A year of running — and what it has taught me

I’ve consciously limited the number of times I write about running, because it’s usually the same story: “I was nervous, it was either too hot or too cold, but I did it.”

But I think this weekend’s race merits a blog post of its own.

Yesterday’s 10K race marks one year of Rafia Officially Running! Why did I capitalize that? Because I like celebrating milestones and making them Official.

It was really nice that the first race that got me into running is the same race that marked my one-year anniversary. That I went from the 5K last year to the 10K this year is a good indication of the kind of progress I’ve made. It’s not as flashy or newsworthy as going from the couch to a half-marathon. But for me, this is a huge deal.

When I signed up for last year’s 5K, I did it because I needed an extra motivation to lose the yearly 10-pound weight gain I have been “battling” for a decade (this year also marks a decade of Rafia Losing 100+ Pounds – that post will come in August and I can promise you, there will be tears… at least for me!). Mr. Rafia also did the 5K along with me, as did a friend, whom I “needed” for moral support.

And while this particular 5K was not the first 5K I had run, for all intents and purposes, it pretty much was. It was my second 5K, the first one being in 2012. I was nervous, like I am before every race, and I wasn’t sure what it would lead to. If I can go back in time and in my mind then, I would have probably thought that would be the end of it.

But I gotta say, something kicked in. A competitive side to me that I had not seen outside of classes and with my grades. In something related to fitness? That’s not Rafia! But it was lurking deep down there, I suppose. Before this 5K, physical activity at its worst was pure torture and a means by which I hated my body even more; at its best, it was a necessary evil that just had to be done if I wanted to lose/maintain my weight. But never was it something I enjoyed… And something specific as running? Fah-get aboot it!

Still, to this day, running is by no means pleasurable. I don’t run to clear my head, whatever that means. Running is hard. It hurts my legs and feet. I breathe heavily. My face hurts. I get a headache mid-way through the run that lasts the whole day. I sweat A LOT. I become dehydrated. I get sore. So, why do I do it? There’s a sense of accomplishment, sure. But I think the thing that keeps me going is seeing the progress I have made. Each time I run, I prove myself, more specifically the negative voices in my head, wrong.

During mile 4 yesterday, I was losing steam. I wanted to stop, but I knew I wouldn’t. I repeated my mantra that gets me through every run: “You used to be 220 pounds and look at what you are doing now! It may not break any world records, but you are breaking your own.” That’s what gets me to tie up those laces each time, even in the face of nervousness and uncertainty. Back in high school, to suggest that one day I would willingly run 6.2 miles was just unfathomable. Why? How? But now at age 32, I know why and how. And man, it’s an amazing feeling to able to articulate that… even if I don’t feel it while I am running.

I was nervous about yesterday’s 10K. My running has been not as consistent as I would have liked. But I made it a point to do a trial 10K two weeks before. And let me tell ya, it was a struggle. I ended up slowing down my pace more than I wanted to. But instead of calling it a day, I completed the darned 6.2 miles.

After yesterday’s race, a colleague of mine asked whether I was going to do the half-marathon in May. I will not be. Not only does Ramadan begin the next day, my running goals are far less ambitious. I’d like to do more 10Ks before I even think about training for a half-marathon. But honestly the whole idea of training for something I have very recently (relatively speaking) grown to love disincentivizes running for me. I like to push myself, but within means. It’s only been a year — and I want to keep running for as long as I can. I don’t want to force myself to do something my body is not ready for, because running really has been more of a journey than a bucket list for me.

I mentioned earlier that my main motivation for the 5K a year ago was to lose weight. Weight concerns are no longer a reason I run. Sure, weight still bears on my mind, but I do feel running is helping with that. Eating a snack before and after a race and then a meal just a few hours later? The disordered eating part of me wanted to ignore what I know to be good advice. I wanted to wait it out. And to be sure, I’ve done plenty of runs where I thought I could continue to eat as I do and simply add a 5 mile run into my day. My body reacted though. And so I’ve had to adjust my approach. But I’m still learning and adjusting. Yesterday, I learned to listen to my body and eat when the food was available rather than force myself to wait two hours to eat the meal at a “respectable” dinner time. The thing is, I was hungry. If I was not hungry, then it would have been a different matter. Running is forcing politely (cattle!) prodding me to take care of my body in a way I simply did not before. The focus is no longer just calories, but increasingly more about proper fuel and nutrition. But as I’ve mentioned, this — the food issues, the weight hang-up, and now the running — is a lifelong journey. The running has to be what’s right for my body (and soul!) at this particular moment.

I need to be patient with my body and my mind. Knowing that I have a tendency to go all or nothing, that’s why I don’t want to rush into doing a half-marathon before I’ve given myself a chance to acclimate to the demands. In a world where we are constantly moving through one goal to the next, it seems rather unambitious to say I want to take things slow. But I do.

I’d rather be the tortoise than the hare.

Oh, and the best part of yesterday? So many cow references! Not only did I wear my “Running with the Cows” shirt and Texans baseball cap (it ended up not simply being an impulse buy), there were at least two cow bells throughout the course, and I got to hang out with my cow friend this year, too!

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TLDR: I pretty much ran this race to be able to take this photo.

2 thoughts on “A year of running — and what it has taught me

  1. Well done! It’s amazing to have this internal motivation and personal progress and succeed. This is particularly inspiring for me, because I need motivation to maintain the running I do (which is now the most consistent I’ve been in many years). Keep writing about it….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Yacoob! It’s good to know that my journey with running reinforces your own. I see that inherent in the very act of writing about anything. It seems like an almost selfish act, but when it’s read, you never know what connects with another person. How long have you been running for?

    Like

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