The New Me: Happy & Healthy

Four months ago, I couldn’t run a whole kilometer without stopping to walk. Today, I ran a full seven and crossed the finish line in my first-ever race.

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Nora and I after our first race. 7s up!

59:17. A bit slow, maybe. But my goal was to run the full race without stopping — and I did.

It’s an accomplishment I never thought I’d even try to achieve, let alone actually do it.

Anything remotely athletic is something I’ve struggled with my entire life. My P.E. grade was a constant blemish on my perfect school report card because I couldn’t run the mile. I’ve never been able to keep up with my sports-star family who lists hiking and working-out as favorite hobbies.

All of my short-lived attempts to be healthier have always failed in a slew of excuses: I need to focus on school, it makes my legs hurt, I’m working too much, exercise is hard, I don’t have a consistent work schedule, I’m too tired, I don’t have time, I have asthma, every time I start exercising I get sick, I’ll start again next week, next month, next year… You name it, it was one of my excuses.

Until now.

7K in Santiago's Vitacura neighborhood

7K in Santiago’s Vitacura neighborhood

Four months ago, my life plans were derailed a bit after a painful breakup with the first person I really ever loved. I’ll spare you the sad, pathetic details. But all of it felt tenfold because my best friend had just moved 1,700 miles away to Ecuador two days pre-breakup and my family was still 5,500 miles away in Las Vegas. I felt alone. And very, very lost in Santiago.

I decided to run.

I went to the mall and bought the first pair of shoes I tried on.

At first, I laced up four to five times a week for 30 minutes. I alternated walking for 1 1/2 minutes with running for 1 minute while coughing so hard that I would gag and throw up (thanks a lot, asthma and Santiago smog).

But it was the only time of day something besides my heart hurt; the only time of day I felt strong and in control of my situation.

So I kept going.

Ready, Set, Go!

Ready, Set, Go!

I increased my intervals each week and was so proud of myself when I ran a full mile without stopping that I cried.

I still have that list of excuses: I need to focus on Spanish, running makes my legs hurt, I’m working 10 to 14-hour days, exercise is hard, I don’t have a consistent work schedule, I’m tired, I don’t have time, I have asthma (and am running in the world’s third most polluted city). But this time, I’ve stopped saying “next week, next month, next year.”

And then running got easier. And eventually. Gasp. I even started to like it.

I also started to be happy again.

I landed several amazing teaching positions, found a new apartment full of new friends, began speaking more Spanish again, read four books in a month and started cooking for the first time. I realized how off track from my personal goals I had become and I fervently started pursuing them again.

And it was running that put me back on that path.

When my best friend, Nora, moved back to Santiago about two months ago, she suggested we sign up for a 7k race and pushed me to continue training harder so I could run the whole thing. It was her support, along with the many words of encouragement from other friends and family who understood how big of an accomplishment it was for me to run what may seem like a small distance to others, that kept me going.

Less than 24 hours after our first race and we’ve registered for a 10K along the beach in October.

Just keep running, just keep running...

Just keep running, just keep running…

Cheers to happy and healthy!

—JDF