My running story began as a family affair. I grew up watching my Dad dig out his running shoes from the caverns of his closet in mid-April every year to starting training for the Bellin Run. His passion was contagious and I was intrigued by his tenacity. Come rain or shine he was out pounding the pavement in his quest for a PR. In middle school I got my first taste of competition when I joined the cross-country team. I was new to the sport and had only been running a few months prior with my Dad. To say my training was inconsistent was an understatement. I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the idea of running 5 days a week and worried the commitment was not going to be my “thing”. After a few weeks with the team we had our first meet. The build up to this race just about did me in. I was a ball of nerves days prior to the race. Standing at the start line in my school uniform, shivering from the temps and my fear of the unknown…would I survive the rigors of the course, what if I fell, or got lost. I was NOT in control! For a perpetual control freak this was way outside of my comfort zone, but before I could have a complete meltdown the gun went off and the race started. I stumbled for a few steps and gasped for breath, but eventually settled into a rhythm and that is when it hit me…this is AWESOME!!! All I had to do was go. The feeling of freedom that followed has carried me through some of the toughest days. The simplicity of running is addicting…you get out what you put in.
Over the course of my middle school years I built my confidence, mileage, and racing knowledge. The bond that evolved with my teammates opened my eyes to the power of the sport to develop a tight knit community. I discovered that I really enjoyed running. Don’t get me wrong, not every run was magical and that is still the case today, but I learned to appreciate them all none the less. I also discovered I thrived on competition. I was not the fastest runner and I am still a proud mid-pack runner, but I enjoy continually improving and testing the limits of my body.
For as wonderful as my introduction to the running community was in middle school there were also struggles that developed that would change the trajectory of my life. We owned a swimming pool and in my immature head I needed to be perfect in a bathing suit. It was the first time that I ever felt disgusted with my appearance. Most kids would be thrilled that they had their own pool at home in the backyard, but I saw it as a curse. Shackled to this idea of perfection I was able to keep the demons at bay during my high school years with sports (cross-country, dance, and cheer).
College provided a new environment and the adjustment was rough. I stopped running and started partying. I was doing my best to hide my insecurities from the world, but the weight gain from binge drinking and late nights out was too much. I cracked the summer of my freshman year and dropped down to 100 pounds. I was scared of everything that I put in my mouth. I would ration my calories during the day for beer at parties. Life was a constant juggling act and I was not in a good place.
With the help of friends I sought out help and was able to break the cycle I was in. To be in recovery is a very delicate thing, you are taught this in the initial stages of treatment. You learn early on that regression happens and no two set backs are alike. I fought hard in college to stay at a healthy weight and keep my destructive ways in check. Eventually I was able to turn things around and after a few years found myself graduated with a BA in Psychology, a full time job, married, and pregnant! Being pregnant was a whole new set issues and the fear of the unknown shook me to my core. I battled daily to fuel my body and take care of my child, but hold the demons back in my head. I dreaded going to the doctor and having to get on the scale. I tried to smile through the appointments and take the number in stride, but it was difficult to not freak out each time. After my son was born the weight gain triggered a reaction in me that was near impossible to control. I spiraled out of control and dropped to 107 pounds. It took seeing myself in pictures to realize I needed help. I began seeing a therapist to work on finding a new normal as a mom and wife. At 25 I saw myself not as a survivor of my eating disorder or in recovery…I saw myself as a failure. The memory of my first cross-country meet had long since faded, as well as the amazing feeling of freedom that running and competing brought.
In 2007 at the age of 28 I was on shaky ground, but found more stability in my recovery than I did at 25. I was facing a new set of challenges as a divorced, single mom. My turning point was returning to running and I began to train for my first marathon (Cellcom Green Bay). I will be honest, I tried to limit my caloric intake in the beginning but quickly found that as my miles increased I could not maintain without food. I slowly began to look at food differently. I “needed” food in a way that I never did before. As I grew stronger in my running journey I also grew more confident in my own skin. My relationship with food will always be a challenging one, but I was on the winning end of the battle. The script in my head at times quiets and those days are easier than others. Sometimes the calm lasts for years, sometimes the storm of craziness comes in like a tornado and pulls at the foundation of my life. I have found consistency with running and it has helped me to keep my eating disorder in check.
A lot has changed since my first marathon. I met the love of my life in 2008, we will celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary in July and built a beautiful family together. Through the ups and downs over the past 11 years, running has been my anchor.
When I crossed the finish line of the Cellcom Marathon in 2007 I said “never again”…well, never again turned into 24 full marathons and 14 ultra marathons with many more on the horizon in 2018 including Cellcom this May. The rush of stepping up to the start line is one I cherish. I still get nervous – every single time! Being able to complete a race is not a given. There are many things that can and will go wrong, but I’ve learned through my running adventures to embrace the hard times and problem solve through them. The freedom that I feel while I race is worth all the work I put into my training. Each race is a chance to learn something new about myself. Brick by brick – step by step…I’ve built a life I am proud of and I owe that large in part to the sport of running.
I often get asked “why” I run. (Usually followed up with “you are crazy”.) The simple answer is “because I can”. I don’t take that for granted. I may not be able to run forever so I am going to enjoy the ride as long as I can. The Cellcom Green Bay Marathon hashtags sums up my running story perfectly…IT’S PERSONAL! I am inspired by the incredible people I have met and cannot wait to see where this training cycle will take me.
#BeKind #BeHappy #BeActive
2018 Tundra Trailblazer Ali