Part of the impetus for Jennifer Roe, a Jersey mom of one, to become a runner was a book. No, not Run Like a Mother, but a tome that challenged the reader to draw up a list of 100 life goals. For some cosmic reason, “run a marathon” morphed from being a line-filler to the goal Jen opted to tackle first. To read her plucky posts, check out Jen’s blog From Fat to Finish Line and her Facebook group and @Fattofinishline on Twitter.
On paper, running and I should never have cozied up together: I was a former chain-smokin’, tequila swillin’, junk-food-eatin’ mess. I gave up smoking, most of the tequila, and even managed to lose the first 40 pounds of an eventual 90-pound weight loss, but I still couldn’t get it together. At 37 years old, I struggled to mother my tantrum-prone, special needs two-year-old, Ben. Then, after 16 years in the television industry, I found myself unemployed when the show I was working for got canceled. My husband and I had already burned through a majority of our financial reserves, thanks to my husband’s long bout of unemployment and an expensive move from Los Angeles back to New Jersey. Our finances went from the top of the credit-rating heap to the toilet. We downsized, short-selling our “American Dream.” The final blow came when my beloved sister-in-law, Maritza, suddenly and shockingly died from diabetes-related complications. Devastated, depressed, and filled with despair, I knew things had to change.
During a burst of optimism, I picked up a book about reaching success. It urged readers to compose a list of 100 life goals. Uninspired, I got stuck after about 30 goals. Hell-bent on completing the task, I started making things up just to finish the damn list. Absurdly, “run a marathon” made the cut -- sandwiched between “learn to speak fluent French” and “write an Oscar-award winning screenplay.” (What? It could happen.)
The book called for readers to pick one goal from the list and take “action steps” to make it a reality. “Run a marathon” pulsated from the page like a neon sign. Thoughts like, “But I hate running,” “I’m almost 200 pounds,” “I’ve never run for a minute in my life…,” and “I already parle a little French…” barked back at the goal.
For some unexplained reason, I decided to just jump in (or “sauter” as they say in French). But I did possess a few shreds of sanity, so I decided to go for 13.1 before the big 26.2. I Googled, “NJ and half-marathon,” found one with enough lead time, and signed up. Gulp. It was a slow start. On Day One of training I ran (and when I say “ran” I should say “trudged and panted at a 3.9” on the treadmill) for one minute. I hated it but I kept going. The next day, I hated it less.
If it was absurd to me, it became a bit of a joke with my friends. “You? Run? C’mon.” For a long time, I didn’t feel like a “real” runner but more of a sideshow, a novelty act. Regardless, the first time I ran for five minutes straight, I fist-pumped my success like a cast member of “Jersey Shore”; the day I ran for a mile without stopping, I ugly-cried as if I’d just won Boston. The milestones and mile markers started to add up.
Today, I run because it is a miracle I started at all. A gift from the universe. I have found confidence, strength, perseverance, pride, and other positive words I struggle to enunciate. I was an overweight victim who felt like everything was impossible and out of reach. Now I’m in-shape and content. Things are still not easy but running makes me feel in-control and empowered.
Because I’ve become a runner, I know I can learn French or maybe even someday win an Oscar. Running has taught me the sky is the limit and anything really is possible when you work hard, put in the miles, and believe.
My first one-minute run was on February 8, 2010, and one marathon, four half-marathons, a few 5Ks, and 50 pounds lighter, I haven’t stopped running yet. Running and me? Total BFFs.
Je cours parce que je peux.
I run because (who knew?) I can.