I won’t be able to piece it ALL together, and I can’t write worth a flip: but I’ll try. This will take awhile!
If you REALLY want to get to the bottom of my running obsession:
It all started when I was 5. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was just a little game… and ironically.. a RUNNING game. Two boys bigger than me were racing, and I was their goal place. I was on my knees with both hands spread wide apart, waiting to see who could reach me and tag a hand first. I remember the bigger boy of the two came barreling towards me FAST. I remember thinking he was coming so fast that he looked like he might run right on through me. Apparently, I thought that because it was indeed about to happen. He DID trample right on top of me. And when he did, he took flesh. The boy was wearing cowboy boots, and they dug right into the side of my face, and ripped out a huge chunk of it. The next thing I knew, I was somehow off of the ground, in my mother’s arms, screaming, and completely soaked in blood. A few hours later brought a pathetic excuse for plastic surgery, and a butchered Frankenstein scar on the left side of my tiny face- from chin to cheek. Pretty little blonde girls aren’t so pretty anymore with hideous scars.
Fast forward to elementary school.. My parents put me in a new school in 2nd grade. I was the new kid, and being a true loner, had a hard time making friends. I wasn’t bothered by my scar, I was used to it, as it had been a part of my life for several years by this point, So you can imagine how caught off guard I was when some girls decided my new nickname should be “SCAR FACE”.. how sweet. That was the first year the bullying ( or in actuality- physical abuse and serious harassment) really started. I remember the girls would call my home, and terrorize me in only ways that vicious girls can. I was hit, had things thrown at me, and bullyed to a pulp.. I’ll spare the details.. but at a very young age, I felt like complete trash. Like I wasn’t worth anyone’s time, or attention. I was very aware of my ugly scar now, and I’d cry to God asking him to “please take it off of my face” every night.
My parents relocated me to a different school by 4th grade, and for two years, all was well with my world! Just when I had gotten comfortable, and made real friends, our family moved to a different county. Time to start all over again. If elementary aged school kids could be vicious, you wouldn’t believe the things middle school aged kids do. I started my 7th grade year very apprehensively. How would these kids treat me? I was scared to death. The first day proved to be my worst fear, first kid that talked to me ask me “what happened to your face?”. I explained to him what happened, and for some reason, he thought it would be funny to tell the other curious kids that I was attacked by a shark while fishing.. my new name at this school was “Fish Hook”. This same popular boy sexually harassed me and I resented that my family ever moved to this place. I immediately shut myself out from others. Anyone I did talk to, I’d lie to, thinking maybe they would like me if I was COOLER somehow. It just worked against me, and I ended up having zero real friends. That never really changed, and the result was a deep and suicidal depression midway through the year. I was only a kid, but I felt worthless, and I was ready to call quits on LIFE more times than one. My parents got me counseling, and I was put on heavy medication by 14.
And then there was high school.. the social nightmare.
By the time I was 15, and exposed to lots of other teenagers, I met a group that I belonged in: the outcasts..the freaks..the druggies. They were people like me… the unwanted. It felt good to be accepted, regardless that the quality of people wasn’t all that great. At least they were friends. I grew more and more confident with these new friends, and began to face life in a more bold way. No more cowering. It was time to wreak havoc on the hand that I’d been dealt. I went crazy.. and I loved every minute of it. I lashed out in every form. Drugs, alcohol, sex, heavy partying, vandalism.. you name it. I was in it full throttle. I ran away from home a couple of times and was completely out of my parents’ control. I stopped going to school, and eventually dropped out of the 10th grade. It got really bad, and before I was 16, I was completely addicted to crystal methamphetamine. One night, in particular, I had partied hard, and took drugs from someone I barely knew. I also took more than I had ever taken in my life- an “8ball”.. it was laced with LSD, and I started to hallucinate badly. I was all alone, and I was scared to death. My heart was beating out of my chest, my head was pounding, I was seeing awful things, and I couldn’t stop the overwhelming feeling of suicide. I went for some scissors, and right before I drove them into my chest.. my cell phone rang: MOM.
