A Reflection on 3 Years of Running and 33 Years of Life

For my 300 post, in this 3rd month of 2013, on what just happens to be my 33rd birthday, I thought I would reflect a little on these past 3 years.  That’s a whole lot of 3s!!  I think you might see a theme forming here.

It’s quite unbelievable for me to see how far I’ve come both physically and mentally in that time and how running (runDisney in particular) has helped fuel that change.  I try to share both my accomplishments and my struggles here on RAD, but I wanted to look at it all together and also share how this journey began.  Hope you’ll stick with me here…I’ll consider it a birthday present if you do 😉

Yes, that is me...
Yes, that is me…

In my early years, I was always very active.  Horseback riding, field hockey, lacrosse…I loved sports.  But then I became a teenager and things like friends, boys and yes I will say it smoking cigarettes (because that was cool right?!) took priority.  I ate poorly and I didn’t exercise.  I was unmotivated, lethargic and overweight.  Sadly, this lasted into my late-20s.  I went through exercise phases where I would religiously go to the gym but that always only lasted for 6 months or so and then I would give up.  Don’t get me wrong, I was happy…I just wasn’t healthy.

It wasn’t until my honeymoon to Walt Disney World in September of 2009 that I decided that I needed to make a change.  I was coming up on my 30th birthday and I couldn’t keep living like this.  I needed to get healthy for my new husband so I could stick around for a while.  While we were in WDW, the 1st Expedition Everest Challenge was taking place and they were also promoting the now defunct Race for the Taste 10K that October.  Seeing all of those people walking around with their medals really lit a fire under me and I decided I was going to run the Race for the Taste in 2010!

Seriously...how fun does this race look?!?
Seriously…how fun does this race look?!?

Imagine my surprise when a few weeks later, it was announced that the Race for the Taste 10K was no longer happening and it was being replaced with the Wine & Dine Half Marathon.  I couldn’t run a half marathon…that’s insane!!  I took a few months to contemplate it and looked at various training plans along then way, and for my 2010 new year’s resolution I decided I was going to run that half marathon.  Holy crap.

I invested in a treadmill and started with the Couch to 5K that February, which I found to be manageable.  I started eating better and quit smoking (for good this time!).  I continued with the plan through the spring and then the injuries started.  Shin splints, ankle pain…you know all that fun stuff.  Plus as my mileage was increasing (and by increasing I mean 2 miles total), I was having issues with energy because I wasn’t eating properly.  Knowing what I know now, I was basically doing everything WRONG and because of this I’m sad to say I gave up.

That’s right I gave up.  I’m not proud of that, but it happened and trust me…I felt really crappy about it.  13.1 miles just seemed completely unattainable   I was seriously struggling just getting to 3!  The kicker was, I had already booked my trip for that weekend and had family coming down to cheer me on.  Now I had to break the news that I wasn’t running and I was ashamed.

Sad Panda

It was around this time that I was becoming more active in the online Disney community and to my surprise there was a large group going down to WDW that very weekend for an event which has become known as Epic October.  Many people were running the 5K that weekend and I decided to make that my new goal.  I could do 3.1 miles and I had a huge support group there as well!  Hey B even signed up!  It was the first race for so many of us and we were all a bundle of nerves together.

Look at that group of kids!
Look at that group of kids!

The 2010 Mickey’s Halloween 5K was one I will never forget.  Not only because it was my first 5K, but the course was run through the Magic Kingdom, which they haven’t done since for a 5K.  I feel lucky to have been a part of that.  I also formed some amazing friendships that weekend.  Because we went through this experience together, it has formed a very special bond that still exists today with most of us.

My first runDisney castle shot!
My first runDisney castle shot!

S&B Halloween 5K 2010

That race was really hard for me.  I look back and think about how I struggled through that last mile.  Honestly, I didn’t enjoy the running…the friend part yes, the running part no.  I was so turned off my the running that I actually stopped completely after that.  Plus the rest of that fall and the first half of 2011 were crazy for me so my motivation for exercise was lacking.  I was finishing my MBA while working full time and I started to fall back into my unhealthy habits.

Hey I graduated!
Hey I graduated!

