Sunday, March 21, 2010

Why I Run -- by Liimu

I have been obsessed with dieting and changing my body for as long as I can remember. My mom was a dieter my whole life, even my 94 year old grandmother confessed to me while in the nursing home that she still replaced two of her daily meals with SlimFast and weighed herself daily.

When I had my children (all girls), I realized that I was going to have do something to counteract this way of thinking so that I wouldn’t pass on this lack of self-acceptance on to them. Every year since I turned 30, I had run the Susan Komen Race for the Cure, a 5K run that benefits research for a cure for breast cancer, a disease from which my mother has been surviving for nearly 30 years.

About a year after my second daughter’s first birthday, I decided that a better motivation for going to the gym than to lose weight would be to train for a longer race. I set a goal of running a 10K by the end of that year. That April, I ran the 10K and I met a woman named Amy who would change my life. Amy and I began to get to know each other as we ran that 6 miles, and what we learned was that we both thought of ourselves as the last to get picked for the teams in gym class, and yet here we both were, completing an athletic event that not many people we knew had ever accomplished. That fueled our fire and we were off. That year alone, Amy and I ran the 10-mile Broad Street run, the Philadelphia Distance Run (a half-marathon) and the Philadelphia Marathon. During our training, I started a new job, and Amy moved away to attend law school. We didn’t talk on the phone or via e-mail, we saved our best stories for when she would come back to Philly for us to complete our long training runs together or complete the races we had promised each other early on we’d support each other in finishing. When we ran Broad Street and I got a side stitch a half-mile into the run, Amy hissed, “Keep going…no one ever died from a cramp,” later confessing that she’d had no idea at the time she said this if it was actually true. When I was injured in August, Amy encouraged me to take the time I needed to heal, adding only half-jokingly that she couldn’t afford for me to start back too soon and injure myself so bad that I wouldn’t’ be ready to run the marathon with her in November. She was counting on me. And I was counting on her.

Amy and I are still friends, and she married the guy she started dating during that training season. We got to know a lot about each other during that period, but what I didn’t anticipate was what I would learn about myself. When I ran across the marathon finish line, I was no longer just a girl, no longer even just a mom, I was an athlete. I had crossed another line, the line that separated the runners from the non-runners. Without intending to, I had found a way to break the cycle of self-loathing and insecurity that had plagued the women (and some of the men) in my family for generations. I now look at my body for what it can do, rather than what it looks like (most of the time…all bets are off when my hormones are in the driver’s seat). And this Mother’s Day, the gift I look most forward to receiving will be having two new running partners as I cross that familiar finish line of the Susan Komen race, for my two daughters, Devon and Amelia, will be running it with me.

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