One of the things that I think is most important in my weight loss journey is my self-integrity. That means something different for everyone. But one of the biggest things I have learned along the way is that if I am not keeping the promises I make to myself in order to reach my goals, it becomes easier and easier to do just that: not keep my promises.
If I tell myself that I’ll be in the gym doing cardio 5x this week and I only get in there 4x, and then next week I do the same thing, for whatever reason – life got in the way, something came up, there were other more pressing things I had to do – it makes it easier and easier to not keep that promise to myself and to justify only getting 4 days in each week instead of 5.
I’m not saying that 4 days isn’t better than none, or even better than 3, but if it’s not those 5 days I promised myself and I keep doing it over and over, before I know it, it might be 3 days instead of 4 or 2 days instead of three.
I made a mistake. I miscounted.
Somewhere in the midst of things this last year, some of my numbers in accounting for the number of half marathons that I have run got off. After reviewing the numbers repeatedly, I know they were correct leading up to my Marathon of Half Marathons and leading into Jeff moving here last June, but somewhere after that, somehow I counted a half marathon I didn’t actually run.
There is no telling why I made the mistake. But here is what I do know: each time I complete a half marathon, I put it on the books as done. Each one of them is leading to goals I have. For example right now my goal is to be at 39 half marathons by the time I leave for the Tinker Bell half marathon next month so that event ends up being my 40th.
You might ask why I set that goal?
It makes sense really, at least to my brain. I turned 40 this year. The Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland is my favorite half marathon each year. It is really the half marathon that started this obsession with me. I know going into it this year that for financial reasons, the likelihood of me running it again next year is slim, and so this year, what will be likely be my 4th and final year of running it, needs to be special to me.
That and I am a numbers girl. I get a little obsessed on them. So doing a special half marathon for the 4th time the year that I turned 40 and it being my 40th half marathon all has a significance to me that means something to me. That’s the most important thing about a goal you set, that it is important enough to you that you are intrinsically motivated to do it.
To some people, this might sound crazy. Trust me I know. Some people have told me, “Who cares that I miscounted? Who cares that I have run 37 instead of 38 half marathons?” The significance in that number really isn’t important to anyone but me. Right? I’m running with an injury that is slowing me down on a regular basis, making these events harder and harder for me and making it so that it takes me longer and longer to recover from running that sort of distance. I really should be taking a break and letting that achilles tendonitis heal and pushing it to get another half marathon on the books to make up for my miscounting error before I leave next month is crazy, unnecessary and stupid. Right?
Maybe I am crazy.
Maybe that is all correct. Here is the most important thing in all that outside input that I didn’t really welcome or ask for: the significance in that number really isn’t important to anyone but me. And ME is the person that is the most significant when it comes to keeping the promises I make to myself, reaching my goals and feeling good about them when I get there.
So with all that said, yesterday, I set out to make up for that missing half marathon. I did it to set my numbers straight, find that mathematical accountability that my brain has learned to find comfort in, and to get my goals back in line for what I want to achieve next month.
Currently I’m a little out of shape when it comes to running. My ankles are screaming at me, and I took a few weeks off of running after my last running event in February to try to let them heal. In fact, as hard as it was for me to do, I took three weeks off of exercise in general to give my body a true break. When you take that kind of time off you start losing your fitness and endurance levels, as a result I’m a little slower than I would like to be now.
When I sat out to run that 13.1 miles yesterday I wasn’t even sure I could do it. There was a little negative voice in the back of my head that kept telling me maybe I wasn’t ready, maybe I was going to hurt too bad the next day if I tried to do it. Maybe I would only get to mile 11 or 12 and then hit a wall and fail. After all, on my last long run I jumped from 4 miles to 9 miles and I struggled to make it.
I had to combat those negative voices in my head.
But part of me also knew that those negative voices I was hearing and that self-doubt that I was experiencing was coming from the fact that other people were telling me these things, not because I felt them myself. I started to combat those negative voices with positive reinforcements of my goal. I know I can do this if I am willing to slow down and not push too hard. I know I can do this if I take my time and just enjoy it, rather than worrying about how fast I go or how long it takes me to get it done.
I needed to prove myself, and not just because somewhere deep inside me I needed to correct those numbers and get them back where I wanted them to be to meet my goals, but because I had to prove to myself over the negative voices so loudly playing in my mind that I could indeed do it.
And so I did. I walked out the door with the intention of spending some time with my Dad. Ignoring my speed or my mile per minute time and instead going back to what running was for me before all of that started being important: I set out to have fun. I set out to enjoy the music, enjoy the scenery, spend some time with my father, run off my emotions and maybe just maybe in the process find me again. Because lately I’ve felt that somewhere along the way in the last year of life in general, I lost a little bit of the focus on me and my goals while being more wrapped up in helping everyone else meet theirs.
