Five years ago I never would imagine I'd define myself a runner. Two years ago I was just barely tip toe-ing in. Today I finished a soccer game after running more than 7 miles last night (on a Saturday night) and I realized how much running has changed my mindset.
One year ago, I was about 4 weeks from my first half marathon. I ran a 10k (at Disneyland, of course) that September, and was struck by how I was expecting more of a challenge. After spending almost 9 months prepping for that 10k, I felt over pre-pared, in quite a good way. I paid the extra fee to upgrade my November registration from the 10k to the half marathon, and pushed through some of the hardest training I've ever done. But during the months of September and October of 2016, I was still astonished simply by the physical marvel of my body running 6, then 8, then 10 miles (!!) all in anticipation of 13.1 in November. The photo above is from mile 3ish of that first 13.1 (it wasn't all *quite* as smiley, but running through Disneyland is pretty unbeatable).
And so, while now I do truly consider my running a mental sport, (which I can't wait to write about), it truly is amazing that my body can handle what I'm putting it through, on a physical level.
I was diagnosed with Asthma when I was 3 years old, and struggled with it through essentially any physical activity growing up. My inhaler was always safely in the wings, no less than about 20 feet from me at any given time, while I danced for 18 or so years growing up, and it was only due to my dependence on my rescue inhaler I felt able to complete my most strenuous pieces. It all came to a head in the spring of 2013 where after spending a year not even being able to walk across my college campus from my parking spot to my 8am Labor Economics course without taking my inhaler, I was hospitalized for ~10 days after being admitted through the emergency room.
I spent days being told by my doctors that I may leave the hospital carrying an oxygen tank, since my body wasn't reacting to the steroids that are supposed to reopen my lungs. I was on the floor with respiratory patients 5 decades older than myself, and I wasn't getting better. The steroids given to me would trigger an anxiety attack, which would trigger my asthma (I am triggered by physical activity, allergens, AND stress, so, like everything) and they'd have to hit me with another emergency dose of steroids. I was poked every 4 hours and my vitals refused to improve. My lungs would not even open up enough for my steroids to be inhaled to my lowest portions of my lungs that desperately needed the drugs.
Finally on the 8th or 9th day of being there, my steroids were absorbed low enough in my lungs, and I quickly improved, and was released soon after, but 7 days of improving very little, and being warned of my future life of non-activity didn't exactly bode well for the live I wanted to live. For years I'd already given up on most cardio activity, and essentially did very little activity outside of walking across campus. I wasn't dancing, I didn't go absolutely anywhere without my inhaler, and would often wake up in the middle of the night unable to breathe. I vividly remember forgetting my inhaler over a weekend camping trip with some friends, and being uncomfortable and terrified all weekend, even when we did very little physical activity.
A month after I was released from my hospital stay, Justin and I decided to move to San Diego, a location which has immensely improved my health, and in moving to California (a state with strongly protected health care laws) in an era in which the ACA was coming to pass, I was FINALLY able to get on the *only* meds all my doctors suggested, which just happened to be $390 cash price. I was in college, I wasn't even making that much, let alone paying it for one medication. (This was, additionally, after accruing approximately $10k in hospital stay debt... more on that later...)
And so, I've almost never been more proud of my poor lungs than the day I crossed my first half marathon, at what I considered to be a measly 2:44. Not a very fast race, by most runner's standards. For months I was ashamed of my pace, among an Instagram full of friends and athletes who can run the same distance in an HOURs less time. But from where I'm coming from, I've learned to accept my slow body, and love running more than ever. It became a mantra for me, that while I may be slow, I'm still finishing, and look just how far I've come!! And while I can very vividly remember the day I bought a long board just to potentially avoid so much huffing and puffing across campus (that didn't work, btw), it simultaneously feels like a lifetime ago. I've since ran 3 half marathons and two 10ks, in addition to the hundreds of training miles I've put in, and I'm getting stronger every day.
All this to say, you have power over your circumstance. Move, if it is essential to your health (physical, or otherwise). A new city, job, or routine can significantly change your life. Run, if you need to get inside your head. Walk, if you can't yet run. Starting something new physically was opening the door to a new world for how I feel about my body, and I know I've only cracked the surface.