On December 9th, I ran the Tucson half marathon. 13.1 miles. I can still hardly believe I can say that. I’ve tried to move away from talking about miserable I was as an obese woman for two decades, but I have revisit it for a moment.
If you’ve never been obese, you probably take functional movement for granted. I know what it feel like to not be able to climb out of a car seat. I know what it’s like to be unable to pick something up off the floor. I have tried to squeeze into stadium seats and not been able to fit. I’ve had to ask for an extender for the airplane seat belt, and had that barely fit. Never, during those years, would I have thought that one day I would run for 13 miles.
The driveway to our house is really steep. When I started taking intentional walk a couple years ago, that driveway was a major challenge. It’s about 350 steps from the bottom to the top. Initially, I had to walk for 10 steps and rest. Soon it was 20, then 30, then 50. The first time I walked all the way to the top without pausing, I nearly wept.
So many things were special about Saturday. In a lot of ways, I feel like it was a rite of passage into my life as a fit and capable woman. A woman who can run, climb, jump and lift. Another chapter in my life has started. But there was another reason for joy that day.
Running on either side of me were my sisters, Alise and Bethanie. Alise and Bethanie and I talk nearly every day. They have had their weight battles, not nearly to the degree I have, but it’s something we discuss with regularity. In fact, for over a year and half, we have had a texting thread on our phones where we check in daily for accountability. Even though we live 1700 miles away from each other, it doesn’t feel like that because we talk so often.
Alise and Bethanie know my struggles. They have seen me fat and desperate to find a solution. In 2011, when I was juice fasting, Alise went Vegan to support me. When I was fading away from Crossfit at the end of 2015, she was the one who threatened to call me out if I didn’t get back to Fixx within 48 hours. Bethanie did CrossFit for the first time with me, and fell in love like I did. We discuss WODs and the Open and all that while Alise kindly tolerates it. I’ve known for several months that they were coming down to run with me, but as it got closer, the significance of the experience grew clearer.
In total, seven women flew down for the event. Four of my sisters, and three friends. Six of the 7 ran the half marathon. Alise and Bethanie have both run halfs before. They can run a lot faster than I can, but they wanted us to do it together. It was a profoundly moving experience.
I joke that I broke the half into 52 400m runs. But I actually did. The week before when I was returning from a 400, I thought “hey, do that 51 more times and you have completed the half”. I don’t know if other CrossFitters do this, but on my training runs, I often find my mind associating distance with the landmarks of the runs we do outside the box.
“It’s like running to the stop sign”
“It’s like you are at the edge of the building”.
The familiarity of the distance broken into manageable chunks somehow gives me the confidence to finish mile after mile.
But these miles were different. I was running side by side with my sisters. Sisters who believed in me even when I didn’t. Alise had ended her butt-kicking email to me two years ago with these words:
“You are the strongest woman I know, now go prove me right.”
And there we were, side by side for 13 miles until we crossed the finish line together. The strength the three of us have is made exponentially greater because it’s shared. I love my sisters. There’s photos on the race page of our finish, and the joy and delight on Alise’s face when we are crossing those last few feet makes me cry every time.
Finish line crossed, I looked up and see Hugh. He’s smiling. He’s proud of me, and I can see it. He’s always been so good to me, no matter my weight, and he’s been very supportive every step of this transformation. He, more than anyone in my life, knows how very far away I was from this moment just a few short years ago. He’s seen me every single day as I took baby steps from morbid obesity to elite health and functional fitness.
So, when the steps led me through a half marathon, he took me in his arms and said he was proud of me. I doesn’t get any better than that.
It’s a new chapter in our life and our marriage. When I look forward to 2018, for the first time in my entire adult life, one of my goals isn’t to lose weight. I do still want to drop 10-15 lbs, I think, but it’s more about getting my bodyfat down to 15% or so, and then beginning to build the body I will continue to improve with age. I’m looking forward to pull ups, handstand push ups, muscle ups. All of it. That, and just living capable. It’s going to be a great year.