Last Thursday, an article was published in The New York Times entitled Running as Therapy. In summary, the author writes about how distance running helped her through some of the most difficult experiences. The article is something that I can totally relate to.
Besides struggling with obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression in my early twenties. I rarely disclose this because I fear that people will judge me. Life is sometimes not fair. The depression was different than the blues. I went through some rough periods where I felt that I could not lift my head to see the light. I battled with self-doubt, self-loathing and low self-esteem. I wanted to be alone. It hurt to be around my friends.
I was prescribed antidepressant medications such as Wellbutrin and Luvox in addition to psychotherapy. Though the treatment helped manage my depression symptoms, I still felt a fog of sadness that I couldn’t get out of. I struggled to find happiness and purpose. I had the support of family and friends but it wasn’t something that they could take away. It was something I had to work out on my own.
On November 12, 2012, I signed up to run the first half of The 2013 San Francisco Marathon. It was the next item to check off on my list of goals on my weight loss journey. I did not think it would change me. I had doubts that I could even complete the race since it is a challenging course.
It was during my training, I navigated myself out of the fog I had been lost in for so long. Losing myself in the miles and focusing on my breathing connected me to the present. Running provided me with certain calmness that I did not find in medication or food. The training challenged all the negative thoughts inside my head because I was out completing all of the mileage on the schedule. I found solace as I ran through the hilly trails of The Presidio. The ache in my legs was not punishment but a reminder of my dedication and perseverance to heal my spirit.
With the help of my pace group at The San Francisco Road Runners, I gained the confidence that I needed to finish the race with each long run. The self-doubt was losing its hold on me. The long runs by myself gave me time to explore, dream and let go of the old beliefs. Running gave me the strength to keep on trying even though I wanted to give up. Slowly but surely, I was able to see myself in a different light. I realized that I was a capable person that mattered and had so much to offer the world.
As I approached the finish line of the first half last June in Golden Gate Park, I felt tears running down my face. I was healthy both physically and mentally. I felt alive and present.
The finish line was not the end of the race for me. It was the beginning of a beautiful life full of promise with one run at a time.