How and when did you come to be someone who runs?
Almost three years ago, I finally broke up with my life-sabotaging best friend and lover, Bulimia—a disease that had plagued me for 28 treacherous years. It took every ounce of energy and self-discovery I had to close the door on it once and for all, though, since my eating disorder is absolutely an addiction I am careful to never claim to be fully recovered. I got healthy and lost a lot of weight through basic, better eating habits and long power walks. There came a point where I decided that I needed something more in the way of exercise goals, so I turned to running.
You've said running saved you; tell me more about that.
The first time I ever ran a mile without stopping I had a mini breakdown of sorts—emotional tears flowed freely and I knew that running was something that I needed in my life in order to continue my recovery. Running makes me feel alive and healthy, two things I struggled with for a very long time. It saved me because it gave me a new purpose after the initial weight loss and lifestyle change. People often relapse into old habits when it gets boring, and running helped because it gave me something different to focus on.
What has most surprised you about picking up this hobby in adulthood?
That I can do it! That I'm actually a bona fide, true-blue runner who can run four to seven miles at a clip without stopping. Every time I lace up and simply get it done I feel accomplished. I was never a runner, even as a sporty teenager. Running never appealed to me and I always felt I just couldn't do it. So, becoming a runner later in life is surprising in and of itself.
What is it about running that suits you at this point in your life?
Running is a way for me to keep my promises to myself, plain and simple. There's a lot of self talk that comes with the territory of an eating disorder, and many times over when I attempted to regain control over my life, my actions would then tell a different story. For me, when I plan to run and then do it, I am doing what I say I'm going to do. I realized through recovery that results don't come from simply wanting them...they come from having the courage to take action.
Do you see the effects of running showing up in other areas of your life?
Absolutely. Adhering to a regular running program completely changed me—and my relationships with my husband and my kids improved tremendously. Feeling good about and respecting myself has played a key role in the way I communicate my feelings and my needs. The saying, "if mamma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" applies to my life, and running has indeed made me a happier wife, and a happier mother. Mostly, I'm just a happier woman, and I'm grateful. I'm also grateful to be writing again...and my ideas seem to be flowing freely these days, unencumbered by my disease lurking in the shadows of my life. I'm working on my first novel, and I'm training for my first half marathon—two things I couldn't imagine doing or finishing just a short time ago.
Photos courtesy of Kim Valzania, who can be found at Eat, Pray, Post, and whose writing, essays, and poetry are featured on Elephant Journal, The Manifest-Station, Rebelle Society, and Imperfect Parent.