Not being able to form a complete train of thought, I somehow relayed to my mom that I was about to die, and dropped a huge bomb via cell phone that I was addicted to meth. She immediately connected with me and got me to the ER, where the docs had to explain to my sweet mom and dad that the amount of drug in my bloodstream was near lethal. They were devastated. I was devastated. How had I gotten here… and what was I doing laying in a hospital bed close to death? All because I wanted to fit in… You know, just the looks on their faces.. the disappointment…was enough to make me write off ever touching a drug again… But anyways, back to the ER- docs had revived me to 100%, and explained to my parents the possible scary lasting effects from the overdose, and a watchful intervention program I would need to be placed in. My dad, being a preacher and true Christ follower, believed in the power of prayer, and opted out of an intervention or 12 step program. Plus, Daddy believed in good old fashioned discipline. He put me on genuine house arrest for the next year.. until further notice and watched my every move. I started homeschooling, and I was completely torn away from all friends and contact with anyone. (Turns out Dad knew what he was doing. I had no interest in drugs anymore, and never touched them again.) Dad didn’t trust anyone, but there was this one boy they trusted…
Enter Daniel Walsh.
Daniel was my parent’s “policeman”. Daniel was one of the only good people I knew, and he loved me. We dated for awhile before the overdose, until he saw my true colors, and decided he didn’t want a romantic relationship with me no matter how much he cared. However, he kept a watchful eye on me, and reported to my parents if he knew of anything bad I was doing. One night, shortly after the overdose, and while on house arrest, I decided I had had enough of the confinement, and I decided to run away. I climbed out of my 3rd story window, and somehow arranged someone to pick me up and drive me FAR away. When my parents realized I was missing, guess who they called to track me down and pick me up…. yup, Mr. Daniel Walsh.
Dan was fed up with me, but he searched for me, and he found me.. and he brought me home safely. My parents trusted Daniel, and he was the only person I was allowed to see or talk to. Daniel would visit me all the time, and we became very close. After several months of living this way, I had calmed down a ton, and my parents would allow me to leave the house with Daniel for short amounts of time. So basically, we started dating again. Daniel became my best friend, and hero, and at 16 I fell in love with him.
During my confinement, my parents did something for me they had wanted to do for so long. They took me to get facial reconstructive surgery for my scar. The plastic surgeon was a Godsend, and somehow moved the scar to flow with the natural contours of my face. He also resurfaced the scar to remove the jagged appearance I had been teased over for so many years. After a few months, the scar healed, and to my surprise, quite nicely. I was so thankful that they did that for me.
Over the following years, I earned my family’s trust back. I was in a serious relationship with Daniel, I had finally found some small amounts of self esteem, I had settled down into a normal lifestyle, I was moving on from all of the emotional torment from the past years, and I was finishing high school. I was 18, and I was determined to never destroy my life or my family’s lives again….and then I got pregnant.
Just when things had turned around, I had a new bomb to drop on mom and dad. “Your baby is having a baby!” WOW. I was shocked, and devastated. I hid it for a short time, but finally brought it out into the open before my belly did the talking for me. My parents were loving and embraced me when I delivered the emotional news. They vowed to help me get through this “on top” and assured me that I would be a great mommy. They did help me get through it..
I walked up to receive my high school diploma over 5 months pregnant, my tummy poking out of my gown. My parents jumped up and down for me and rejoiced at my success. For most kids, finishing high school isn’t that hard… for me.. it was the hardest thing I’d ever done.
