Slow athletes have some amazing stories – there’s a lot of inspiration to be found at the back of the pack. Slow athletes deserve to have places to tell our stories, and to have (and be!) role models. The Celebrating Slow Series is a place to do just that. If you have a story that you would like featured here, e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org.
Today Maggie tells her story of being a slow jogger:
To be honest, I’m not sure when or why I decided to start jogging in 2011. Or jogging again, I should say. The first time, I was about 17 (I’m 46 now). I just started walking with rest stops, which led to walking and jogging with rest stops, to jogging the whole way to jogging faster. Though I didn’t know what a BMI was, I was certainly in the obese category. But I wasn’t doing it as a mandate from the doctor or anyone else. I don’t remember this being any big deal to anyone around me. I didn’t tell too many people. And I never thought about speed. I am not competitive, not even with myself. So I just continued for myself, to feel better and stronger (well…I would be lying if I said it wasn’t also about losing weight to look better. I was a teenager girl feeling insecure around my thin friends who wore brand-name clothes and had boyfriends).
Fast-forward to 2011. I started jogging again. I don’t really have a good memory of “why.” All I know is that I have always had this desire to jog. I like it better than walking. I like exercising outside. And I like the rhythm of the jog.
As I was jogging again, I had awesome days when I was excited to get my running shoes on. Days when I got home feeling strong and proud. Other days when I would be doubled over with back pain. And days I would be in tears.
Even as I increased distance and time, I continued to hover around an 18-20 minute mile. I was gaining confidence though and feeling proud of my progress. And loving the strength I was feeling physically. I joined a “Couch to 5K” group at a local running store. Oh but I was slooowww…yes the slowest. Everyone was thinner than me. And the majority had certainly not gotten off any damn couch to join this group. I was embarrassed but perhaps it was my non-competitive spirit that kept me going. Yes, you read that right…I have a non-competitive spirit…yes I do.
It was in August 2011 that I did my first organized run/walk event. I wasn’t yet doing 3 miles. But I was able to go a couple miles. So I found a 2 mile event in my hometown and asked my sister Anney if she would do it with me. (FYI, she is a life-long athlete, a Health and Phys Ed teacher and a veteran marathoner). I almost cried when she said she would do it with me. And I did do it. I jogged at the same speed or slower than the walkers. Yes I was embarrassed about my speed. But I finished in about 40 minutes. My niece Kyrsten and my Dad were there, taking photos and cheering me on. I was about to explode with excitement.
I did my first 5K a month later in September 2011. I finished. The barriers blocking traffic from the route were coming down as I got to the finish line. This time my friend Chris did the 5K with me. He encouraged me to speed up at the end to finish 2nd to last, before a man walking with his dog. As I passed this man, I wasn’t sure if he was a registered participant or just a guy out on a Saturday morning walking with his dog.
Anyhoo, in November 2011, I did my 2nd 5K…a Turkey Trot that was my “Couch to 5K” graduation. I finished. My speed was consistent…still doing around a 20 minute mile. I finished last but I felt proud and strong. No matter how slow I was, I was non-competitively proud of my ability to slowjog for an entire hour. Months earlier, I wasn’t even exercising.
In December 2011, I tried another 5K. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. I didn’t eat anything the morning of. Needless to say, it wasn’t a good slowjog. Chris and I stopped to look at the animals at the zoo where the run was taking place. We somehow got off the route too. So we weaved our way back to the car. Yes, I felt bad. But I knew it was poor preparation. So I tried hard to focus on the fact that I was up and out of the house to exercise early on a Saturday. Again, compared to not exercising at all, I was making progress.
I kept slowjogging consistently through the spring of 2012, when I stopped. At that time, I was downsized from my job. My Dad’s prostate cancer had started spreading to his bones. I was spending more time visiting him. Depression and anxiety were creeping in. Little did I know how bad it would get over the next 3-4 years. After losing my job in 2012, I was out of work for about 6 months. I found a new job, but after 5 months, I was given an improvement plan, citing what I thought were completely false and bullshit reasons. I didn’t defend myself…I felt doomed. I quit in March 2013. Depression and anxiety continued to mount. In the next 2 years, I sunk deeper as my Dad continued to get sicker and weaker. He passed away in 2015. After that, I started to stay inside most of the time. Not exercising. Not cleaning. Missing work, missing deadlines, disappointing colleagues who were also long-time friends. I gained a lot of weight making exercise and even daily tasks hard, struggling to breath after walking a half block. My mental and physical health were at a crisis point. My sister Colleen, her daughter Christine and my sister’s husband Tony moved me across the country to Seattle to live with them. After a long hard year, I am seeing the light. Exercising. Eating healthier. Making new friends. Working to re-launch my career with a new job. I am back on the path to my trustworthy “Couch to 5K” program. Extended and modified to my current level.
I’m here in the present on this journey. I appreciate my sisters and their families and folks like Ragen. I look to all of you for inspiration and collaboration.
If you can’t get enough of the awesome inspiration from slow athletes, check out the other entries in the series:
Have your own story to tell? I would love to feature it here. E-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org