I was thirteen years old when I developed an eating disorder that would plague me for 16 years, until the moment that running saved me from myself.
I never planned to run. Simply, I took on a part time job at a fancy gym that allowed me to use their equipment. After a few weeks on the elliptical I grew bored, and I became intrigued by the giddy bouncing souls on the treadmills. So I moved 3 feet to a different machine, and with these 3 feet my entire life changed.
At first a single mile seemed impossible. I huffed and I puffed and there were days I felt I could not possibly keep going. Yet I kept going. My muscles became stronger, and I came to the realization that maybe I could run two miles. Three miles. And then maybe I could run outdoors.
During this time I began to look at my body in a different way. I began to value it for what it could do, not solely for what it looked like. One June day in 2012, I met with a spiritual advisor and I confided to her that on the days I ran, I felt I could eat with no remorse. She said simply: “So run more.”
So I did. And soon I signed up for my first race. When I crossed the finish line someone handed me a banana and someone else draped a medal around my neck, and I realized there was no turning back. That was it: I was hooked.
Since that race I have run many more. I have also been laid up due to sinus surgery and then again after a back injury. These times have been difficult, but I always knew I’d get through because it was never an option to quit. Not for me, not anymore. I now know the road is always out there, just waiting for me to come home. For that is what it has become: running is home. Running is where I go to connect with myself and with the world. It reminds me that there is beauty all around us; that there is beauty in me. My legs are strong today. They are thick and they are strong.
What running has taught me, and the gift it has given me, is this: I have learned to love myself; I have learned that there is more value in what my body can do than in what it looks like. I have learned that the once booming voice in my head that yelled I was not good enough is but a whisper today, and that with each resonating step that my running shoes take, that voice quiets until it is no longer heard. I have not forced myself to throw up since June 9, 2012. I have treated my body with respect and love. I have, at last, found peace within myself.
And this is why I run.
The Runners Up of the Women Run the World™ Essay Contest in conjunction with the 2014 More Magazine/Fitness Magazine Women’s Half-Marathon include: Allyson Barkan, New York, NY; Jill Eisenberg, Brooklyn, NY; Megan McAuliffe, Greensboro, NC; Mary Shahan, Seguin, TX.
For additional updates, race recaps, photos and other event highlights, join the conversation on social media by following:
More/Fitness Half on Facebook: facebook.com/morefitnesshalf
More/Fitness Half on Twitter: @morefitnesshalf
More/Fitness Half on Pinterest: pinterest.com/morefitnesshalf
More/Fitness Half on Instagram: instagram.com/morefitnesshalf
Women Run the World Hashtag: #womenruntheworld