Those who know me personally are familiar with my lifelong lack of athleticism and tendency to puke my guts out during any school related fitness function. I was not born an athlete and I never thought I would become one. Running my first half marathon this past November was a shock to all, myself included, but I believe that my journey proves that (as cliché as it sounds…bear with me) you truly can do anything if you just put your mind to it.
But for realz, cuz this legitimately happened to me.
The following story is an elementary to middle to high school to college account of my journey from having the mindset that acquiring physical fitness is the work of the devil all the way to wow this makes me feel GREAT, I’ want to continue this for the rest of my life. Yeah, my opinions totally shifted from one end of the spectrum to the other. But I don’t regret anything.
Let’s start by reversing the clock back to elementary school me. I had bangs, a gap, and loved playing with my collection of over 40 Bratz Dolls (not ashamed). I did the talent show with my friends, sang in chorus, and did drama. Elementary school was great. There was always little to no homework and classes (for the most part) were interesting. But the one thing I despised, thought was a cruel joke, and wanted no part of was my dreaded P.E. class. I believe its safe to say that dodge ball was my favorite game because I could always count on getting tagged out early and being able to sit on the sidelines for (hopefully) the rest of class and talk with my friends. I hated basketball, soccer, volleyball, and capture the flag. Punishment took the form of running laps around the gym and so I grew to hate that too. But the icing on the cake, what topped it all off, and made typical P.E. class seem like nothing in comparison was the annual physical fitness test.
For those who don’t know, once a year we were forced to do timed sit ups, push ups, curl ups, etc.…and once you were old enough, the mile run. It was hell. I can remember the day I turned 10 and qualified for it. Most of my classmates were ecstatic while I, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with it. But then I had an idea. If I run this thing as fast as I can, I’ll be done quicker! I was a genius. Or so I thought. I remember getting into starting position (which was basically me just awkwardly standing there), the whistle blowing, and just like that, I was off. My legs moved like those of a gazelle. I was beating my entire class. I felt empowered, strong, and *insert stomach churns here* Uh oh. I kept running. *more churns* What’s that sound? *more churns* And running. *my throat suddenly was on FIRE* Then had to come to a complete halt while my class passed me…and I BARFED out everything I’d eaten that day. Mind you, the same thing happened with the required Turkey Trot we had to do the year after. It was disgusting and uncomfortable. I vowed to never run again. Physical activity literally made me sick.
Fast forward to middle school. Still doing drama. Taking art class. Doing musical theatre camp over the summers. School was harder, but life was still good. Until something terrible happened. Some genius thought it would be a great idea to make P.E. a required class for middle schoolers to take (and maybe its always been that way, but I endlessly hoped, and probably ended up convincing myself, that it was optional). Anyway, I was already in 8th grade and some how sneakily plowed my way through the years having never taken it. Which meant that now that they caught me, I HAD to take it. Which meant no drama– it was one or the other 😦 But then, a miracle happened. Well, kinda. It turned out the only way I could opt out of P.E. was by joining a sports team. And for some darn forsaken reason I picked volleyball.
Luckily, I loved the volleyball coach at the time. She was super sweet and so full of compassion and understanding. Bless her heart, the woman allowed everyone who tried out to join the team, going as far as to split us up into an “A team” and a “B Team”. “A Team” came to practice and played at the games while “B team” (this was me, T-GOD) came to practice and was benched at the games. It wasn’t the most fun I’ve had in my life, and I will always remember my serves somehow sending the ball behind me, but even through my tragic sense of hand eye coordination, I know that I made great friends and got a strong sense of what made a strong sports team (both physically and mentally). Then, when the season was all said and done, I quit.
Now fast forward to high school. Half the year of health class ended up becoming a semester of P.E. (damn it) where I was surprisingly kind of good at flag football. I scored touch downs and out ran basketball players. My P.E. teacher and classmates were wowed by my sudden talents. But I still didn’t care. I continued with drama and started applying to colleges. My mother started running half marathons. I thought she was crazy. I got on social media and regularly saw pictures of #abgoals #fitfam and #gymlife. I started realizing to maintain one’s health it was probably a good idea to be somewhat capable of strength and agility. That’s when I started going to the YMCA.
