My Running Journey

Post-marathon depression is a real thing, I don’t care what anyone says. It’s been a jumble of emotions these past few days. One minute I’m overcome with happiness that I did it (!!!!), the next I’m bitter it’s over.

I highly considered leaving the next part of this post out and just skipping to explaining how I got into running (because even re-reading it, I’m getting annoyed with myself), but I must stay honest and so it stayed.

I hate that I’m even going to say this, but right after the race I gave myself a really hard time about my “finish time.” I’m aware I’m the only one who cares. We trained to finish in around 4 hours and 20 minutes and right before the race, Hadley and I both said we knew it could actually happen. Mind you, our real goal had always been to simply finish. It was going to be our first marathon and Boston is one of the toughest courses (if not THE toughest!). The 4:20ish thing really came out of nowhere, it was something we just realized we could do after the pace of our long runs stayed consistent. Anyway, you know how it is once you get something in your head.

As I wrote in my last post, the heat and my caffeine “overdose” really impacted the run for me. I finished in just under 5 hours (literally, 4:59:52). Everything kind of went out the window at Mile 14 and from then one it was back to the original goal, just finish.

I didn’t even want to know my time at first and honestly, my only regret from that day is that I didn’t instantly give myself more credit. I’m over it now, but it took a dew days to really feel like I had done it. Like I said, I debated even bringing this up, because I don’t want it to come across like I’m not proud of myself. Trust me, I’m freaking proud. But there was a weird, lingering feeling the first few days after the race.

I’m back in Rochester for the weekend and on Wednesday night’s flight, in an attempt to snap myself out of it, I started thinking about my running journey. Let’s just say I’m not feeling nearly as bad anymore, after realizing really just how far I’ve come.

How does one go from literally never running to running the Boston Marathon? Whew baby, let me tell you. Listen up, this is a good one.

When I was younger, I was not a fan of physical activity. Even in elementary school, I have vivid memories of hating going to gym class. I hated that I was clumsy, I couldn’t catch a ball to save my life and was I 100% was always one of the first people to get nailed in dodgeball. In 3rd grade, I cried to my mom that I had asthma and begged her to take me to the doctor to get an inhaler. I thought this would make me cool. Sorry class, I’ll be late for gym because I have to go take a few puffs. Expert stall mechanism. In kindergarten, I guess I played soccer?I have zero recollection of this, but there’s proof.

Evidence that I was on a team!

Twice a year we had to run laps for 5 minutes in our small gym (still elementary school). This was another thing I hated, knowing I’d never last running for five minutes. One year I tripped and fell, laying on the concrete until the teacher came to get me. My mom was called and she picked me up from school to go to the doctor to get checked for a concussion. I’ll never forget this, because it was 9/11. My mom was crying when she picked me up and I instantly felt bad for making more of a scene than needed. I’d later learn she wasn’t crying about me.

In 7th grade, I tried out for our school’s CYO cheerleading team. I had zero idea what I was getting myself into, but cheerleading seemed like a great way to solidify a place for myself. I knew I wasn’t athletic, so cheerleading had to be a great fit (my mind has fully changed on the athletic ability needed for cheerleading, don’t get me started). I loved being on a team, I loved making new friends. I thought I was in love with every single boy on the basketball team we cheered for and everything seemed to fall into place. I had a sport, this would be my thing.

My (still) GREAT friend, Kaitlin & I.

Every Sunday we’d go to my grandparents house for dinner. My dad is one of six, so I grew up surrounded by cousins all close in age. We were extremely close then and we’re extremely close now. They played basketball, soccer, football, etc. I watched. I was usually picked last in kickball games and I honestly found it funny that no one wanted me on their team. I knew I wasn’t “good.” I just wanted to be involved. I was more into books and school. I usually got a “nerd alert” chant whenever I came around.

I continued cheerleading throughout middle school and into high school. I still hated gym and did whatever I could to get out of it. As a part of cheerleading tryouts in 9th grade, we had to run a mile in under 15 minutes. This was the year I was hoping to make the varsity squad and while I knew I certainly wasn’t the best cheerleader, I thought maybe I could prove myself by running the mile in under 15 minutes. I had never really run before, but four laps around the track? How hard could it be? I did it, but I didn’t make the team. This is the first time I remember every really running for a reason.

Halie, my BFF, was my cheer partner in crime. Here we are, posing in our Freshmen squad uniform.
JV Cheerleading.

