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How My First 5K Took Me So Much Further Than 3.1 Miles

April 17, 2017 |

Guest Blog Contributor, Michelle Hurrell…

It was a cold morning, when I laced up my running shoes. I looked in the mirror and as usual, I was saddened by my weight around my middle. It was 26 degrees on March 12 and my husband would surely agree with me, if I chose to call the whole thing off. It was the morning of my first 5K. Then, there was Annie Powell, my trainer. She was most definitely not going to let me quit.

I met Annie, when I read a poem about mental illness at the show, “This is My Brave”. She reviewed my performance. I found out later that in addition to being “in the club” (my code for those with mental illness or substance abuse challenges), she was a trainer. I had just started a full time job and was on a low carb diet and was running (yes, the whole way) a mile three times a week on my treadmill. I had also lost 50 pounds. Unfortunately, 20 of them found their way back faster than Hansel and Gretel with a GPS, but let’s not get bogged down with that just yet. When I hired Annie to work with me once a week, she really helped me learn new exercises and how to use new equipment. On my off days from running, I do the HIIT (high intensity interval training) that she taught me. HIIT is a series of exercises like jumping jacks or high knee marching that are repeated in a sequence, where the heart rate stays at a fat burning state.

Back to the 5K, my friend Carl Hagenbrock, asked me if I was going to run the Lucky Leprechaun in March. “Sure,” I said, knowing I was probably gonna blow it off. This was not out of disrespect for my friend, but had backed out of two 5K runs already and had established a pattern. I was afraid. I had visions of them closing the trail and me having to quit anyway.

I had also done something good that turned out to be bad for me. My husband planned to put a new treadmill on layaway for me in February, so I gave mine away to a woman, who was starting over after a bad relationship. A good home was what it needed, but my treadmill is still on layaway. With no treadmill and extreme anxiety of running outside by myself, I began my HIIT training, but only ran three times before the 5K. During my official practice run it was sleeting and all I could think was, “This has to be the craziest thing I have every volunteered to do”. The point though, is that I did it. The HIIT training was not a good match for my goal of the 5K, but it improved my stamina. The practice runs improved my confidence.

Overall, running run-walk intervals and the HIIT training improved my mental health. I felt accomplished and focused; whereas, my illness makes me feel unworthy and scattered. I recommend exercise of any kind to everyone, but to someone who is challenged with mental illness or substance abuse, it is as important as taking your medicine.

Ok, back to race day and the mirror. Mirrors don’t lie. Emotional eating doesn’t, either. I always say, I wouldn’t eat my feelings, if they didn’t taste so much like chocolate. I had given myself a break for the holidays, which had turned into one big holiday called, hallowedturkeyxmasvalentinesalmosteaster. I was over eating each month with a new shiny bag of chocolates to commemorate each occasion. I got dressed and didn’t even see with the mirror that my jacket was too small. I left the house terrified. I met Annie and her father, Bill and we headed out. Though I was afraid, I was sure that adding the last mile would be easy, but it was so darn cold. Several times, I threatened to walk the last mile, but Annie wouldn’t let me. Her father even ran along side of me, the last part of the race. My husband, dead set against the running and the cold weather, stood shivering to cheer me on and I still wanted to quit. I was a total drama queen at the end. I sat as the immovable force on the curb and when asked if I wanted a bagel or a banana or a granola bar, I thought, “Fire everything!” Although, I really said, “Please, bring it all!”

In fairness to me, I was feeling a tad bit faint. My final time was 51 minutes and 32 seconds and it was my fault. I let my brain, not my body, tell me to walk. I had no side split, no cramps, just a desire to quit. I felt terrible as I crawled off the curb watching everyone else “walk it off”, but then there was Annie, Bill and Tom all smiling and looking at me like I had done something amazing and then it hit me. I didn’t quit. It was 26 degrees, I was in a crowd, outside, had trained sporadically, and yet, I had woken up at 5:30 and ran 3 miles – for fun. I couldn’t bear to look at the reality of the holiday chocolate damage that had settled around my middle. In reality though, it was out there for all to see in the race pictures, but yet, I posted them to Facebook. Messy hair, no makeup and a too small jacket and all I saw was accomplishment. I didn’t quit. I? Me? I didn’t quit? Hell yeah, I didn’t quit. I’m still a fat girl, who looks like a pug terrier, when I run. Tongue out, grimace and all short and squatty, all belly, no body. The difference is that this overweight girl is trying very hard to change and if people can’t see that, forget them and if I can’t see that, it’s a tragedy, really. Maybe the camera and mirror do lie. Who am I?

I am a girl who didn’t leave the house for a year, except to see family. I am the girl who didn’t drive for two years. I am the girl who spent 3 months in a mental health facility. I am the girl who loathes crowds. That same girl ran a race with a hundred or so people- outside- with total anxiety through the roof. I am a reluctant runner. I am a girl who is trying hard to eat “clean” despite my love for peanut butter eggs. I am a girl who has lost 5 of those crappy 20 holiday pounds and this time, by continuing to train, they won’t find their way back home.

Truth time, am I the fat girl I see in the mirror or am I the race bib on my wall? The truth is that I am both and if I can’t see both girls clearly, I will quit. If I don’t see the results of my lack of discipline clearly, the Reeses’ company wins and if I don’t respect how far I have come, my self-esteem will plummet right back into that shiny bag of chocolate. Thanks to Annie, Bill and my reluctant husband, I ran a 5K, but in reality, I have come much further than three point one miles.