put on a pair of old gym shorts and ran mile-long laps around the local lake. My lungs burned and my legs went numb. That run wasn't the beginning of a lifelong love affair with running--I didn't enjoy it at all, in fact. But it did show me that I had power over my anxiety.
It also helped me realize that I needed to make a change in my own life and health. I started small: a half hour on the stationary bike in my dorm gym a few times a week. Smarter choices at the dining hall. Elliptical sessions and group fitness classes. Seeing the number on the scale go down pushed me to work harder and try new things, so I added weight lifting and high-intensity interval training to my workouts.
After a year, I dropped about 60 pounds. Slowly, the anxiety subsided. And after treatment and surgery, my mom was cancer-free (and still is, to this day)!
But despite this Renaissance, running always seemed too hard. Runners were svelte gazelles that never got winded for miles on end; I was a wannabe who still needed a break after climbing the three flights of stairs at my office.
Then I found a Pink Ribbon Run at a local waterfront park and set myself a new challenge to become one of those runners and run a 5K in honor of my mom. I trained with a plan I found online and took to the streets on an unexpectedly hot day with hundreds of other runners decked out in pink.
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Through the first mile, I thought, "This is the most incredible feeling in the world!" But my excitement caused me to burn out, and I was forced to walk nearly the entire last mile. I told my husband as we drove home, "I'm never doing that again."
And yet, here I am, at mile 16 of the 2017 New York City Marathon. Because I didn't give up.