The Reluctant Runner

I woke up this morning to see Shalane Flanagan splashed all over the news and across social media as the TCSNYC Marathon Champion of 2017. Congratulations Shalane! Not an easy feat, for sure, but very well deserved.

New York is my favorite city and the New York Marathon has a special place in my heart, especially since I’ve completed two half marathons there. I joined the world of running pretty late. I was never an athletic person nor had any aspirations to be involved in sports. Till date, my family swears that as a kid, I changed TV channels with my toes because I refused to get up from the couch and grab the remote from our center table!

In 2014, much to my chagrin, I started gaining unfathomable amounts of weight. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get it off, nor could I prevent the pounds from piling on. Multiple tests and many doctor visits determined that I had hypothyroidism and PCOD. It was a heart-breaking diagnosis. I was devastated to know that I would need thyroid medication in perpetuity and would always struggle with PCOD related weight gain and other symptoms.

After my diagnosis, I struggled mentally and physically for some time. My husband encouraged me to take up running. He has always been an avid runner and had completed a few half/full marathons by then. With him by my side, I decided to give it a shot. I wasn’t sure if I would overcome my weight gain issues but I hoped it would help me decompress and relax. With a new pair of Brooks running sneakers, I went for my first run on February 23rd, 2015. That first day, I could not run for more than 30 seconds. Cumulatively, I walked for two miles and ran for less than 3 minutes. It was an eye-opener-of-sorts. With constant encouragement from my husband, I decided to continue and kept increasing the number of minutes I’d run each day. On April 9th 2015, I ran the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K race through Manhattan. For someone who had never run before, it was exhilarating – a miracle! I cannot explain how accomplished I felt after that first race. I felt like I was taking my life back from a nameless, faceless enemy.  I was determined to get my mojo back! .

Running each day became the norm. I looked forward to it all day at work and kept note of my progress, lest I lost interest along the way. I did lose a few pounds but more importantly I regained all of my lost self-confidence. For an hour or two each day, as my feet pounded the pavement, I felt completely attuned to my mind, body and soul. Some people meditate to find inner peace. I found mine in those cathartic moments when rubber hit the ground and my breath kept symphony with my heartbeats. Running has been more than a remedy for me. It helped me make sense of myself, my purpose and my possibilities. I’d pushed myself beyond my boundaries and I realized there were still stories about me waiting to be told. Chapters of my life, waiting to unfold.  Running those miles each day, I’d perspire but gain perspective. It brought me closer to my husband and made me realize how lucky I am to have found a partner who helped me re-discover myself in the midst of a crisis. Running gave me a second chance at life.

On November 22, 2015, I ran my first half marathon. I’ve run two other half marathons since then. No matter how busy I am, I always make time for a run. Having a daily goal helps me keep track of my health and keeps me motivated. I also hope it sets a good example for my children and helps them stay fit throughout their lives.

As I watched Shalane’s victory lap at the NYC Marathon 2017, I smiled and bid adieu to that reluctant runner who lives in my past. Without those stumbling blocks, I would have never discovered the joy of feeling the wind in my face, the power under my feet and the certainty that running helped me discover who I am.

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