I don't know what prompted me to start running but in 7th grade I joined my middle school track team and discovered that I was surprisingly good. I went on to run for a club and then train with the high school cross country team. In 8th grade, I went to the USATF Junior Olympic National Cross Country meet where I broke the school records in the 1500m, mile, and 3000m. I was invited to run in a youth championship race at the Olympic Trials. I seemed to be at the forefront of every field and was looking forward to an amazing high school career. High school was a bit bumpy at first but I managed to win a conference title in cross country in 11th grade. I went on to run for a NCAA DIII university and made a lot of improvements to my times my freshman year cross country season. However, I ended up burning out and quit during the indoor track season.
The next six years would be a struggle. Going from collegiate training to occasional recreational exercise led to some very bad eating habits. I quickly went from eating five full meals a day to starving myself as much as I could stand because I did not "deserve" to eat as much as I had been eating. It got so bad that I had to go to the doctor and get treated for stomach pains. I was going so long between meals that my stomach acid was eating through the walls of my stomach. My mental health took a downhill turn too. I dealt with a lot of depression, guilt over the death of one of my teammates, anger issues, and anxiety that would persist for the next six years.
Getting Back Up
My fiancée talked to me at the end of 2021. She said that I needed to make some serious changes to my diet (or lack thereof) and the way I handled my mental health or she was going to reconsider getting married. What a wake up call!
At the start of 2022, I made a New Year's Resolution that I was going to take seriously: I was going to start eating again. I got a calorie tracker and discovered that I was eating about 1,000-1,200 calories/day, while biking to and from work and spending half the day on my feet. I did some reading about healthy eating and made a lot of conscious changes. By the end of January, I could force myself to eat up to 1,600 calories some days but it did not feel good. How could I increase my calorie intake if I was already hitting a wall? Exercise was the answer. I started going to the gym and doing core and strength workouts inspired by the ones that I used to do when I was running. I would also hop on the stationary bike and read books about running. By the end of February, I was able to hit my 2,000 calorie/day goal. I was still 6 pounds under a healthy weight though. At the beginning of March, I decided I would give running another try. That ended up being one of the most important decisions of my life.
I ran for different reasons this time. Before, I had always run to improve my times, win races, and show off. This time I was running for fun and my health. Running allowed me to increase my calorie intake and gain weight. Not only did I want to eat in a healthy way but I also wanted to run in a healthy manner. I did a lot of reading on proper form, diet, injury prevention exercises, and training smart. I put away my watches and learned to listen to my body. By the end of March, my body said something surprising: I love running! I love the motions, mechanics, and challenges of running; it makes me happy.
From then on, I kept running and never looked back. My diet improved dramatically and by the end of April I was no longer considered underweight. My mental health also improved. I found myself less angry, anxious, and far less depressed. I felt better about myself and life. I learned about patience and relaxing. My relationship with my fiancée improved dramatically as well! I ran my first race in years at the end of April. A week later, I did another one. The times didn't matter; what mattered was the community, celebrating health, and having fun.
I made a jersey that said "HEALTHY CHALLENGE" because running improved my life in healthy ways that I could have never imagined but it was also a challenge. Being healthy is about challenging the body and mind but those challenges should also be healthy for our body and mind. My mission is to help other people see the potential that running has for them and the way that running could change their lives for the better. All the while, Still I Run.
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