My Calgary Marathon Story - What Started ED to BQ
Hi Calgary Marathon,
This will be one of the most honest things I have ever written, but I have decided to share my marathon story.
The 2017 Calgary Marathon will be my first 42.2km and I could not be more excited (and nervous) for May 28th. I even write the number of days on my hand every morning as a constant reminder of where I’m going and where I’ve come from. I have had a bumpy ride getting to this point but I can honestly say that running is the best thing that has ever happened to me both mentally and physically and it may have even saved my life because while prepping for this marathon I am also on the path of recovery from an eating disorder that has controlled my life for far too long.
I was always ‘average’ sized growing up. I loved food and never really cared what I looked like. I wasn’t into sports and was never really physically ‘fit’ but I loved to be outside, explore and hike with my friends. As I got older and after experiencing some emotional hard times, I became more concerned about what others thought, basing my happiness entirely on my appearance and I had decided I wanted to change. At my worst, I weighed only 95lbs and was lifeless and emotionless. I would hardly eat and if I did I felt I needed to work out for hours to make up for it and ‘burn off’ those few calories I had allowed myself, even things as small as a banana. A banana! I started running with the intent of burning more calories, at first on a treadmill, then outside when the weather was nice and eventually I had a 5km route that I would do almost every day. I started challenging myself to how fast I could run that 5km and eventually started adding on kilometers to see how far I could go.
In 2016 I completed the Calgary Half-Marathon (my first half) and I felt a rush I had never felt before, I was so happy and proud of what I had accomplished. I even allowed myself to celebrate by eating half a jumbo watermelon with a spoon, which was a splurge for me. I was hooked on the runners high, but I was still struggling. There were days that I wouldn’t eat, I would still count every calorie and do everything I could to burn off those calories. I knew it wasn’t healthy and I knew the disorder was controlling my life but I couldn’t stop. I wouldn’t accept help because I didn’t want to change. I was personally sabotaging the relationships I had with my loved ones and worst of all; I lost any love I had for myself. There was a constant battle in my head between wanting to get better and wanting to stay in my disordered comfort zone. I was allowing the disorder to influence so much of my life and it made me feel so terrible about myself that I started drifting into very depressive states, even playing with the idea of suicide in my head. I always thought if I could just lose another 5lbs I would be happy, or if I was just a little bit thinner everything would be okay, but when it wouldn’t do the trick I would keep pushing. Eating disorders are terrible and suffocating and I wish no one would ever have to go through that.
I was on a constant roller coaster ride of gradually recovering, then falling right back into it. Deep down I knew I wanted to change, I wanted to get better but my insecurities and anxieties kept holding me back. Throughout the summer I spent a lot of time running and completing more races, including two more half-marathons and although I was starting to fall in love with running, I was still using it to fuel my disorder. I was so happy to know the amount of calories I was burning in those hours and how it allowed me to say no to food because “I was training.” I was still underweight, constantly critiquing myself and convincing myself I was not good enough, concerning myself more about my weight and how I looked than anything else. I am a very goal-driven person (and maybe a little stubborn) and I like to challenge myself and by the end of the summer and after many more kilometers, I had set a goal. A goal that, at the time, was almost entirely disorder based. That goal was to run the 2017 Calgary Marathon, in my home town, the year of Canada’s 150th birthday and 5 days before my 26th birthday. This goal changed my life.
I don’t know how or when, but what happened over time was surprising. I found myself focusing less on my body’s appearance and more on its ability. After many more kilometers, running was no longer a way to burn calories, but as a way for me to get outside and to connect with myself and my thoughts. I started looking forward to running and thinking up new routes, wondering how far it was to a certain place and back or thinking “I wonder where this road goes?” And because I was eating to nourish and fuel my body, I was able to do those things!
With no real guidance, I did hours of research into marathon training and how to prepare my mind and my body for those long kilometers but I knew what I had to do to accomplish this goal, and I knew what my biggest struggle would be - and it wasn’t the running. I would read about runner’s diets and how much a ‘normal’ runner would eat (almost triple what I would eat in a day,) swearing by rice, potatoes, pasta or bread for carb loading and I couldn’t imagine eating these things I have been avoiding for years. I would normally run without eating anything and would never stop for any gels, chews or electrolytes during my runs because I didn’t know how many calories were in them, but to accomplish my goal, I was going to have to start. I started slowly changing my diet and re-introducing food, each coming with struggles and successes. There have been points where I was so unhappy I could not look at myself in a mirror, I would cry myself to sleep because of the changes that were happening to my body and I wanted nothing more than to fall back into my disorder, but there were also days that I would thoroughly enjoy a meal and not feel the slightest bit guilty, then would use that energy to run and would feel incredible!
After starting my marathon prep on January 1, I now have many more good days than bad days. I use food to help me accomplish and surpass weekly running goals, constantly surprising myself with what my body can do and I use running to connect with myself and to work on my relationship with myself. I look forward to eating. I still have a long way to go and am by no means perfect with my training and although I have made progress forward on the road to recovery, I cannot use the word “recovered” yet, but my love of running gave me a reason to nourish and fuel my body and to be proud of myself and what I can do.
So here I am a month and a half out from the biggest day in my life and I am ready. I love running and what it has done for me. It has given me life, love and passion again and I am not looking back or slowing down now, I’m running full speed ahead. Thank you Calgary Marathon for giving me this goal, for being an inspiration, and for giving me the opportunity to tell my story. I hope that it can inspire and help others.
See you at the finish line!