I needed a little me time.
It’s been awhile since I took that in the form of running, just like I learned to do in the beginning of my journey, to deal with my emotions and work things out in my mind.
First I told myself I would run 10 miles, just increasing my long run by a mile from last time. Then I played with numbers in my head while I ran and convinced myself that I’d run 6.2 miles with my Dad and 6.2 miles with myself, when you turn those numbers around that’s two sets of 26, and that number has significance in my world, 1926 was the year my father was born.
I told myself I only had to make it to 12.4 and from there if I wanted to I would stop. But in my heart I knew that if I could make it to 12.4 I could make it to 13.1. I just needed to look at it as small goals in my mind to make it less tedious and intimidating while I was out there.
I ran through my neighborhood. I ran through the local cemetery and I watched for headstones from people who were born the same year my father was, and I took time to stop and pause my watch and say hello to them. I spent some time listening to my father’s music, having conversations with him about everything going on in my life right now and listening for some answers.
I went slow. I took it easy. When my Fitbit died and I took my phone out and started using that to track my distance to make sure I got it all in. And over three hours later, I had my true half marathon number 38 on the books. Guess what else I had? My self integrity. The fact that I had fixed my mistake and that my claim to 38 half marathons, though miscalculated as to time and place was accurate in numbers and accomplishments.
I felt better. I felt a lot better. The time alone running with my thoughts, helped me find clarity and direction and helped me answer some of the questions that were weighing so heavily on my mind.
And so I completed my Me-A-Thon.
Yup, I’m calling this half marathon #38 redux, my official 2017 Half ME-a-thon. Because truthfully it was something I needed to do for myself. Something I needed deep inside me for bunch of reasons nobody but me might understand.
At the end of the day, guess what, it’s okay if nobody but me understands it. Because my weight loss journey, my fitness journey, my emotional journey is about me first and foremost. While that might seem greedy and that might seem selfish, the truth is, that if when I first decided to walk this journey I decided that was the only way I was going to be successful at it. If I made sure that I was doing it for the right reasons, that I was doing it for myself.
Yesterday I needed to remind myself that it was about me. That it was about my goals and my journey and about what I needed deep inside me to feel right with the world and feel like I had kept my fitness promises to myself. I needed to get myself back on track with myself, and not to anyone else’s time, speed or standards but to my own.
Maybe that wasn’t important to anyone but me. Maybe it was unnecessary and stupid. Maybe I was slow and had an awful finishing time – but I enjoyed every moment of it. When it was over I felt empowered by something intrinsically that I hadn’t felt empowered by in a very long time. Just doing it for myself. Focusing on myself. Being with myself.
And that is exactly want I needed.
So happy miscounted 38th half marathon to me. I ran a Half Me-A-Thon yesterday and while my ankles are a little sore today and my body is a little wounded, my self integrity, self-confidence and self efficacy in my goals is back on track and my pride in myself is unwounded and that is neither silly, unnecessary or stupid.
Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and a Certified Personal Trainer.
There is a famous line from a famous movie of which I have never seen: “We’ll always have Paris.” From what I understand it’s a line used in parting as the lead character realizes that the end of their romance is over and he fondly consoles her by reminding her that they will always have good memories.
Obviously since I am quoting this movie, I will have to actually take the time to watch it. This might be a painful experience for me. I am not really big on 1942 black and white movies and no matter how good you tell me it is, I’m going to ask you why you need me to go back and relive the past. However, I can hardly use that as an excuse when that is what I am about to do here today.
Writing a memoir of my good memories and being pressured into watching movies that were made back when we lacked the technology of bright colors and high-definition picture are two very different things. Right? If you feel me here let me know.
I digress. The point here is that I have this amazing experience from my recent trip to Paris to share with you. My photos from it, unlike Casablanca, are in color, so in my mind that makes this entire blog a reasonable time expenditure from my normally busy day.
I’ve already written a very detailed account of my Paris trip that will be posted on The Bari Blog in the near future. I’ll spare you the details that will be given there and instead share the emotional side of my Paris adventure with you.
The emotional reactions that we have to things are unexplainable sometimes. As an example, I really thought that when I crossed the finish line of my first full marathon and completed the Dopey Challenge during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend this last January I would break down in tears of joy at what would be a monumental accomplishment in both my fitness and weight loss journey. I didn’t though. I felt accomplished. I was extremely proud of myself, but there wasn’t an overwhelming emotional reaction to it.