…truth be told, I went randomly and never knew what I was doing. I just kind of followed the pictures on the weight machines and did a spinning class once that was so hard my legs shook after for a good few minutes and I later decided it wasn’t for me. I constantly checked for abs. Were they there yet? What was taking so long? My mother even tried convincing me to come on runs with her to which I would just roll my eyes…
Then I don’t know how she did it, but my mother got her wish. The summer after I graduated high school, I ended up becoming so bored I finally let my mom have her way, “We’ll just do half a mile and, if you like it, we’ll increase it by another half mile each week.” I sighed. I wasn’t promising anything, but was willing to try. Anything to occupy the remaining stretch of summer that all my east coast friends abandoned to start their new lives at college.
And so we ran. I stopped. Ran some more. Walked. Then ran some more. I ended up completing a half mile around the neighborhood like she said and although winded by the end of it, I felt this sensation of success and accomplishment I’d never felt towards physical activity before. The next week I added another half mile, then the week after that, another. I loved running outside. I loved completing a workout and feeling good about it. I loved the rush of endorphins that took over my body when I finished. I ran slow. There was no pressure of time. No one was expecting anything from me. It didn’t cost any money and I could go whenever I wanted. Running gave me a sense of joy and freedom. I can remember thinking, OMG. I think I found my thing. My fitness thing.
I started out college running four miles on the treadmill at my school’s gym. I kept it consistent and, by the end of the year, had gotten myself up to six. That same year I joined my school’s running club where we went on jogs together and I learned all about running both half and full marathons. The more I heard about it (the half marathons, not the full), the more I wanted to do it. But not any time soon. It was more of a far off goal I decided I would someday accomplish. When I had the time. When I could be consistent with the training.
Then, after an entire year of running mostly on the treadmill, I grew tired of it and wanted to shake up my fitness routines. I got into Beachbody, my mom was a coach for them at the time, and completed about four different workout programs between the summer after my freshman year and the very end of my sophomore year. I was grateful for the programs because they taught me about the importance of good nutrition which I ended up getting fantastic results from. But by the time I’d finished these programs I realized I hadn’t run in almost a year. I can remember one night I went to the gym and decided to do a short jog on the treadmill just to see what it was like again. I wasn’t as conditioned as I once was, but a giant surge of nostalgia washed over me and I practically cried tears of joy.
God, I’d missed it. Running really was my thing.
And so in June, I decided to start training for my first half marathon. 13.1 miles was about double my max mileage ability which seemed doable. Especially considering I had time to get there— the half marathon wasn’t until mid November. I trained at my own pace, found fantastic paths to run along outside, discovered loads of new music, and had some of my best brainstorming sessions all throughout the process. I kept my schedule consistent when the fall semester came around. I completed a 10k, then the half marathon itself. When I crossed that finish line, a memory of elementary me throwing up after the mile run flashed across my mind. And I honestly couldn’t be more proud of myself.
I love running. I consider myself a runner. And I still run approximately four days a week, varying anywhere from 3 to 6 miles, depending on what I’m feeling. The journey I made was by no means easy. It was confusing and frustrating at times, but with it all said and done, the feelings of positivity, this is good, and this is right far outweighed the bad. And it still does to this day.
I want to run another half marathon. I want to run multiple. I don’t know if I’ll ever run a full marathon (tbh, probs not), but who knows. That could always change too. What I do know, is that I am happy with where I am. Running has allowed me to manage stress, sleep better, concentrate harder, and feel all around happier. Who would’ve known that I, Rebijord, the anti-P.E. child, would end up figuring out that running is such a great outlet for me?
I’ve found that giving things a second chance, at your own pace, and ridding the mind of all past judgement opens the door to a whole new world of possibilities. And the great thing is that this not only applies to running, but to people as well. Our society, our world, is crowded with hate, judgement, and scrutiny. But if we just take a second to pull ourselves back a bit and see things from a different perspective, we can surprise ourselves. I know I certainly did.