Below is a guest blog written by Jill, a returning participant to The City Mission’s Running with a Mission 5k ran at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo on June 22, 2013. The run was presented by the Sherwin Williams Women’s Club. We hope you enjoy her perspective on the race, and are encouraged by her journey since last year’s event. Jill hosts her own blog at www.theyearofthephoenix.com.
I am a loser.
I don’t mean to insult myself with this title. Instead, it’s a label I wear with honor and pride and, actually, I’ve lost twice. The first time was when I stepped on my scale in January 2011 and was astounded to see that I weighed 311 pounds. Since then I have lost over 100 pounds and have taken up yoga, strength training, and even running. As the girl who walked the mile every year in high-school this last one is the hardest for me to believe; it also brings me to my second type of losing.
When I started running in February 2012 I had no idea what I was doing. I never set out to be a runner and spent most of my life hating the very act of running. But that winter evening I decided to give it a try and hopped up on the treadmill. I could barely run for a full minute so I started with intervals, alternating between walking and running, and much to my own surprise discovered I didn’t just like running I LOVED it. The speed, the power, the endorphins (oh, lovely lovely endorphins). I still remember the first time I ran a full 20 minutes without stopping on the treadmill, and once the weather warmed up I took to running through the streets of Cleveland.
Somewhere along the way I decided to sign up for a race; a 5K to be exact, which is 3.1 miles. Looking through the list of upcoming races I settled on the Running with a Mission 5K. To be honest, I picked the race because of the location: I absolutely adore the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and loved the idea of running in and around all of the animal exhibits.
This was my first mistake. Because in thinking about how much I love the animals of the zoo I had forgotten how much I hate the hills within the zoo. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d forgotten the zoo even HAD hills (oops). But now I had registered, I was committed, and I was going to have to suck it up and run up and down those hills.
Yeah, forgot to mention that part: The course for the Running with a Mission 5K requires running the loop twice to complete the 3.1 miles. I also hadn’t taken into account that this would be late June and so, y’know, kinda hot.
But run those hills I did. The sun was baking, I was sweating, and I’m pretty sure I ended up with a sun burn. I spent the entire race trailing in the very back of the pack and had to walk the majority of the hills. When I finished in 47 minutes and 40 seconds, I was the very last runner to cross the finish line for the race.
Like I said: Loser.
Here’s the thing: I crossed the finish line. I finished. I did something I had never in a million years thought I would do, let alone could do. I ran a 5K and since then I’ve run several more as well as two 10Ks. I’m also registered for a half-marathon this fall. Despite my time and place, I loved every single minute of participating. I loved lining up with everyone at the start, I loved the cheers from the volunteers, I loved the award ceremony after. I was exhausted, every single part of my body ached, and I had come in last place.
It was, hands down, one of the best days of my entire life.
Which is why I decided to sign-up for the 2013 Running with a Mission 5K.
It would have been easy to say I should run a new race or tell myself I already conquered those hills once, no need to do it again. But I WANTED to do it again. I WANTED to see how far I’ve come since that first race.
I stuck to a plan and was perfectly okay walking where I needed to walk. And even with all of that walking, when I crossed the finish line I beat last year’s time by almost five minutes!
On my blog I encourage my readers to “Be Your Own Hero,” knowing that inside each of them is the courage to strap on their cape and take a flying leap into the great unknown. Yes, it’s scary and entirely possible that instead of soaring high you’ll come crashing down. It’s also not easy: I only did so well this year because I worked hard and trained for this race.
Any kind of change takes strength, both mental and physical. It takes dedication and determination to shed the weight, rid yourself of the negative people in your life, even dropping the negative thoughts you have about yourself. But it can be done. So it is my wish for you that you, too, put on your cape and become your own hero.
Who knows, maybe one day you’ll even become a loser like me.