When I was a kid, I played soccer for several years – much to my disappointment. It’s not that I didn’t like the physical aspect of it; I enjoyed playing the game and being around my friends all the time. The reason I hated it was simple: I ran funny. When I ran, my knees wouldn’t bend, so I kind of looked like I was running on sticks. This image is actually pretty entertaining when I think about it now. But back then it was pointed out to me on a regular basis: Look how different you are.
Running wasn’t necessarily painful for me. I just looked strange doing it, and I knew that I did. Every Saturday at my games, I felt the eyes of the spectators on me as I ran back and forth down the field with my teammates. I realize now that they probably weren’t just looking at me, but anxiety can fool you like that. Soon I dreaded going to soccer practice and games, and that led to me avoiding any activity that involved running. So I decided that I wouldn’t play soccer anymore. I wouldn’t run at all unless I had to, if only to protect myself from the embarrassment.
Despite my negative outlook on running, I’ve always wanted to be someone who enjoys it. Not only is it great for physical health, but I’ve read so many articles about how running positively affects mental health as well. Any time I started, though, the image of my eight-year-old self would quickly spring into my mind, and I would come away feeling broken down every time. I never got past the first day, and this cycle of motivation and defeat lasted for years. I eventually just stopped trying. I stopped thinking that my dream was worth the work it would take to achieve it.
When I graduated college and relocated for my internship with TWLOHA, I decided to finally follow through with my goal of becoming a “runner.” I had achieved two of the goals I’d set for myself: get a college degree and work for the organization that changed my life. By now, I realized that I was capable of more than I used to think I was. The timing just seemed right, too. I had moved to Florida, a place with beautiful weather this time of year and water everywhere I looked. Plus, there was more motivation for me than ever before: I could train consistently and run in TWLOHA’s Run For It 5k. Running a mile, let alone a 5k, never seemed like a possibility for me. But I realized I am far enough away from the girl I used to be and the embarrassment she felt. Even if I looked different, at least I could feel better than I did when I was just wishing to be a runner.
So I did it. I got up, I made my favorite upbeat songs into a playlist, and I started running at my own pace. I spent years hating my body because of what I thought it couldn’t do, but now I know that my anxiety was the only factor holding me back. When I started running, I knew that the beginning would be rough, that it would take a lot of time to get where I wanted to be. But I had to stop letting my fears get in the way of doing what I wanted. I knew my fears could only have as much power over me as I gave them.
I’ve only been running for a few weeks, but what I can tell you is this: Not only do I actually enjoy running now, but I also look forward to it. I look forward to pushing myself a little further each time. I look forward to seeing the sunset over the river as I begin my cooldown. I look forward to feeling my heart beat and the blood rush to my face. I like knowing that I’m alive.
Maybe you already consider yourself a runner.
Maybe you’re in the same place I was in for most of my life: always on the brink of change but never ready to take the first big step.
Maybe you’re where I am right now: somewhere in the in-between.
No matter where you are, you have at least one reason to run: for yourself.
You are worth the time it takes to start something new. You are worth the possibility of failing and the strength found in starting again. You are worth the incredible feeling that comes when you accomplish something. You are worth it. You have always been worth it. Look at your life and ask yourself something: What will you run for?
What do I run for? I run for my eight-year-old self. I run to ease my anxiety. I run because the only way to get anywhere is by moving forward. I run to prove to myself that I can. I run for all of those years that I was too ashamed to.
What do you run for?
What will you run for? Sign up for our Run For It 5k as a virtual runner to run or walk in your community on race day!