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.
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
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.