Let me travel back in time…four years ago…there I was, 20 years old, living a sedentary lifestyle at a whopping 230 lbs.I pushed myself into a deep depressive state, and there were some days when I didn’t even want to get out of bed, nor did I feel like I had a reason for doing so.I self-medicated with food, leading my unhealthy eating habits to spiral out of control. To rid me of this empty void within my heart and soul, I brainwashed myself into thinking that food was my only comfort in life. My hatred towards myself became so strong that I was completely oblivious to the fact that I was slowly killing myself with food…something whose purpose, ironically, is to aid in our survival. It wasn’t until one night, in April of 2009, when I woke up and realized that it was time to make a change.
I was tired of having my quality of life go down as the numbers went up.
I was tired of feeling breathless after hauling myself up a single flight of stairs.
I was tired of avoiding social gatherings because I was too embarrassed of my existence.
Most importantly, I was tired of not living.
I had to wake up from this self-induced ‘coma’ that I put myself in. I was just a body comprised of fear, hatred, and sadness – a walking billboard for the hopeless.
Believe it or not, I came to terms with my food addiction and was inspired to transform myself by watching The Biggest Loser. And after making necessary lifestyle changes, I successfully lost 110 lbs. Unfortunately, I didn’t focus on my psychological well-being. I was still stricken with fear. I was chained to the scale, my life controlled by numbers, and I lost all sense of reality. After some time, my inner strength began slipping through the cracks. Self-sabotage pushed me too far in the other direction, and I found myself in the same deep depressive state that I was in at 230 lbs.
If I hadn’t met a runner in late 2010, I have no idea where I’d be today.
When I first met this person, I thought, “Running? How can anyone actually enjoy running?” The word alone made me cringe. In fact, I was terrified of running because I saw it as a form of torture or punishment. Prior to being reintroduced to the sport, I associated running with painful memories from gym class where I recall barely being able to run for short bursts without being struck with fatigue and shortness of breath. Running made me feel weak and defeated. My only wish was to never run again.
But the more I heard him talk about running, revealing his passion, the more intrigued I became. I started reading about running and came across the term that most avid runners are familiar with, “runner’s high.” I didn’t understand it, and for some time, I don’t think I wanted to. Although, reading stories about this notion left me with a sort of empty feeling. I ultimately ended up craving the feeling for myself. I wanted to understand why people run, and more importantly, why my friend runs. It’s not something that can be explained by words alone. I did a lot of research on my own through magazines, websites, and asking my friend for a few pointers here and there. And I began testing my limits on the treadmill in January of 2011, and once I discovered how quickly I was progressing, I didn’t want to retire my shoes anytime soon. I became my own motivator. When I showed a genuine interest in running, my friend convinced me to sign up for the Mt. Summit Challenge. The rest is history.
When I first got into running, I thought that it would be 5Ks and nothing more. But after watching the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 15, 2011, something struck me like a bolt of lightening. It took every fiber of my being not to burst out onto the course and cross the finish line myself. When I saw the emotions behind the runner’s eyes, I unexpectedly saw running in an entirely new light. It became very obvious that running was more than a physical challenge. It’s also a challenge on one’s state of mentality. I saw tears of joy, proud loved ones, and the determination to finish, even when their bodies couldn’t handle another painful step. People limped, winced, sprinted, help hands, cheered, and so much more as they crossed the finish line.
The finish line of any marathon or race holds the power to change someone’s life and transform them into a different person. Heck, the finish line held it’s power against me, and I wasn’t even a participant. When I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about running. Images from that morning flooded my mind. I could hear the crowd roaring. I couldn’t stop myself from lacing up my shoes and taking a stride towards greatness. I had no planned distance in mind. I just ran. I magically found the ambition, backbone, and stamina to triumphantly run 13.1 miles after having only ran a personal outdoor distance record of 6.2 miles. It still boggles my mind to this very day. The moment I saw 13.1 on my Garmin watch, I stood in the middle of broad daylight, balling my eyes out. This is the day and the moment when running a full marathon became a goal of mine. I just didn’t think that it would happen the following year.
The friend that initially sparked my curiosity is no longer a part of my everyday life, but I’ve learned that people come into your life for a reason. Perhaps I was born a runner, but I just needed that extra push. He was there to open the door, and I will forever be grateful that I had the courage to step inside.
Fast forwarding 2 years from January 2011, here I am 29 races later, a 2x marathoner and an ultra-marathoner. What this journey has given me is far beyond what I can put into words. Here’s a brief recollection from my first marathon on May 6, 2012: That finish line was a wall compiled of so many things. Fear of speaking. Fear of being myself. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of failure. Fear of standing my ground. Years of torture. Years of bullying. Years of weakness. Years of severe depression. Years of hiding in my room. Years of abusing my body with food. Endless moments of feeling worthless. I had no clue where I belonged. I was alive, but I wasn’t living. The list goes on and on.
The old Adrian was sitting on that finish line, looking lifelessly as she did for so many years. She was waiting for me. I stomped right over the finish line and crashed through that steel wall, which was built from a past filled with angst. And I did it with a big grin on my face. Any pain or doubt that I’ve ever felt in the past suddenly turned into ashes and blew away as the wind rushed past me. There I was a teary-eyed newly pronounced marathoner. As the medal was placed around my neck, “I really did it,” I thought, “I really did it.” I became a completely different person than I was just 4 hours, 38 minutes, and 28 seconds before, when the starting gun first went off.
Running has trained me to run the day and to not let the day run me. I put on my cape, chased my fears, and rescued myself. I am my hero. I am me. I am Adrian. I’m not just a runner. I’m someone with a strong passion for life. Even when a gust of wind crosses my path, I will continue to keep my flame burning bright.