Just before what was becoming our annual trip for Epic October 2.0, I once again registered for the Halloween 5K after much peer pressure from my friends.  Looking back on the prior year, I immediately regretted the decision but I was going to follow through.  You can read all of the details of the race here, but the short story is that it changed my life.  I had a different feeling when I crossed the finish line that time.  One of serious accomplishment and I just wanted to do better!

2011 Halloween 5K...red faced and proud!
2011 Halloween 5K…red faced and proud!

Later that night I saw my friends Sarah-Irene and Amanda cross the finish line at the Wine & Dine Half Marathon.  That was it…all I needed to get the kick in the ass to start this journey.  The sheer pride and excitement I saw on their faces sealed the deal for me and as they say…the rest was history.

My Inspiration :)
My Inspiration 🙂

I got home from that trip and immediately started training for the 2012 Princess Half Marathon and haven’t looked back.  Since then I’ve taken on a healthy lifestyle of exercise and clean eating (well about 75% of the time…I’m human!).  I’ve run 4 half marathons, 1 full marathon (race recaps here) and have become addicted to CrossFit.  My confidence has blown through the roof, I have a much more positive outlook on life, and I just FEEL GOOD!

Looking back on my entire 33 years while writing this has been fun, but difficult as well.  It’s hard to see all of the damage did to my body early on, but I don’t think that I would be where I am today if I didn’t have those experiences.  I’ve also realized a few key things (I’ll give you 3 since we’re sticking with that theme) that have kept me going…

  1. I am stronger than I ever thought possible – mentally and physically!
  2. A good support system is critical.
  3. Facing your fears is terrifying, but highly rewarding.

This little blog was born out of my need to keep myself accountable for training for that first half marathon, but it has turned into so much more.  It has opened up so many possibilities for me and led me to do things I never thought I would do.  The most rewarding part of it is sharing my story and then hearing yours.  I can’t even begin to say how humbling it is that I have actually inspired people to make changes in their lives.  Me?? No way!!  Mind boggling.

And I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.  I can’t wait to get that next PR and see where this amazing body of mine will take me.  It make be bruised and beaten, but it’s the only one I got and damn it I’m not going to waste more time.  So where will the next 3 months, next 3 years, next 33 years take me??  No idea, but I can’t wait to find out 🙂

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  • yay! i love this. so very honest and inspiring for sure. i’m so proud of all your accmplishments and I can’t wait to see what do you next.

    So glad that we’ve connected in the past year (can you believe it’s only been that long?). You make me happy to be a part of this community and um, we have to hang out soon! xo

    • Thanks so much E!! I’m so lucky to have you in my life 🙂 It’s only been a year but there are many more to come!!! xoxoxox

  • I found you and your blog last year, when I decided to do the Princess and I read you now all the time! You and I are the same age, have the same smoker lungs :), and I have gotten motivated reading you!
    Thanks so much for this blog!!

    • Yay! I’m so glad you ran Princess but even more importantly have goten healthier! Thank you for reading 🙂 xoxo

  • Thanks so much for your honesty. I am on the same journey…although I waited longer to find the path (I was 45 when I quit smoking on 11-11-11 and 46 when I started running last Summer…well, running again…after a 26-year hiatus).

    I just ran a 15K a couple of weeks ago, I have a 10K next weekend, and I am signed up for Disney’s Wine & Dine Half this Fall…it’s so cool to be on this journey and to meet (both virtually and in the world) people like yourselves who have had similar struggles with weight, smoking, and (in my case) extreme laziness. It’s awesome that we all inspire each other on our journeys, and I look forward to continuing reading blogs like yours, as well as submitting posts to my accountability blog…sorry for shamelessly plugging myself.

    Happy Birthday! And keep up the good work! You’re doing great!

    • Plug yourself all you want Pete!! We are all here to support each other and a big congrats to getting healthy! It’s a hard road, but it’s so rewarding in the long run. Thanks for reading and I hope to meet up over Wine & Dine 🙂

  • Sarah, Your story is so inspiring….yay for runDisney and the commitment you have made to a better way of life. The journey is the best part! See you Dumbo Double Dare!