Daniel and I were still crazy in love, and decided to marry. We had a beautiful little wedding, and then we had a beautiful little son, Brett. I poured my life into being Brett’s mommy. I vowed to give him every ounce of me that I could possibly give. I would never knowingly let him down. Two years after Brett, we had another child, our darling little Brooklyn. And I vowed to give my tiny girl the same love and devotion. Like a lot of moms, I spent so much time being MOMMY, that I somehow REALLY let myself go. My once upon a time 120lb frame was 164lbs. My hair was ugly and unkempt. My clothes were baggy and ugly. I put no effort into taking care of myself. I ate EVERYTHING in sight.. mostly chocolate! I was a total mess. Daniel, on the other hand, was a fitness freak, and I resented the time and effort he put into staying fit. I remember one time he ran “all the way to the stop sign at the top of the street” (a mere .7 miles) and I told him he was “nuts!” and obsessed with working out. I hated how in shape he was, because I WASN’T in shape. I would go walking every now and then with the kids and the park for my “fitness”. One day, I decided to walk on the treadmill, with Daniel watching. I remember I put the treadmill on 3, and got off after 10 minutes complaining that it was too hard.
Daniel chuckled and said something along the lines of “I thought you were actually going to stick with it.”
And it was at that moment that I realized my lack of care and motivation to be BETTER was just as toxic to my body as the drugs I put in them so many years before. I refused to let myself slip back down towards that dark and scary path. I immediately grabbed my phone, and called my fit sister, and told her I wanted to go to the gym with her. My sister, Melissa, gladly let me join her at the gym. She taught me the ins and outs of basic fitness, and encouraged me to get my body under control. I not only wanted to get it under control, I wanted to get it RIGHT. I would show Daniel that he could have the wife he deserved.
After training with Melissa for about 6 months, I was in perfect shape. I was able to do before what I thought was impossible: running a 5k. I finished my first 5k in 24 minutes, and I was hooked. I had finally found something I NEVER IMAGINED I WOULD EVER FIND: A POSITIVE BODY IMAGE…and with it: confidence, happiness, high self-esteem, and a love for myself I never thought I could feel.
I had found myself,.. and I liked myself.
After a year or so of obsessing over fitness, I decided to actually apply all of my knowledge to an actual fitness certification so I could help others find the same feelings I had searched for for so long. I got certified, and I started training others and found it to be very rewarding. I wanted to apply my passion for doing things the right way in life to my training, and I began to research ways to make my training the most effective training it could be. In the meantime, Daniel was also pursuing his own fitness goals, and together we searched out every way of training imaginable.
It was around this time that I was introduced to “marathoning”. A girl at my gym was at a local 5k I raced one weekend. I finished 1st, and she finished right behind me. I remember she came up to me and said, “Great race! My legs were hurting because I just did a marathon last weekend.” …… “A what -a – thon?” ….. “A Marathon.. I ran 26.2 miles.”…….”In one day????!”
This girl, Ami Roach, intrigued me.
Who runs that many miles in a day? I typed it into a search engine on my computer and found out that apparently TONS of people do this.. all the time… everywhere. I felt like a wimp. The next day I found Ami at the gym, and told her I wanted to try this marathon thing. She said “I can help you train if you want.” I told her, no need for training.. with me being a personal trainer, I could handle it myself… I found a marathon online, the ING, and signed up for it. Oh I figured Daniel might want to try it to, so I signed him up as well.
The next day, with no experience running anything over 3 miles, Daniel and I went out and ran 13 miles without stopping. AND, it nearly killed us. Our legs were torn to pieces. But we figured it was what we had to do if we wanted to run double that in a month at ING. (Yeah, clueless.) We didn’t know anything about weekly mileage or anything like that. We just took the weekend, got a sitter, and went out and ran. We only used water. We didn’t know anything about shoes, fueling, tapering, or training. We were just figuring it out as we went. The end of March came, and with it, the ING MARATHON.
Dan and I showed up race day in our sweats armed with nothing but our will to finish. It was the most agonized 5:30 hours of our lives, with nothing but cups of water along the way, but we finished that race.
I swore I would never run again. (Ha! How many times have I said that one?! )
Until I saw Ami shortly after the marathon. “How’d ya do?” she asked. I told her I finished, but it hurt. I asked her how she did, and I remember being shocked when she told me, “4 hours and 19 minutes! Felt great!” …. WHAT? AMAZING. Someone could run that thing THAT fast?