I cheered for two more years, stopping after my junior year. I finally made the varsity team and loved it. My coaches were out of this world amazing and all I wanted was to be like them (still do!). I would drink a diet coke and eat a pop-tart before every practice. It was heaven. I wasn’t super in shape, but this was pre-eating disorder and I couldn’t have cared in the slightest. I had daily physical activity and was even placed in the front of formations sometimes. I could shake my booty.

My varsity photo.

I’m sure I could find the video if I searched for it, but in one competition I’m standing in the back corner in a jump formation. We had to do a double-russian, which is basically a toe-touch twice. It’s super difficult and not something I ever mastered. In the video you see the entire team, probably 35 girls, do the jump and there Emily stands. STANDS. The entire time. I didn’t even try. I promise you it was out of laziness. This is a prime example of how “athletic” I was at this time.

My senior year of high school, I started going to yoga. Some of my friends and I would get up early before school started and take a class at the local JCC. During one of my first few classes, we convinced the instructor to sign a sheet that said we were regular attendees so we could get out of gym. Amen.

If you’re a regular ATBE reader, you know that at the end of my senior year I fell into the dirty, dirty depths of an eating disorder. I lost a ton of weight the summer before I started college and then began bingeing and purging when I started gaining it back.

Here’s where running comes into play, officially. I initially started running as a way to lose weight. Still under command of my ED, I thought it would be a great way to burn calories. I took to my mom’s old, creaky treadmill. It used to be set-up in our unfinished basement in a space we’ve always called my dad’s “hunting camp.” He’s a huge deer hunter and this is where he houses all of his gear. Surrounded by deer antlers, camo and old pictures of my sister & I, I taught myself how to run on this treadmill.

I started with walking, then speed walking and then 5 minutes of running. 5 minutes became 10 minutes, 10 minutes became 20. I’ll never forget the day I got to 40. I used to blare  my iPod and sing the songs out loud as I ran.

This bad boy is still standing! It’s relocated from the basement and I still use it for workouts when I’m home.

I would also full-blown cheer myself on. Every few minutes you could hear a, “Go, girl!” or “Yeah, Emily!” or “WOO.” The best part is that if someone was home, they’d yell it back. My dad would usually walk around the kitchen after I finished saying, “Woo, go girl!” Eventually I took to running outside and unfortunately that’s when things took a turn for the worst.

I will never forget the summer after my freshmen year. The mornings of waking up early, eating a full bowl of Kashi cereal, running 3-5 miles in the 80 degree heat, coming home, puking up breakfast and then attempting to go back out and run another few miles. It was my hell.

If you’re a regular ATBE reader, you also know that this is around the time that I met Jordan (we’ll save more of his impact for another post, maybe pre-wedding?) My ED didn’t instantly go away after meeting him, but this is when I first came clean to my family and started asking for help. I did my best to throw my bad habits away and continue on with the good ones. Running stayed with me.

One of the first few days Jordan and I were “texting,” I went for a run near my house. There’s this stupid hill, that I always try to tackle and I don’t know what my deal was on this day (or any other day, really) but I tripped and fell, directly over my own two feet. I went down hard, scraping my hands and creating gashes in both my knees. Blood instantly started dripping down my shins and onto my sneakers.

I had to call my sister to pick me up. Unfortunately “Emily falling” was not a shock to her, so it wasn’t as big of a deal as it may seem. My mom cleaned me up in the kitchen sink. I remember sending a picture to Jordan, thinking this had to make me seem hardcore and sexy. He responded saying that I was NARP, aka a  “non-athletic regular person.” This is still my nickname. A few days later we “hung out” and my knees were still in rough shape. I was bleeding through band-aids and he offered to re-patch me up. This was the first moment I thought he might be the one (LOL).

My first pair of running sneakers were Asics and I had zero idea what I was buying. They made my shins scream and I didn’t wear them for too long before Jordan brought me home a pair of Reebok running sneakers from a lacrosse camp. I was in love. I was obsessed with the idea that he clearly thought I was a runner (we weren’t dating yet). I would say this is when I committed to becoming just that … a runner.

Found these bad boys in the closet at home, first pair!
Reebok sneakers and my favorite running trail at home.

There’s a three mile loop around the RIT campus, where I went to college, that my roommates and I would run at least once a week. Sometimes I made it all the way around, sometimes I wouldn’t. I was moving into ED recovery and with that came almost “starting from scratch” with running. I knew it had saved me in a way, kept me sane. I don’t know if I thought I was too good at it.