    • Thank you so much Pam! I owe so much to runDisney because I don’t think this would’ve ever been possible without it 🙂 So happy to know you and we will definitely meet up at D3!

  • Happy Birthday! As a new reader and someone just starting their runDisney journey, this was such an inspiring post! I ran (ok, technically walked, but I ran to get in line for Donald!) my first Disney 5k this past January, and it really had an effect on me. The minute I got home I knew I had to find me some blogs that would share in my newfound enthusiasm, and yours was the first I found. I’m so happy it was because I already feel like I’ve learned a lot just from reading your posts!

    So thank you, and congrats on the 3 years of blogging!

    • Wow…that is just so awesome to hear and a HUGE congrats on finishing your first 5K!! It’s just the start of so many more things to come 🙂 I hope to be able to meet you at a future runDisney race…keep up the good work! xoxo

  • Your blog was the first one I found after learning about runDisney. I have been overweight / obese for the majority of my life, and I’m in my mid 40s now. One day I woke up with this wild dream to become a runner. I registered for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon last week. I’m both thrilled and terrified! I started my own blog earlier this year to document my journey and keep myself accountable. I hope one day I will have a story as inspirational as yours.

    • The best thing you ever did was to register! I wish I had done that the first year, but then I would have a completely different story to tell 🙂 You have plenty of time to train and get ready for the race. W&D is SO MUCH FUN so remember…don’t worry about your time, just know you WILL finish and have fun!
      Thanks so much for reading xoxo

    • Lisa:

      You can do anything you put your mind to…and it’s great that you’re both thrilled and terrified.

      Last January (2012), I tipped the scales at 275.6 pounds and hadn’t run a step in 26 years…except perhaps to get another order of fries. As of Monday morning, I’m down to 205.4 pounds…and two weeks ago, I ran a 15K (9.3 miles) in under two hours (1:50:13 to be exact).

      What was the catalyst? I have watched my mother-in-law deteriorate physically from a debilitating stroke, and I have watched the strain it has put on my father-in-law and my wife. I vowed to do everything I can do to avoid putting my wife and daugher through that kind of stress and pain.

      Just take it a day at a time, Lisa. You can do it…a day at a time!

      • Hi Pete,

        Thanks so much for the encouragement! My starting weight is right about where yours was with pure fat being the majorty of that number. Your progress and success is very motivating! Stories like yours are what help me keep pushing to achieve my own goals.

        I’m very fortunate to not have any irreversible health issues for the terrible way I have treated my body over the years. I try not to dwell on the decades I’ve lost, but instead just remind myself better late than never. Plus, one day I will have grandkids who will want to play, and I want to be able to!

        Thanks again for the reassuring words! They are much appreciated. 🙂

  • Awww, I love reading about people’s running (and life) journeys. I love how honest and positive you are. Keep going! And I am determined to cross paths with you in real life at some point!
    Happy birthday!
    xo Katherine

  • Yay for runDisney! My first half marathon was for my 30th birthday and it was the inaugural Tinker bell Half in CA. I love the feeling of crossing the finish line and races are good motivation to keep at it. Thanks for sharing your journey with the world, it is so encouraging!!! I am considering running that full marathon for the 25th anniversary… never thought I would type those words.

  • I’ve only just recently started reading your site. I came across it on a general search for all things running at Disney (amazing, I know!). Your story here *so* reminded me of my own. Mine started at 34 (not 30), but otherwise follows a similar trajectory to yours. Didn’t like how I was feeling, made a change and just kept going. Like you, I’ve had ups and downs, but 5 years later I’m still running strong and enjoying racing at Disney as often as I can (Doing the Wine and Dine as a training run this year on the way to my first marathon in January, the WDW one of course). I really enjoy your race posts. It’s almost like being there. Thanks for sharing your journey. Congratulations on all you’ve achieved. And keep running!

    • Thanks so much Chris!! Big congrats to you and all of your accomplishments!! Hopefully we can meet during Wine & Dine 🙂

  • Thanks for the beautiful honesty in this post. I had no idea a half was even on your radar before the first Halloween 5K. Makes sense…looks like that 13.1 mile finish was always in your psyche.

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