I was never athletic — even as a child, I would find ways to get out of P.E. So it was no surprise that, at the age of 45, I was overweight, lethargic, and unhappy.
One day, I happened across a flyer from the American Stroke Association to fundraise while training for and completing a half marathon. Since the race was in Hawaii, I figured I’d give it a try. I had no motivation of my own to exercise — I knew that people donating money expecting me to compete would keep me focused. I was scared to death!
The first day of training, I could barely walk the scheduled 20 minutes. I couldn’t breath; my feet hurt; but I didn’t quit. I stuck to the schedule and became very friendly with ice packs. The day came for our first 9 miles. I was close to tears — I’d never walked that far in my life much less did it in a little over an hour and a half. My coach (who is still my coach) calmed me down and made me believe I could do it — and I did.
Six days before race day, I came down with bronchitis. My doctor didn’t want me flying to Hawaii much less competing in the race. But I just couldn’t let all those people down. They donated money honoring loved ones touched by stroke, and I needed to finish the race to close the circle. Man I was sick… but I was determined.
On race day my alarm went off at 2:30 a.m. When you race in Hawaii, you start at 6:00 a.m. because of the heat. I pulled on my team shirt and number, ate my peanut butter sandwich and banana, gathered my stuff, and tiptoed down to the busses for the 45 minute ride to the start-line.
The team gathered together and waited, then, BANG, went the gun and we were off. It was amazing. I was competing in paradise — how did this happen? It took me 4 hours and 27 minutes to walk the 13.1 miles. When I was done, the only thing that didn’t hurt on my entire body was (maybe) my nose! But I did it; my 45-year-old, couch-potato body finished a 13.1 mile race! It was exhilarating! It was phenomenal! It took me 3 days to recover.
Since then, I have competed against the 4:27 time in 6 more half marathons. My last personal record was 3:22 and this fall, I’ll break it again. I can almost call myself an athlete without laughing now — and every day I believe it more. I have met many friends, gained confidence and perspective, lost weight, and become a much stronger person inside and out because I took that first step and didn’t look back.