Throwback Thursday – My First Race

This post discusses eating disorders. If you do or have previously suffered from an eating disorder you may find this post triggering. 

I started running to lose weight. I read somewhere that running gave you the biggest ‘return on investment’ for your fitness time, cutting through body mass and burning lots of calories, so decided it was the best option for me in my self destructive mission to get as thin as possible. So I started running. Very slowly at first. 6.5 km per/ hour on the treadmill, running for 30 seconds and recovering for a minute. My technique was so awful that once a PT interrupted the session with his client to come over and show me how to run because I was making so much noise pounding away on the treadmill. Mortifying.

Slowly but surely however I got better. Running for longer intervals and walking less until eventually I could run for a few km non-stop. The plan was working and I was getting tinier and tinier. I went down to size 6 and then size 4 and that was the ultimate victory. Once again a PT came up to me on the treadmill but this time it was to ask what I was eating and whether I was OK. I was exhausted and my nails were flaking away but all of that really didn’t matter, so I diligently reeled off sweet potato and salmon dinners and she went away.

I kept running though. Every day I’d get on the treadmill in my local gym and I used to come out glowing. It made me really happy and it was satisfying to see myself getting better. One day I noticed a poster in the gym for a local 10k race. The Staines 10k none the less! I had never ever run more than 5k and the idea of running 10k seemed pretty much impossible. TEN! That was double figures. But imagine how many calories you’d burn! Livestrong told me I’d burn nearly 700 and I got more and more tempted. It frightened me but I couldn’t stop thinking about it and then one day I went mental and entered! A real life race!

I started training, trying to run further on the treadmill and even taking it outside for a jog round the block, but that was bloody hard work and I didn’t like everyone staring at me so I didn’t do that too much. One day at the gym I got in to a treadmill face off with a girl next to me and got up to 7.5km before bailing out and feeling like I wouldn’t make it home. Despite being exhausted I couldn’t quite believe I’d run 7.5km and I spent days on a high.

The week before the race I got anxious. I’d read that you need energy for running and I wrestled with a big problem – do I eat breakfast? I only ever ran on an empty stomach because I only ever had an empty stomach but the last thing I wanted to do when going for a whole 10k was to go all weak. That would be failure and I would embarrass myself. But the idea of eating so many carbs was horrifying. My pride did win over though and I ate a banana mashed with a handful of oats and water. Eating that much pretty much cemented that I would HAVE to run as I couldn’t just let it sit there in my stomach.

I turned up for the race nervous but excited. Dayve came along to support me (number one cheerleader from the beginning) and took this photo of me before my race.

Yes, they’re tennis shoes.

Although I had managed to gain some weight here (back up to a size 6), if you know me you’ll know I don’t look like this now.

I stood on the start line feeling sick but as soon as the gun went that was it. I set about my loop of Staines full of adrenaline. I started overtaking people and really got in the zone. I can’t really remember much of the race until the end. I started struggling at about 8km and saw a man stop and was filled with certainty that I.would.not.stop. I saw the PT from my gym who’d asked me about my food struggling at 9km and was determined to finish in front of her. To show her I was strong enough.

In the final stretch I saw Dayve and he waved at me. I can’t explain the euphoria that came over me when I saw the finish line. A woman tried to overtake me with a sprint in the final stretch but I wasn’t having any of it. I dug deep and she couldn’t catch me. I can’t explain how amazing I felt to cross the finish line. 10km in 54 minutes. Livestrong told me I’d burnt 700 calories.

From that point on, I was hooked. Running made me so happy. As time went though I tried to get stronger but just got progressively weaker. Dehydration from laxative abuse, a broken metabolism from a starve/binge/purge cycle and a worn down body. I tried (and failed) to take on the Paris half in 2011 and that was the snapping point. Running showed me how strong I could be but how weak I actually was. I didn’t want to live in a world where bananas brought me to tears and I lived by numbers. 500 calories in so 700 to burn, 1lb down so 4lb more to lose. So I started training for Run to the Beat 2011, which is where this started.

On May 16th 2010, three years ago to the day, I ran my first race. Three years later I have 8 half marathons and a full marathon under my belt, among various others, and I’ve never been happier. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t struggle sometimes and all recovered ED sufferers will tell you that ED never really goes away but I think I am as healthy as I’ll ever be, both physically and mentally, at this point in time. Running truly changed my life. What a difference three years makes.

Strong, happy, healthy.