Honestly, I haven’t had that sort of raw emotionally overwhelming reaction to completing a half marathon since the first one I ran in honor of my father on Father’s Day back in June of 2013. I’ve ran a few half marathons since then and while each and every one of them gives me that amazing sense of accomplishment and allows me to experience that all-so-often talked about ‘runner’s high’, none of them had quite touched my heart as emotionally and as deeply as that first one had.
Every run brings with it a different experience. Sometimes the joy I get from participating in a half marathon event is rewarding to me because I’m lucky enough to have the privilege of being next to someone who I have helped achieve the accomplishment of crossing their first finish line. Typically that is one of the biggest motivators and emotionally rewarding experiences there is for me.
Sometimes it’s the simple joy of running next to one of my dear friends. I run with one of my best friends quite often and every time we run together I think of how blessed I am to have a friend that enjoys the half marathon craze the same way I do.
Paris was different. Paris had an emotional charge to it that I am not really sure I can explain, but I am going to try….
When the opportunity to do this event came knocking on my door I knew it was a once in a lifetime chance that I couldn’t pass up. It was an opportunity I knew without a doubt my Father would want me to take. Unlike my previously sponsored runs, this one wasn’t about me taking someone else with me to have their first half marathon experience, it was about me going to France to represent the Bariatric Community and share that experience with everyone and that meant a lot to me.
I honestly believe that when it comes to fighting obesity we can achieve anything through determination, hard work and courage. I think those are three of the fundamental necessities of recovering from obesity.
Recovery from obesity is not a simple process. You have to be willing to keep fighting even when it gets hard. You have to be willing to make big life changes that are not always comfortable, fun, or easy.
You have to have the courage to face whatever is going on in your life on an emotional, mental and physiological level that has driven you into the depths of obesity.
You have to be willing to triumph over plateaus that make you want to pull your hair out. You have to be willing to eat healthy when your emotions are on overdrive and all you really want is comfort food. You have to be willing to rally yourself against the social pressures of using food as method of having relationships with people. You have to be willing to exercise even on those days that it’s hard to talk yourself out of bed.
The fight against obesity is a battle where bluntly often only the strongest thrive.
And yet, each and every one of us possesses that strength. Each and every one of us has it in us. We just find it at different times in our lives and at different points of our journeys. I’m a prime example of this. I didn’t beat obesity the first time I fought it. Heck I didn’t even beat it the third or fourth time I fought it. I tried and tried and I feel on my face time and time again.
In fact if there was a big boss to fight at the end of a video game and it was named Obesity I would have probably thrown the game controller at the television screaming in a temper tantrum that it was too damn hard.
Once I came so close that I lost nearly 200 lb. and weighed the lowest I had ever weighed in my adult life. Then I gained every single pound back and had that entire journey to have to do all over again.
But my inherent belief that if I can do this, anyone can do this was exactly what was driving me to be at the start line in Paris. That message is the one that I feel the most obligation to convey to my community.
I’d been to Paris before, as an overweight teenager. If you’d asked me to run twenty-one kilometers while I was there I would have told you that I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t at a point that I was ready because we all arrive at that juncture at a different time.
There was another big emotional drive for me in Paris. Several months ago I lost one of my dearest friends. A fellow bariatric patient, and someone whose presence in my life had made a substantial change in my direction. A mental health practitioner by trade, without ever really being asked to, she had assisted me in my pursuit of chasing happy after I had accomplished healthy. A fellow runner and fellow Disney fanatic, she had been a monumental person in my life. Joy was one of my true “ride or dies”. In fact, back at that first half marathon I ran, when I hit my wall and I wasn’t sure I could do it, she had been the one I called, in tears, looking for words of encouragement and motivation.
Finding out that I was going to be running in Paris had been a sudden thing. The opportunity first presented itself when I was in California at the TinkerBell Half Marathon and my friend Jess offered me a place to rest my head if I could figure out how to get myself there. I flew home from that trip and in a two-day turnaround headed out to Nashville to attend the WLSFA Annual Meet and Greet event. It was at that event that I had spoken to the folks at BariLife and knew that I’d be going to Paris for this run. Though that information wasn’t public yet, when I got home the following Monday, Joy was one of the first people who I called to tell it. I knew that as a fellow Disney maniac and someone who had been a pillar in my world, she was going to be super excited for me.
Five short days later on May 21st, when Joy passed away, I felt a grief I hadn’t felt since my father had left the world. It had taken my breath away. It took everything I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Now here I was in Paris, getting ready to run the event that we had talked about over and over again in the days before she had crossed life’s finish line and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt that Joy was going to be with me for each and every kilometer of that 21 kilometer run.
I feel the presence of those I have lost when I run. It’s something I cannot describe or give a real world explanation to. This half marathon had a double dose of that going on for me because I just knew the whole way through that Joy and my Dad where up there cheering for me.
