If you would've known me before my health journey, I was the kid who was always picked last in gym class. I was the kid who cut corners when we had to run laps in the gymnasium. And I was the kid who always found a way to get out of running the mile. I hated anything fitness related.
I wasn't your average teenager; I was extremely quiet and withdrawn. Instead of being social, I spent most of my time in my room suppressing my feelings with food until I reached 230 pounds. I was alive, but I certainly wasn't living.
It was fear that held me back the most. It became so powerful and overwhelming that I was pushed into the background of my own life. My fears were bricks, and my thoughts were the mortar. With this combination, I built a toxic wall of self-doubt and hatred.
Flash forward to 20 years old, when I started watching "The Biggest Loser." This show inspired me to lose weight after I realized I wanted more out of life. So began my journey — but I didn't run to lose weight. In fact, running wasn't even a blip in my mind.
One year later, I was much lighter and on the path to a new life. It wasn't long before I got stuck in a downward spiral, becoming afraid of returning to the body I once harbored and losing the lease on life I created. I suddenly found myself on the other end of the spectrum and had a full blown eating disorder ... until I met a runner.
At first, I thought he was crazy. Who runs for fun?
But the longer I knew him, the more intrigued I became. I started testing my limits on the treadmill, and this person eventually convinced me to sign up for my first race. I’ve been hooked ever since.
After watching runners conquer the 2011 Pittsburgh Marathon from the sidelines, I decided I wanted to run a full marathon. Just one year later, I was on the starting line, about to embark on a 26.2 mile journey, and when I crossed the finish line, my life was forever changed. Tears rolled down my cheeks as one of the volunteers placed the medal around my neck. I was a marathoner! Life as I knew it was a thing of the past — but then something happened.
Shortly after running a 50K in fall 2012, I got sick. After one grueling year of doctor's visits and extensive testing, I was eventually diagnosed with late stage Lyme disease in 2013. My body was continuously attacking itself; I eventually came to terms with never being able to run again, because I was left with multiple repercussions from the disease despite aggressive antibiotic treatment. It took a while to get my symptoms under control, but once I did, I began rebuilding my life and learned how to live with my new normal.
Here's the thing. Running has broken my heart more times than I'd like to admit. But I love running and what it does for me. So I fought harder than I've fought for anything in my entire life to get back to the thing I love. After a long hiatus, I finally returned to running in 2014. I bit the bullet and signed up for a race. It was a 5k, but that day, it felt like a marathon. It was difficult, but I crossed that finish line and gained an entirely new outlook. I chased my fears and met them eye-to-eye once again.
I rebuilt a solid mileage base with the help of my running family – Steel City Road Runners
. They welcomed me back with open arms. On January 1, 2015, I ran 10 miles, and with some convincing, I made an important decision. I chose to give the marathon thing another try.
Days turned to weeks. Weeks turned to months, and before I knew it, I was back at the starting line for the 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon. This marathon was even more meaningful than my first given how much I've had to overcome to get there. I finally felt like myself again, which speaks volumes.
Since that time, I've completed 10 full marathons, and the 2019 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon will be my 11th. Sure, I still deal with chronic pain and fatigue, but I do my best to not let my circumstances hinder my progress. I realized through all of my trials and tribulations, the only hand I ever needed was my own.
Honestly, it's fear that makes me MOVE. That's why, throughout all of these years, my mantra has been CHASE FEAR'
– I've learned that life begins where fear ends. It's a process, and eventually your fears turn into celebrations and a desire to dream bigger. So, keep chasing your fears and tearing down those walls. Fear is a very POWERFUL entity, but never let fear power over you.