It's a funny thing, people's reactions to the words "I registered to run a half marathon." I have noticed that these reactions fall into two categories: ecstatic (from the running community) or confused (everyone else). I have come to learn that the running community is the single most supportive group of people I have ever encountered. Ever! I am so grateful for every single one of you that has crossed my path. Most of the people I associate with on a regular basis fall into the confused category. This, in part, is the reason that until tonight I had not told my parents about my goal to run a half marathon. In fact, I technically only told half of my parents - I figure dad will fill mom in one of these days.
A quick note about mom: I love the woman dearly, I do. But we have always had a strange relationship, especially when it comes to my weight. I don't remember a time, not even as far back as the 4th grade, when I was not considered overweight. I have also always had "issues" when it came to food and overeating. My mother is a pretty healthy person and we didn't really grow up around much junk food. As a result, the times when I was exposed to such tempting treats, my brain would set off an alert akin to "EAT ALL OF THE THINGS!"
I vividly remember a day when mom was occupied with one of her many errands. I snuck into the kitchen and made myself an ice cream sundae, complete with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. When I heard mom's footsteps I grabbed my sundae and took off running toward the bathroom, where I barricaded myself and began inhaling the ice cream. She of course knew something was up and starting banging on the door asking what was going on in there. I made up an excuse that she did not believe and when she demanded that I open the door, I hid the sundae under the sink for fear she would discover my secret. The mask of shame on my face told her everything she needed to know and she quickly discovered my little sundae secret. (I will spare you the details of the beating I received.)
This is not healthy behavior y'all. Read that paragraph again and substitute your drug of choice for every mention of ice cream or sundae and it reads pretty much the same. Food was my drug. Memories like this remind me of how far I have come. Just today I sat in a room full of people who were happily shoveling one, two, three pieces of cake into their mouths and I chose not to have even one bite. I sipped my water quietly, remembering all of the moments when I wasn't strong enough to sit back and resist food. Several people asked why I wasn't having any cake and I truthfully told them I simply wasn't hungry. They applauded my willpower and I applauded myself for having the strength to say no.
I don't want to delve too deep into my issues here but my parents have always given me the feeling that I wasn't good enough. My mother in particular has always had something to say about my weight or my eating habits, which in turn fueled my self-hatred and caused me to eat more. Once, upon being told by mom that I'd disappointed her, I replied, "This is not the first time I have disappointed you and it won't be the last, so get used to it." A very true statement but it doesn't lesson the impact her judgement has had on me.
It really saddens me to admit but I can only recall two instances when my mother has complimented my appearance. Once was several years ago, on the fourth of July. I had lost about 30-40 pounds at that point and felt comfortable wearing shorts for the first time in years. She looked me up and down and said "You look great." The words are burned into my memory because they hit me like a ton of bricks. Recently I had my picture taken as part of a group photo for work and when I showed it to my mother she first said "Where are you?" and then... "Of course, you look the best." Excuse me? I'm still not sure I heard her correctly but it meant something to me all the same. With only those two instances to draw from, you might see now why I am hesitant to offer up the idea of taking on difficult goals that are close to my heart.
It was with careful consideration that I chose tonight to reveal my half marathon plans to my father. He is, after all, one of my running inspirations. When I said those magic words, "I registered to run a half marathon," he chuckled to himself and replied "You must really enjoy running." I told him that I do, that it gives me time to reflect on my life and that it brings me peace. "That's great," he said. "You know, I never picked up a weight until I was 30. I'm sure you don't remember me working out much while you were growing up." He was right. I remember him taking kung fu classes and that we had a punching bag in the basement, but that's about it.