I recently ran a 5k on February 17th in Nashville, Tennessee. My niece Kayla challenged me to share my journey on her blog so here I go.
It all really started back several years when my niece decided to change her lifestyle. It was like she took off running one day and never stopped. Of course, as an aunt, I supported her wholeheartedly but from afar, kind of removed from what she was really doing. I knew she was training for races and marathons. She was making lifestyle changes with her eating habits, getting up early to run, and dedicating herself to reaching her goals.
None of it really sunk in until I attended her first full marathon she was running for St. Jude. I showed up in the big city where thousands (I mean thousands) of runners showed up to do what they trained so long to do. The energy was palpable to say the least. Everyone looked elite to me. I was wowed! Runners of all sizes, shapes, colors, ages, and nationalities. I wanted to be one of them right then and there. I left there asking myself, “What are you doing with your life Heather?” It answered back pretty quickly, “Nothing!”
After Kayla crossed the finish line and my heart swelled with so much pride, I decided I wanted to do what she did! Not a full marathon of course but I wanted to start running. I returned home and was so scared to tell anyone what I wanted to do. Deep down inside I wasn’t so sure I could do it. I didn’t want to tell anyone just in case I failed from the get go. See, I had turned 50, survived stage one cancer and been diagnosed with Lupus all within the past 2 1/2 years. I let my diagnosis rule my life for two years. I hurt all over my body. Most days it hurts to even get up from where I’m sitting or laying. My joints scream quietly from inside where no one can hear them. On the outside, I look like a normal functioning individual but on the inside my body attacks itself and wreaks all kinds of havoc.
I first told my daughter Madison about my crazy idea and ran it by her. She was supportive from the beginning, believed I could do it and told me I was the only one who could make it happen when I was truly ready for it to happen. I then called my niece a couple of days later and shared my goal with her. I remember being super nervous. She was fully in from the beginning. The advice started pouring in from her. She was a wellspring of information and support throughout the whole process.
My first step was to consult my doctor and get the go ahead to beat up my body more. He was truly excited for me. I remember him telling me at least a dozen times to take it slow. So I took to the internet to find a training plan that worked for me specifically. The plan I found started me out slow, it worked it’s way up gradually, it encouraged rest and recovery times, and most importantly it advised not training on consecutive days. My body needed more down time in between.
Next, I amassed a support team. Everyone was so open to my goals. My family was instantly behind me. Friends at work were pulling for me. But what really got me through were the people willing to train right alongside me. They will never really know how much that kept me on my path to my endgame. I mean they took time out of their schedules and weekends to sweat right next to me. In all kinds of inclement weather too. All the while telling me “You got this!” I started running around my neighborhood, then at my local civic center, and any greenway that was close to me.
I also quit drinking. This was huge. I struggled with alcohol abuse for years. It was my best and worst friend. I knew I couldn’t train for a race and drink. My body was already starting at a disadvantage. Drinking would allow me so many more excuses not to reach my goal. So I said bye to that relationship.
My last training day ended with a beautiful sunset, so beautiful, I took it as a sign everything was going to be just fine. I took it in with the ones who helped me train the most (Madison and Em) and knew my goal was waiting for me right around the corner.
On the eve of race day I was so nervous. I didn’t want to let anyone down but most of all I didn’t want to let myself down. My support team was right there with me of course. Then came race day. My stomach was all nerves but I was actually calmer than I thought I would be. I had my daughter and niece right by my side the entire time. I was where I wanted to be. I zoned out a bit while running. My niece brought me back down when she told me I just ran an entire mile straight through. I was so proud of myself. I stayed focus on the route in front of me never forgetting the love that surrounded me. My daughter ran out in front to make sure I didn’t trip over anything. I was bummed at the one mountain (paved hill) I had to stop and walk in the middle of Nashville but I didn’t let it get to me.
Then my niece and daughter, with the biggest smiles ever, pointed at the finish line. I couldn’t wait to get there. All the times I had to push through the pain, all the calls and doubts my family had to get me through, all the afternoon training I had dedicated myself to was about to pay off. I heard my family cheering me on from the sidelines and I think I pretty much floated across the finish line in a happy daze!!! It was exciting! I did it!! I not only reached a goal, I had a plan and executed that plan with my own hard work. What more can you ask for?
Does running a 5k change your whole life? Probably not. It’s all the negative internal dialogue you stop listening to that changes your life. It’s the realization you are the only thing in your way. It’s setting a plan in motion that keeps you moving forward. I have fallen in love with life and learned my family is the most important relationship I have.
My goals for the future are running a 5k comfortably without stopping. I still plan to train every other day. I’m going to start strength training also to get my body stronger for a 10k race. I want to thank everyone who has reached out to me with kind words and encouragement. Could I have done this without you? No, I couldn’t have. I love you all.