As a child, I was never very athletic. Always a bit chunky, typically picked last at any game in gym class. I did have a brief time as an adult where I was more into fitness, but I let life get in the way. I stopped going to the gym, going for walks or doing anything active. That all changed January 6th, 2016. My work place was having a weight loss competition, and I decided that would be the perfect motivation to get me started. I stepped on the scale that morning and saw 315 pounds. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I wasn’t. I knew I had gotten big, I just didn’t realize exactly how big. I vowed then and there on that scale that I would NEVER see a 3 in the beginning again.
I knew the basics of losing weight: eat less, move more. So I did just that. I changed my eating habits and started working out. I started with the elliptical. 30 minutes at the easiest setting was enough to get a good sweat going. After 2 months of elliptical training, I decided I wanted to give running a try.
After some reading, I found the 5K101 Podcast and got started. With all the snow on the ground, I was stuck indoors. I hated the treadmill, still do. Until the snow melted, I used the hallways at school. A lovely short loop, 3 times a week. Several weeks later, it was finally warm enough to melt the snow outside, so I laced up my shoes and took the podcast outside.
My first race was the Run with the Police 5K. I hardly remember the run, but I do remember the immense feeling of pride for finishing the race. I did several more 5Ks throughout the year, getting faster each time.
My longest race of 2016 was the Des Moines IMT Mercy Live up Loop. The feeling of pride at the finish line is indescribable. I decided my next goal: run the Des Moines IMT Half Marathon.
I registered in April and began training shortly thereafter. With some guidance from fellow runners (Thanks Sally and Brad!) I decided to follow the Marathoning for Mortals plan. I knew there would be some weeks I would need to repeat and some weeks where life would get in the way, so I figured starting early couldn’t hurt.
As I increased my distance, I began looking for longer races to keep my runs interesting. I found the Run to Exile 10K and registered for it. Who wouldn’t want a free beer at the end of a race?? A few weeks before the race, I looked at the previous year’s race results and noticed that the person who finished last the year before was a bit faster than my current pace. It hit me: I am likely to finish last in this race. I’ve always been at the back of the pack, but I’ve never been LAST. The sense of panic grew in my stomach: What if they closed the course? What if I couldn’t finish? Would someone say something to me? Would the water stations still be there when I passed? Would there still be free beer left?
Race day came and I felt more at peace with being last. I knew I would finish, I just didn’t know the answer to any of my other questions. The course follows mostly sidewalks with a few street crossings. I could manage that if I had to on my own.
The first few miles followed the 5K course, so I had company. The group split and off I went. A group passed me shortly after the split and I figured that would be it. Around mile 4, I got my answer. Two Des Moines EMT’s on a Gator came past me. I continued on and saw them again, waiting for me under a tree and coming past me a few minutes later, each time giving me the thumbs up. All of the water stations were still there, waiting for me with cups full and arms out. When I came to the last street crossing, there were still police directing traffic, allowing me a safe cross. As I approached the finish line, a small group of people were cheering for me and it was announced that the final finisher was coming in. The patio cheered and clapped. I found out later the directors had decided to wait for me to come in before doing the awards ceremony, announcing that I would be arriving shortly and they would wait. I didn’t win any awards, but the feelings of pride and joy were enough.
The half marathon day finally arrived and I felt nervous and excited all over again. I knew I should be able to finish, I had completed two 10 mile runs, one being the Capital Pursuit race. Looking at the previous year’s race results, I knew I wouldn’t be last, or even close to last. The course was open for 8 hours. My “A Goal” was to finish in 3 hours and 15 minutes, since I started my journey at 315 pounds. My “B Goal” was to finish in the same day I started. I knew I would hit one!
The start line was more packed than I was used to. I felt like a fish swimming upstream trying to get towards the back of the corral. The gun went off and I was off. The first few miles felt great. I was keeping the pace I needed to maintain my goal. About halfway through the race, I started to not feel well. I pushed through. I fell behind on pace, but I continued. The miles seemed to drag on. As I came around the corner in Gray’s Lake, my spirits were lifted. My dad and step-mom were waiting for me, holding a sign and cheering. It was just the lift I needed to keep going.
At mile 12, the emotions started hitting me: the pride of being able to finish such a big goal, the disappointment of not making my A goal, the exhaustion of running 13.1 miles, the joy of being able to check the race off my bucket list and many others. All of the emotions came to a head as I crossed the finish line and received my medal.
Throughout my running and weight loss journey, I have learned that I am capable of anything I put my mind to. I continue to be amazed as what my body can do. I have gone from over 300 pounds, barely able to walk up a flight of stairs without being out of breath to 235 pounds and able to complete a half marathon. I can’t wait to see what the rest of this journey brings.
Want to follow along? Follow me, Becky Wilson, on Instagram at @315to199 for more running and weight loss related posts!