Why I Run: Cathy Zielske

New-ish runner Cathy, minus chub and cigs, at a Sept. 2010 5K

Some benevolent being was smiling down on Dimity and me the day Cathy Zielske found our website and Facebook community. This St. Paul mother of two and a force in the scrapbooking world had taken up running earlier in the year, and she liked the vibe she found in our community, so she told her followers to flock to our FB page. Within 36 hours, our fan base had doubled. But, more important to us is what has happened in the following months: We’ve become good friends with dear “CZ.” Dimity has even had the pleasure of hanging out with her at CZ’s hubby’s coffee shop; I daydream about the run we’ll take when CZ visits her best bud out here in Oregon. If you don’t know her already, find Cathy on Twitter and on her blog, which has the tagline, “that girl is a scrappin’ and chub fightin’ fool.” Amen!

I’m not going to lie to you: I only started running in an effort to reduce the overall size of my voluminous derrière.

That, and at 44 my midsection was giving a spirited and whole-hearted new meaning to the term “muffin top.’ I knew if I didn’t get moving, many pairs elastic-waisted pants would soon be hanging in my closet.

First, a little background on my life and my physical fitness activity. It’s a short story, really, and goes like this:

From age 20 to 44, I smoked a whole mess of cigarettes and once-in-a-blue moon went for a walk. The end.

Strangely enough, I married a runner. Three times a week, for nearly our entire marriage, he would lace up and head out, returning shirtless (yeowza!) and drenched in sweat. It was his “me” time, and I envied him not one single iota. Running outside using your legs and feet? So not part of my overall vision. Afterall, where would you stash your lighter?

When I turned 40, I kicked that lifelong smoking habit to the curb, and started a new, healthier life. That’s when the chub started to inch its way onto my body.

I started a whole new approach to living well in January 2010. I armed myself with a good treadmill, a supportive bra, and some adorable running duds from Lucy. I figured if I could learn to run, I might just burn a few of those extra pounds and be the change that I wanted to see in my physical self.

I started with one minute of running for every five of walking. Then I was up to five minutes of running. Then 10, 15, and so on. After three months on this new plan, I was up to a full 30 minutes. It seriously freaked me out that I, former smoker and whole-hearted non-mover, was running with my legs for 30 continuous minutes.

Imagine that.

Soon enough, I got ballsy and decided to run outside, just to see if there was a remote chance I could make it around the lake by my house and back, a

A queen of scrapbooking, Cathy specializes in artsy photos

roughly 3.5-mile route. Sure, I didn’t look like those sinewy, leggy runners from the cover of Runner’s World. I looked more like I was smuggling two large cantaloupes under my run skirt as I plodded my way around the bend.

There is something incredibly intimidating about being a new runner. You aren’t fast. You aren’t sleek. Your gait won’t be mistaken for that of Paula Radcliffe any time soon. You’re huffing. You’re puffing. Your face glows as red as a freshly cooked lobster.

But what I found following that first run around the lake was something I didn’t really expect: a burgeoning sense of pride.

That first outdoor run wasn’t sexy and it wasn’t fast, but it was the start of a change of perspective for me. I was no longer just a chubby, out-of-shape ex-smoker. I was becoming a runner, one 12-minute mile at a time. I was doing something I never even thought would be on my radar of possibility or desire.

It’s been a year and a half since I became a runner. I’ve had days where I’ve felt invincible, like the day I broke 28 minutes at a 5K race. I’ve had more days where I struggle with my confidence, wondering why the most recent 3-miler felt slow and tortuous. My face still looks lobster-esque following every single run and sometimes there’s a limp in my step that lasts for the rest of any given post-run day.

But still, I am out there, and I am running.

You might wonder if the initial plan worked, the chub reduction part. Yes, it helped me to trim down, but no, I’m not the sinewy, leggy runner of my dreams, but make no mistake, I’m still a runner.

I run to keep that chub in check, but I also run because it has shown me I’m capable of so much more than I give myself credit for.

