My First Race as a Texan and One Reason Why I Run

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At about the half-way mark, feeling strong!

Last weekend I gave up my usual habit of sleeping in for waking up early to run my first road race as a Texas state resident. I choose to bypass the larger, more popular runs, in favor of a smaller, more challenging course that would prove useful for my upcoming Boston marathon – Moe’s Better Half. I was excited and nervous. Not only would this be my first race as a Texan but also the first real race since I ran the New York City marathon in November and had a very poor performance at the Race with Grace 10k on Thanksgiving.

The day started out chilly and dark – awaking around 5am for the 7am start. I rolled out of bed, had my typical pre-race breakfast of whole wheat frozen waffles topped with peanut butter and a sliced banana (keeps you full and fueled through long runs and it’s delicious) a big cup of black coffee and I was on my way.

At around 40 degrees when I walked out the door, it felt more like upstate NY weather than Texas, but the sun soon rose and it was a perfect morning for a half marathon. The group of runners headed towards the starting line. One of my favorite moments of any race is the start. All the nerves and excitement for the challenge we’re all about to face. With only about 350 registered runners, this race was probably one of the smallest I’ve ever run. I couldn’t wait to see what the course would hold.

I was warned from the beginning—it would be a tough course through the hills of San Marcos along country roads. The warnings were true, but I felt strong the entire time. With very few fans along the way, I really embraced the course enjoying the scenery and letting my mind wander from time to time. Often people wonder what I think about when I run – especially during long runs. I’ve heard from many that they get bored running. I use my time running to focus on what is stressing me out and think about the things I need to accomplish that week. During races, I’m often focused on the race and how I feel – but this race I felt strong and so, I found myself thinking about what motivates me to run.

Many of my friends and family know that I started running in middle school and became more competitive about it in college. I started running to help in my recovery after a ski accident and so that I would be better at my primary sport of choice, field hockey. But I also ran to prove to myself and others that I was and still am an athlete.

One thing most people don’t know about me is that in 4th grade my gym teacher at the time decided that I was an appropriate candidate for “special gym,” essentially a gym class for kids that were considered overweight or obese. At the time I had no idea what it meant but soon it became apparent to me; I was not physically fit. At such an early age I became aware of my body image and how I was bigger than most of my peers. Needless to say, it did not make for a fun middle school experience.

By the time I entered 9th grade I was considered obese and was constantly being told by my pediatrician to cut out the candy and move more. It wasn’t until I had a skiing accident and the doctor told me I had to start working out more or my knee might never recover, that I seemed to finally get the message.

My dad, an avid runner, encouraged me in my efforts and by the time I graduated high school I was able to keep up with many of my teammates and was considered a normal, healthy weight. What really made me feel better though was the same gym teacher that put me in “special gym” was now teaching gym in high school. We were required to do a physical fitness test every year which included a 12 minute run. Not only did I run laps around my peers, I ran them in front of the gym teacher who made me feel inferior as a kid. I could not be happier.

Enjoying a Celebratory Beer and some BBQ at Uncle Billy's in Austin

So back to Moe’s—I’ve been sticking pretty close to my training schedule and it seemed to pay off. I ended up running one of my best races, with a time just under 1 hour and 40 minutes and placed second female in my age group. The race and day could not have been better.

I celebrated with a day of primping and pampering followed by an indulgent dinner of microbrews and bbq at Uncle Billy’s Brew and Cue. It may not be the best bbq in Texas, but they do have a to-die-for brisket, called “wet brisket.” The particular cut of meat has more fat than your typical brisket and paired with their slightly spicy bbq sauce, it’s the perfect match to their hoppy microbrews. Feeling satisfied and full, this was one of the best days I’ve had in Texas, and in general, in a long time.

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National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: ‘Everybody Knows Somebody’

About a year ago, I agreed to share my story about my struggle with weight with the publication ‘Today’s Dietitian.’ I hesitated at first–the opportunity shared with me by a good friend and colleague who felt that my story was one worth sharing. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for the whole world to know about what I went through – especially my peers and professional friends. But, I opted to do it and found the process almost therapeutic for me. By recalling a time in my life that I struggled, it helped me know that I have the ability to get through it and I am who I am today because of it. I enjoy food today and have a much better body image. I also understand and relate to the struggles that women in our society face on a daily basis. 

This week marks National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDAwareness) Week. The theme this year for NEDAwareness is “Everybody Knows Somebody.” Whether you think you have a problem or know someone who does, you aren’t alone. Check out some of the resources I’ve listed at the end of this post for more information on how you can get help for yourself or someone you love.

Here is the excerpt from the piece written in the article ‘A Blessing in Disguise‘ from the December 2010 issue of Today’s Dietitian:

Balance Is Key
Allison Parker, MS, RD, has a more multifaceted relationship with weight, and her current counseling style has been molded by both overweight and underweight experiences from her past.

“My first recollection that I was heavier than my peers was in third-grade gym class. I’m pretty sure they don’t do this anymore, but they weighed us in front of the entire class, calling out each person’s weight and writing it down. I detested gym class. When it was my turn, I found out that I was the heaviest girl in the class. To this day, I hate getting weighed in public, even though I’m now at a healthy weight for my height and quite secure with my self-image,” she explains.

Partly because of a doctor’s recommendation that exercise would help an injury heal faster, Parker decided to get involved with team sports early in high school and dropped to a healthy weight, becoming a star player on her school’s field hockey team.

Yet a healthy weight did not make for a healthy relationship with weight just yet. “Realizing that physical activity was the key ingredient to weight loss, along with a diet that was low in fat and high in fiber, and feeling the pressure of graduating [high school], getting a scholarship for field hockey, and the impending separation from everything that was familiar, I started to work out more and eat less since it was something I could control,” she says, which started an unhealthy trend toward underweight.

Parker says by the time she got to college, looking at herself in the mirror every day was a struggle. With the myriad stressors of college life piling on, she became obsessed with the one thing she could control: “what and when I ate and how much I worked out.” In addition to two daily workouts for field hockey, she would add in an extra cardio workout and found her eating occasions to be more erratic and less frequent.

“By the end of my freshman year, I was 95 lbs, appeared wasted, had heart palpitations, was constantly cold and exhausted, and dealing with lanugo. For me, the worst thing was being told I could not return to the field hockey team until I was in better shape because in my mind I didn’t have a problem,” she says.

After returning home to friends and family shocked by the sight of her skeletonlike frame, Parker somehow had the sense to snap herself back into more healthful ways of eating.

“I made a promise to myself that I would learn how to have a normal relationship with food. It took a while, but I did overcome it. With the help of a dietitian, a school counselor, and a nurse practitioner, I gained weight and by senior year of college was much happier and healthier,” she explains.

What did she learn from experiences that left her scale tilting too far in two different, but both unhealthful, directions? “I’m happy to say that today, I’m very comfortable with who I am. I love food and running and have found a healthy balance of both. … I can easily relate to both sides of the spectrum—from struggling with being overweight to struggling with being underweight. I know what it’s like to constantly be thinking about food and counting calories or wondering when you might get some free time so you can go work off that bagel you just ate,” she says. It’s all about balance, she says, a healthy balance that’s unique to each individual but that exists for everyone.

Resources:

National Eating Disorders Association

The Renfrew Center

Something Fishy