It’s hard to believe that almost 9 years ago I ran my very 1st marathon – Cellcom Green Bay Marathon! A lot has changed in 9 years to say the least. Life has gotten more complicated and for a period of time running fell on the back burner for me. Between 2007 and 2014 I completed 4 marathons and a few 1/2 marathons, but my passion was not in putting one foot in front of the other on the road.
In April of 2015 that all changed as I trained for the Bellin Run 10k with my son. I was shocked at by how out of shape I was. This reality check was heartbreaking and sent me into a tailspin. I quickly could feel myself sinking slowly into dark destructive ways that were all to familiar. Calorie control and obsession surrounding food is a behavioral pattern that has been part of my life long enough that bouncing back to those ways is embarrassingly easy. Without much effort I can be structure my life in a manner that fuels my disordered thinking. By the end of April 2015 I was fully engulfed once again.
Running became my facade and allowed me to cover my disordered eating. In May of 2015 I stepped up to the starting line of the Cellcom Green Bay 1/2 Marathon prepared to tackle 13.1 miles with my co-workers and father. I felt confident and in control. That feeling did not last long. Within the 1st few miles it become obvious to me that my body was not on board for the physical demands I was placing on it. I climbed on the struggle bus and powered through but the feeling I had gotten in the past when I crossed the finish line of a race was not there. I was not happy. I did not feel accomplished. I cried, not tears of joy, but tears of defeat. My eating disorder had surfaced and was kicking my ass once again.
Fast forward a year and I was preparing to once again preparing to toe the line at the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon. I walked away from this event last year and I was heartbroken. My greatest fear had returned and I was struggling. I had begun to drastically restrict my calorie intake. My terrible performance at the Cellcom 1/2 shined a spotlight on that. I knew that I was not healthy even though I “looked” good. After a heart to heart with myself I realized something had to change…either I would have to relinquish my goal of improving as a runner and get back into marathon shape or continue my disordered eating habits. For most runners this would be an easy choice or running goals win out over most other goals, however, this was a tough spot for me to be in. In the past when I train hard I gain weight. This was in the back of my head as I wrestled with the decision to kick things up a notch or back off running.
A few days after the Cellcom 1/2 marathon in 2015 I was licking my wounds and still sulking over a time I felt was slow and a painfully brutal experience on the race course. Those that know me well could tell that I was not my cheery, positive self and suggested I sign up for another 1/2. I used this suggestion to convince myself that there were other factors at play the day of the Cellcom (heat, crowds, ect). I signed up for the HFM 1/2 marathon 3 weeks after th Cellcom…I was in denial that my eating habits were holding me back. I set up a training plan to help get me better prepared for HFM. Every run I did in the 1st week was horrible. I was sluggish and slow. Again denial played into my assessment – I chalked my crappy runs up to my exhaustion at Cellcom. I figured my 1st long run after Cellcom would get me in the game and prove I was on track for a better race at HFM. The weekend rolled around and again horrible run. While all this is going on in my head my friend Katie (who was running the HFM full marathon) got hurt. She was going to still run the full marathon injured, but both her husband and I were concerned about her. In talking I foolishly threw out that I could run the full too and make sure she was ok. I run a ton slower than her and if she got in trouble I could stick with her to make sure she made it back to the start. I’m not sure why I mentioned this. I had been struggling all week, there was no way I was ready for a full marathon in my current state.
Now that I threw it out there I felt like I could not take it back…I was running the HFM Maritime full marathon. I continued my training program and bumped up my long runs. NO coach on the planet would recommend jumping from 13.1 miles in one week to 20 miles the following week, 10% increase in mileage is the typical. My 20 mile training run the weekend before the HFM was rough. I struggled from the 1st mile all the way to the last mile. My body hated me! The great thing about long runs is that they give you at ton of time to think and think I did as I powered through the hell I was in on the Anhapee State Trail that day. When I returned to my car I made the decision to change my eating it was the only thing I could do to try to survive the marathon. I know I needed more training, but I did not have the time for that – eating MORE I did though have the time and ability to do.
In that snap decision I believe I was saved from a downward spiral that in the past was very difficult to stop. I cannot cheat my body of fuel and put the miles in with the success I am looking for. I often have people comment that they are amazed by all the races that I do and are impressed. I feel like a fraud when they do. I don’t run so many races to keep tacking on more accolades, I keep pushing and adding races to prevent the spiral starting again. I am scared of letting the eating disorder demons take over again. The feelings of control were way to close for comfort! I now mask my running as an ultimate goal of running 40 marathons by 40, but the truth is I am terrified that I will lose control of my eating again. The fight back from that is painful and hard…I question my strength to do so and the self doubt I experience is crushing. Distance running keeps me honest and eating, it forces me to fuel my body. My recent struggle has been to fuel my body with quality foods, but that is a topic for a different day. Bottom line I need running and depend on the challenges it brings me to keep my eating disorder in check. I know that to run I must eat!
With my head in a better place and my heart in the game to run the HFM marathon I increased my calorie intake. My training runs leading up to marathon weekend were awesome – fun and fast. I went into the marathon with a new confidence. My nerves were still there as my long runs to date had not been plentiful or great, but I felt better. One thing that many do not realize about starving yourself is that your cognition is compromised. My thoughts became disorganized and cloudy…I did not feel that way on race morning. Katie and I stepped up to the start line, joked a bit, and took off together. We hung together for a mile then she headed out (she is a speed demon). I hung back and settled into a comfortable pace. My goal was to finish! I turned my watch off and just ran. I felt so good. Now don’t get me wrong running 26.2 miles will bring some uncomfortable moments, but I felt free. Prior to crossing the finish line I made a commitment to myself to keep my disordered eating in check with running through the summer.
The following day I registered for a few summer events and set up a training plan. This did not create a magical fix, that is not how eating disorders work. Everyday was still a struggle, but my focus went from looking good (in my mind skinny) to being strong. After running all summer and racing through the fall as well I found myself once again ready to step to the Cellcom start line, but this time I would be running the full marathon. This time I had trained well and had continued to maintain my eating habits. The day was rough. Once again I crossed the finish line heartbroken. I had expected to feel awesome, redeemed after the following year’s finish. What gives?!?!?
I recognize that running has helped me to keep my eating disorder in check, but simply eating “enough” to fuel my runs does not mean that I am eating quality foods. I’m far from healthy and Cellcom once again brought that into focus. Time to regroup and find a balance…so not your typical #TransformationTuesday story, but I feel different than I did a year ago and to me that is a victory…more like a #TurnaroundTuesday, 180 degrees to be exact.
My goal for 2016 has shifted and with the help of my friends, family, and coach I know I can come out of this year a healthier, more focused version of myself. It takes a village, one I am very grateful for. Next year will mark my 10 year anniversary of successfully completing my 1st marathon, my life has never been the same and I am so grateful for that. Running has been my answer, my savior, my strength – I cannot wait to see how it changes me this year.
#BeHappy #BeKind #BeActive