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My Life As a Runner: Mandy's Blog Posted on February 21, 2014

I began running when I was thirteen years old, not because I thought it would be fun but because I was desperate for a change. I was going into high school and I felt way too young to be overweight, but I was. "I don't really know how I got here", I remember thinking, "but I hate it". I was never an athlete. I was an artsy kid, a thinker, and I was clumsy. Too clumsy to enjoy any sport that required coordination. Up until this point, my athletic career had consisted of me playing right field on the church softball team. I liked it alright. I could sit out there and search for four leaf clovers.  Most of the time I was removed from the action. Every once in a while a ball would come my way. I would awkwardly retrieve it and throw it to the pitcher (because that's what the coach told me to do) and it was in these moments that I was reminded, once again, just how terribly unathletic I was. A lifetime of these situations led me to the conclusion that anything physical was simply not for me. I spent my entire middle school existence abiding by that principle and avoiding an active lifestyle at all costs.

On the verge of high school I was beginning to realize that this philosophy wasn't pointing me in the direction that I wanted to go. I was 25 lbs overweight. I was the butt of a lot of fat jokes (middle schoolers can be so cruel). Simple things like rollerblading to a friends house or riding my bike to the park were no fun because of how out of shape I was. I decided I needed a change. Well, I'm sure you all know, change is a real bitch. It makes you feel uncomfortable; physically, and emotionally. It forces you to do things that you are bad at, and it's SLOW. I would say that those were the feelings that characterized the beginning of my life as a runner. I didn't look cool when I ran. I looked red faced and jiggly. I certainly didn't feel cool. After years of being sedentary, I wasn't used to my heart beating in my brain, or my lungs burning, or my legs feeling like Jello. From start to finish, I hated it. I didn't run because I felt capable and strong and in control. I ran because I secretly hoped that if I kept at it long enough, maybe, just maybe, I would have one of those runs that the skinny, fast people talk about; a “Chariots of Fire”, wind in my face, sand in my back kick kind of a run. My first season as a cross country runner, I never broke 30 minutes in a 5k. I spent most of my time on the bus ride to the race praying that I wouldn't be last. "Please just let there be one girl, just one, who finishes after me." Change is slow, painfully so, but it does happen. Eventually I got faster. I wasn't running varsity but I was solidly middle of the pack and that fear of being last across the finish line no longer haunted me. I put my miles in during the off season, and every once in a while I had a run that felt alright, almost comfortable. I always chuckle to myself when people talk to me about running and they say things like, "I wish I was one of those people who liked to run." Or "I wish I could just go out and run and be comfortable like you"....ahhh if they only knew.


23 years later, I have way more runs that I really savor. I hit the trail, and my problems start to dissolve. I notice the way the sun filters through the branches or the way spring slowly seeps up the trees from the forest floor. somehow I become more grateful for the things that I have instead of discontented with the things that I don't. I feel small when I'm in the woods and my smallness gives me peace. "You're not as important as you think you are," I say to myself. "The world will go on regardless of how much you screw things up". Occasionally I have a run that's brutal from start to finish. My legs tie up, my breathing is ragged, every step feels like a battle. But its different now because I know that during those long hard miles, my body and my mind are learning; how to be strong and focused, how to make possible what feels impossible. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time; that's how change happens. That's how the slow, overweight, out of shape middle schooler becomes a lifelong runner.  


*Mandy is a freelance blogger for the More Miles More Smiles team*


by Mark Spewak


Beth on On 02/25 at 01:55 PM

Wonderful blog Mandy! I’m 60 years old and can completely relate. Who would’ve thunk it? Absolutely love what running has done for me. Getting ready to do my first half marathon trail run.

Pete on On 02/21 at 04:32 PM

Very inspiring!

Joshua on On 02/21 at 10:23 AM

Just goes to show you don’t have to be talented, you just have to be driven.

Tim Storck on On 02/21 at 10:21 AM

I have had a similar running journey. The trails have changed my running life for sure. Now I need to move to a place where I can run them out the door.

Josh on On 02/21 at 10:06 AM

Phenomenal! This is why I love running!

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