And then there was you. The Bariatric Community and the amazing friends and family that I have within it…
When I woke up Sunday morning and grabbed my phone to rush out the door for the start line I noticed that there was an unusual number of posts on Facebook that I had been tagged in. I wondered what the heck was going on.
When I opened my Facebook app to investigate it, I was literally overwhelmed with emotion. My Facebook timeline was filled with posts of my before and after photo with a caption that said “Thank you Pandora, 260+ pounds lost, 32 Half Marathons, Inspiring Thousands” – Many of the posts included personal comments from people in the community thanking me for what I have done to try to motivate and inspire others as well as offering me words of encouragement for the event.
Tears fell down my face in what was without a doubt the most emotionally charged start line experience of my running career. Even now as I write this my eyes are watering.
I am unsure that words can convey the emotions that ran through me. There was a moment in this journey after I had lost my weight where I decided that what I wanted more than anything was to help other people fight obesity through fitness. When you make a decision like that, you do it because you want to help others. When the people who you want to help and that you care so much about do something like this, without you knowing that it is coming, it lets you know that what you are doing really is making a difference.
I felt something I can’t really say that I have ever truly felt in such a towering way. I felt recognized. I felt relevant. I felt appreciated. As I kept seeing my before and after photo with the words “Thank you” written on it, I kept wiping the tears from cheeks, and all I could do was hold my hand over my heart, try to catch my breath and keep whispering to myself “No, thank you.”
RunDisney uses the slogan “Every Mile is Magical” for all of their events. While I have enjoyed each and every RunDisney event I have done, they are by far my favorite half marathons, this run – this particular event – was by far the most magical run I have ever experienced. It had nothing to do with the fact that I was running through Disneyland Paris theme parks, it had to do with the fact that I had overwhelming sense of love and happiness right there in my heart every step of the way.
At the start line I vowed that I would do nothing but enjoy every moment of this experience. I stopped for any photo I wanted to take. I took moments to stop and appreciate every little thing that caught my eye and capture it to share with those that had touched my heart so much. There was never a wall where I was running out of steam or where I worried about reaching the finish line. There wasn’t a moment that I had to push. Every single mile was pure joy. This was by far the most beautiful, magical and emotionally rewarding run of my career.
Every moment of running through the Disney theme parks, running through the residential streets surrounding it, running through European countryside, cornfields, seeing castles off in the distance, every kilometer marker, every Disney character standing on the side of the course, every marching band and group of cheerleaders, each one was viewed with an appreciation and emotion I have never experienced during a run before. It was magic. Pure magic. And I had all the most important people in my life in my heart sharing it with me with every little rapid beat as I ran.
Leading into this run I had concerns. I’d flared up my achilles tendonitis really bad trying to switch over to new running shoes and I was having to take extra special care and precautions to try to ensure that my ankles were not hurting too much to be able to run on them. Just a couple of weeks prior I’d had the experience of having to walk the last three miles of an event I was running because the pain in my ankles would not allow me to run. Yet on this day, on this run, for 21 full kilometers my ankles never once complained. All my worry and fears were gone and the only thing I felt was this overwhelming sense of love, appreciation, and closeness to those that mattered most to me.
If you had told that overweight teenager that was in Paris twenty-five years ago that someday I would be back here, and that I would spend nine months of my life on the year I turned forty, participating in a Disney based running adventure where I ran a total of 84.1 miles with countless training miles in between, I would never have believed you. Heck if you had told me that six years ago the day I was having my surgery I wouldn’t have believed you then either. I wasn’t ready to be that girl yet. I was nowhere near ready. I didn’t have the determination or the courage yet. Like I said earlier, we all get there at different times in our journey.
But when I crossed that finish line… or I should say when I flew over the finish line, with my arms stretched out like wings and the RunDisney volunteer put that Castle to Chateau medal around my neck commemorating my journey from the Dopey Challenge in Orlando to the Pixie Dust Challenge in California to this Inaugural Half Marathon in Paris, I started to cry.
I knew that something extraordinary had just happened to me. I knew that my Father, Joy and my community were all proud of me, and I knew that I had just done something I would be telling stories about for the rest of my life.
The finish line in Paris doesn’t actually say “Finish”. It’s in French, so it says “Arrivee” which translates literally to “Arrival” and somehow, this particular finish line had a completely different meaning to me. I knew the moment I approached it, because of the emotional response that I had to it that I had just arrived at a new point in my weight loss journey.
This was a defining moment for me.
This moment changed something inside me.
I knew, with more certainty than I have ever known anything before, that I was and am headed in the right direction and that I am nowhere near finished yet.
Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.
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