I told her to tell me everything. I wanted to know EVERYTHING. And I wouldn’t leave her side until I had it all figured out. Ami took me under her wing, and taught me all I needed to know about marathons. And in 5 months, I ran another marathon and finished it just a hair over 4 hours.
I started to meet a lot more runners, and began to make friends. It felt so good to be a part of something. I enjoyed feeling like people liked me. I started to race more, and finished almost 10 marathons in short span of time. I won a lot of local races, and I became involved in some running groups as a result. It didn’t take long for me to meet a woman named Beth McCurdy, who introduced to a whole new demon…ULTRARUNNING.
“100 miles, are you freaking kidding me?” I was blown away and found it hard to believe that someone would do such a silly thing. But knowing that I originally knew nothing of “marathoners”, I didn’t doubt that an entirely different beast lurked in the running world. I had to see for myself. I told Beth I wanted to try one of these things, and she encouraged me to do so. She said she was signed up for a hard 40 mile race to train for her 100 mile race, but it wouldnt be good for a beginner. She said she thought I could finish it, however, and so I went ahead and signed up…. for the famously hilly, Strolling Jim 40 mile run.
I started that race with far more experience in running than I had my first marathon. But, I was still unprepared for the demons I would battle in that race. I spent the majority of the run by myself, and everything from my past came out in full force each time I would struggle. I would refuse to quit moving, reminding myself that every step I took was a step farther away from who I used to be. All of the demons that I had fought through life reared their ugly faces towards me when I would doubt myself… The vicious tormentors, the suicidal thoughts, the drugs, the abuse, the meaningless sex, the drinking, the fears, & the hatred towards myself: I couldn’t escape it. But every time I powered over a ginormous hill, or hit another mile marker, I knew I was CRUSHING each demon.. and I just kept crushing them. Towards the end of the 40 miles, I started running faster and faster, and it dawned on me that this very thing I was doing- racing towards a finish- was the exact same thing that had destroyed me in the first place, long ago when I was a tiny girl. I began crying and smiling at the same time. I felt powerful, beautiful, and incredible. I had never felt so amazing in my life. I would cry, pray, laugh, thank God, cry and pray some more.
It was an emotional journey like nothing I had ever experienced before. And when I crossed that finish line in over 8 1/2 hours, I knew I would never be the same. Those miles convicted me, and changed me in more ways than I can write. I broke down into uncontrollable tears, and silently thanked God for those 40+ miles of running…
and for bringing my life back full circle.
I never thought I would have the confidence, or the ability to conquer something like a 40 mile run.
I’ve been through a lot of things, but I wouldn’t change that for the world. I’ve learned so much, that I never would have learned if I’d done things differently. I never would have tried ultrarunning had I not experienced the pain I did. And no doubt, I wouldn’t have finished, if I didn’t have those powerful demons taunting me the whole way.
It all started with a simple race. I find that incredible.
Who knew God could use a running race to help me come to peace with that little race that destroyed my life and face so long ago. I’ve always heard God has a sense of humor,.. I believe it.
And by the way…
It didn’t end with those 40miles.. After that race, I just kept running more and now have finished countless ultra marathon distances including 3 100mi runs. I am still fueled by powerful emotions, and God’s constant kick in my rear. I’m so blessed to have that same gorgeous guy next to me today- my Daniel. I’m so in love with him and I appreciate how he supports me every step of the way. I also have my darling little babies-well- kids now-who light up my life with their constant love and affection. I make every effort to run long before the sun comes up every day to get in my training, and they make every effort to show me they care that I do that. We have a very strong and healthy system in place for our little family, and it works out beautifully. Daniel, Brett, and Brooklyn are my whole world, and running is just a part of my world, but its a special part of my world. This is me and my precious family now! (and most people don’t even know that I ever had a big ugly scar on my face!)
“Hey, you know they’re all the same,
You know you’re doing better on your own. So don’t buy in. Live right now, yeah just be yourself. It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough for someone else.
It just takes some time,
Little girl you’re in the middle of the ride..Everything, everything will be just fine. Everything,everything will be all right, all right.”
-from Jimmy Eat World’s THE MIDDLE