And that is something I really didn’t expect.


23 responses to “Why I Run: Cathy Zielske

  1. I LOVED this post. I just started running and can absolutely identify with CZ. I have a mixture of feelings from “OMG I hope no one’s looking” to “OMG I’m actually doing this I rock!” I’m not an ex-smoker, but I have NEVER exercised regularly and have definitely never enjoyed it. Until now. Which is still unsettling and empowering at the same time. But like you, I might not LOOK like a runner, but I’m RUNNING!

  2. I’ve read (and will continue to read) this series with interest and this entry is the first one truly spoke to me. I run a spectacular 11 minute mile, carry about 10-15 extra pounds and am training for my 2nd half-marathon. My face gets red, my sweat is prolific and I compare myself to a hippo having a stroke. And I love it. Thank you for writing this!

  3. Awesome… Just what I needed after my not so pretty first training run for my first half this morning!!!! I will not give up!!!!;)

  4. Cathy you are a hoot, an inspiration and a darn good writer. Keep telling your story to us. Thank you!
    Kim Neill
    Boise, ID

  5. What an inspirational post!!!! Like you, I married a runner but really didn’t get why he was doing that to himself. Over a year ago I started couch25k to lose a little weight and now I’m running half marathons. Amazing what a difference a year can make!!! Congrats and thanks for the great post!

  6. Cathy is one of my inspirations for beginning to run. I’ve always followed her blog and admired her scrappy style and wicked sense of humor, so when she began to work out and run I took notice. After 5 months of it, I joined her (virtually) and began my journey to become a runner. She hosts great Nike challenges each month and introduced us all to RLAM blog and for that I am grateful! CZ is awesome!

  7. Excellent post, Cathy! Two great things you did that can inspire others: you quit smoking AND you started running the right way. Walk/run with increases along the way. So smart and so effective! Congratulations on what you’ve achieved. You are a great addition to the masters running community!

  8. AWESOME post! Love it and love CZ. Keep going!!! By the way, I bought the book, Run Like a Mother, after reading about it on Cathy’s blog and love it. Great book.

  9. It’s because of Cathy that I found AMR and for that, I am very very grateful!! Have loved following along with her journey on her blog … she’s definitely an inspiration to many, many of us and in more ways than one. Thx for sharing Cathy!! 🙂

  10. I initially followed your blog because you are my absolute favorite inspiration for scrapbooking but I have to say that I’m just as inspired by the chub fighting part of your blog now! I’m certain you don’t need affirmation from anyone, but I want to assure you that you gave yourself and your family the absolute best gift when you quit smoking. My mom recently passed away from lung cancer so I saw firsthand the pain it can cause. You go, girl!

  11. I started following Cathy a few months ago when she was featured on ‘another mother runner’. I love her! I like that we’re neighbors (in the same metro area sort of way), so I’m familiar with the places she blogs about, I love that she is in my speed-class, and I love living vicariously through her scrapbooking. She is a great inspiration!

  12. My face is always beat red when I finish a run too. Sometimes I’m still red when I get out of the shower for work. At least I know I worked hard!

  13. Cathy, loved your post! I started running around the same time you started. I get red in the face and get discouraged as well but like you….I’m a runner! I’m going to check out your blog……I don’t scrapbook, yet us runners have something in commom! Oh, and I want to say CONGRATULATIONS on quiting smoking!!!! You Go Girl!

  14. I follow CZ’s blog and she is the reason I started running. I figured if she could do it, then maybe I could, too! So at 45, I became a runner; and like Cathy, I discovered I was capable of more than I ever imagined. Her blog is a great read, whether you’re a scrapbooker or not.

  15. Go Cathy! A burgeoning sense of pride — I love that and that you’ve inspired so many women to run and get active. Hope to see you around the ‘hood!

  16. Cz is the reason I run… I have a bad back and inside internal problems…. Every run is painful and hard…. But I do it… For the same sense of pride… My medical problems rule my life but I fight it everyday…. She inspired me and keeps on inspiring me

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