The Countdown: How Far We’ve Come

8 weeks down, 5 to go.

One month and three days until my first half.

It feels weird, I’m almost a year to the day I remember trying and failing to run around Rittenhouse Square. I got to 19th and Walnut, my legs were hurting, but my head was an even bigger mess. I remember the crude comment a female bystander made nearby me well within earshot on 19th – “oh that’s just another overweight out of shape pretender, there’s too many around here in Philly” – and thinking about how my quality of life had been so negatively impacted by working like a slave.

I was in the midst of plotting my next career move, but I had also hit a temporary tail end of a long 7-8 years of continuous work/study and examination mode. A pattern that had left me sapped for energy and vitality.

It was during my period of unemployment prior to starting my next job that I decided to put some energies into working out and continuing to hone my culinary craft to include healthier cooking. One week after I quit my last job, I consulted a personal trainer, told her my goals. Losing 25-30 pounds and building some muscle tone. Oh man, that was it.

Part of the problem was my choices on eating. At home, on the road. Kick out as many processed foods as possible. Okay I can do that. It saves me money. Eat whole foods and egg whites. Alright that’s simple, I know where to get those for cheap. Cue the wild-caught salmon. I learnt why wild caught anything was much better in general. Watch the sugars. Alright, at this point I was willing to do anything it took. I have been sorely disciplined in other facets, and I swore upon myself this was going to be no different.

“You can’t cheat if you want results, and you won’t get results until you challenge yourself,” I remember my trainer Midge saying. And then with the muscle workouts – holy crap did she kick my behind. But I sure as hell deserved it. It made me understand the changes I’d have to make in my life decisions.

A few months later, I started my new post that required half the hours I put in prior – and better pay to boot. Made it so much easier to cook. Made it so much easier to make the proper choices needed for my diet. Made it easier to keep my workout routine. Finally, a friend of mine texted me about running some of the charity races in Philly. I laughed – here I was, I’d lost 10 pounds in the meantime, I was still focused on getting back into shape – there was no way in hell I could run a 5k even holding me at knifepoint. Oh sure I’d try, but surely try and fail.

It was then I had gotten curious. What if? That evening I set out to Washington Square (as Rittenhouse is too packed) and started attempting to run and see how far I got. Made it easily from 7th to 6th Sts. Then I walked down from Walnut to the south end of the square. Then started running again from one end of South WS to the other. Then walked back again up to 7th and Walnut.

Hell, I had to start somewhere. If this was how it was going to be, so be it. Eventually I started putting two segments of the square together, then three, then all four. And finally I started circling the square multiple times. It just gradually built up again.

I suffered some intial setbacks. Knees were crappy. I had bought new pairs of Asics in the meantime, but my quads were horribly weak. Got myself on physical therapy and an anti-inflammatory and recovery was almost instant.

Finally August rolled around. My first 5k in ages, Jenkintown, PA, in north Philadelphia county. I completed the race at a slower 28-odd minutes, but I didn’t care. I went to the booth that advertised various other races, including half-marathons. Oh god. Here I just did 3.1 miles. I would kill myself if I did 13.

Then those two words creeped up on me again: What if?

I was afraid of injury. My body had been in the crapper a year ago. It couldn’t possibly be ready for this, could it? I started researching training plans. How could people possibly be ready for this in 12 weeks or less? Not a day I questioned my dedication and my want. I would surely try this. However, I had a really hard time believing in myself. My body was in the crapper.

Wait. It was. Not anymore. I wasn’t the “overweight pretender” people might have thought I was.

I started the program, all else be damned.

Each week – and the choices I made – not only helped to further trim the pounds. It built my self-confidence. It built my endurance. It built my overall energy physically. It helped me believe in myself one day at a time, that this was all possible. It helped open doors to a new community of people when the ones I knew were no longer as accessible. It’s built my responsibility and my personal decision-making. It’s built my culinary skills.

Oh, and dare I say it, the ability to turn some heads surely hasn’t hurt either. Being the cynical person I am, I think the weight loss has helped, though others say the self-confidence that comes with it is a huge factor.

But holy smokes. A year later, and here I am. Five weeks to go. What the hell happened? It’s a new me. I’d never thought I’d see the day.

I’ve yet to miss a day of training regardless of where my employer sends me. I don’t want to. I love what I’m doing. And even on the road, I’m a lot smarter now about how and what I eat. I enjoy making my own stuff now. I’m having fun. It’s scary. Maybe I sound like a freak, but my mantra’s always been no matter what, if you love what you do, the rest will take care of itself.

At the same time, been a slight dent on the wallet, as I’ve had to not only buy a few pieces of running clothes but replace a lot of my other clothes – dropping four sizes in some cases simply means you can’t wear the clothes that fall off you. And trying on my new suit at the Limited for meeting clients – “you need to celebrate your new body” I remember the salesperson saying to me when I questioned whether the blazer looked too tight on me – I was always used to wearing everything loose.

It sure felt weird. Weird but good.

So…one month and three days. Five weeks of training to go. I know I can do this, just complete the race. Not setting a target time in the event of injury, but I am pacing myself and making sure I start out slow for the first 5 miles, then faster the next six, then picking it up after that. One race at a time.

We all had to start somewhere. One year ago…

I don’t know if that lady in Rittenhouse is still around the city even, but if on the off chance I do see her again, I’d just like to get up the morning after my half and shove my finisher’s medal in her face.

Take a look at this “overweight pretender.” Bloody hell, I’m not going to stop running anytime soon.

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4 thoughts on “The Countdown: How Far We’ve Come

  1. I LOVE this! I totally remember that feeling of starting my running. I totally felt like a pretender. ‘Fake it till you make it’ was what I kept telling myself. And I still say it. It blows my mind that I even consider doing 5K’s. To do them in 28 minutes would be a dream come true. You are my hero. Keep it up! -SG

    • Thanks for the encouragement! The time to train may feel like a long time, but sometimes I have to think why I’m doing it. It’s not temporary, but a change that I’m enjoying. It’s not a phase but a lifestyle. If you are hitting even the smallest goals in baby steps, you’re making progress. Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.

  2. Congrats! I’m so happy for you and proud of you. You’ve done what many of us (including I) are totally unable. It’s amazing the transformation you’ve seen in yourself – inside and out. You should be so very proud of yourself. This was a great post. Loved it.

    • Thanks Catherine for the encouragement. It feels good to know that I’ve found my passion outside work, and how well this fits in so well with my schedule and lifestyle. Thanks again!

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