Fast forward through some more running and getting into fitness more in general and my sister and I decide we’re going to run the Rochester half-marathon. I had literally never run a race before, but we both wanted to do it and knew it would be beyond fun to train together. It was.

Intermission: I think training for something WITH someone is one of the greatest things you can do. Training for that half-marathon with Jess and then the marathon with Hadley allowed me  to experience a whole new level of “togetherness.” There are so many days of not wanting to do it and so many days of your partner saying, “Nice try! Let’s go!” I will never forget the day Jess and ran in a full blown blizzard – snow so thick we couldn’t see each other, or Hadley and I running after work in the pouring rain for like, three weeks straight.

Jess & I ran the half-marathon, crossing the finish line holding hands. It was amazing. I loved it. A few months later we ran a 10k with my aunt and again, it was so fun. I was never super concerned about time, I was just in love with the fact that I was regularly running/that I was runner. Who was I and when did I develop this ability?!

My first successful 10 miles run.
Jess, JoJo, Melissa & I after our first 13.1!
Aunt Karen + Jess & I after the Rochester Lilac Festival 10k.

I soon graduated from college and moved to Boston the following fall. Boston is a running hub and the running community is INSANE. Unfortunately, I really started to question whether or not I was actually a “runner.” I certainly didn’t look like a runner, with my big thighs and not super long legs. I certainly wasn’t fast. I certainly hadn’t ever really raced. But I loved running and it kept me sane, so I just kept doing my thing.

My weekly mileage was probably anywhere from 5-10 miles. I started taking classes at MyStryde, the running studio in Boston that I’m always talking about and started getting more and more into it. Endurance, sprints, hills, bring it on. I still wasn’t super concerned about pace and chalked it up as a win if I made it through a class.

During the summer of 2015, I ran my first Ragnar Race, 200 nonstop miles completed by a relay team of 12. I ran 13 (?) miles total and although it was challenging, I loved every minute. I was regularly attending spinning and bootcamp classes and dedicating more time to fitness. I even started teaching my own bootcamp classes at a gym right by apartment.

Running through the Ragnar night.
Pure happiness at the end of my first Ragnar leg.
One of my bootcamp classes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running was a part of my regular exercise, but almost more as a way for me to clear my head. I loved the sweat, but I loved the “me time” even more. I always felt like my Best Emily when I was running. Sometimes I’d even close my eyes and just feel what it’s like to run – to put one foot in front of the other and cut through the air.

Jess & I running in Boston.
Jess is my original running buddy.

In 2016, I went to watch the Boston Marathon for the first time. I fell in love. I told Jordan I had to do it and while it was kind of a joke, I knew I meant it. Eight months later I was accepted to run for Tenacity and my dream was becoming a reality. Three and a half months of training later and here I am, able to say that I’ve done it. I’ve run the Boston Marathon.

So, I was giving myself a hard time and then I think about all of this. How I’ve started from the literal bottom and now I’m here (HEYO). I’ve never cared about pace and time before, so why care now? It’s never been what it’s about for me and there’s no reason to start now. Running is my thing, more than anything else has ever been my thing and I’m not letting that go.

It was really difficult for me to write this post and I’ve actually had it written for a few days. I’ve been letting it sit. Difficult, because I know I’m so much stronger (running wise, health wise and mental wise) than when I first started and the being so hard on myself really felt like a setback.

But the second the those feeling start creeping up, I’m reminding myself how it felt to hear thousands of people scream my name on marathon day. How it felt to have my mouth hurt from smiling so hard. How it felt to see someone I knew along the marathon course and take the time to stop and see them, not thinking about how many seconds I was losing. How it felt to truly take it all in. I know there is not a single thing more I could have done, that it happened just as it should have.

I’m reminding myself that I finished and that if it took me 5 amazing hours to do it, so be it. If feeling that amazing for 5 hours is what I get for the work I’ve put in, I’d do it over and over again 1000 times and try to make it last even longer.

My grandma was over last night and she told me that, “I completed her dream.” Today at Starbucks, there was a man waiting for his coffee wearing a Babson sweatshirt. Babson is a college in Boston and I asked him if he went there. He explained that his daughter went there and that she lives in Boston and I said to him, “Me too! I just ran the marathon!” Just a random man I felt the need to tell. He thought it was the coolest thing.

I’m a runner, a self-taught one at that. And no one (including myself) will ever take that away from me. I’ll be back for you, Boston.

The best feeling in the world.

 

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