I always say that I was just desperate enough to become a runner. I wasn’t athletic growing up. I never enjoyed being physically active and I was convinced that working out was that thing I had to suffer through in order to lose weight.
Then, my life fell apart. I had just graduated from college with a bachelor's degree in theater arts and my unwavering confidence disappeared. I didn’t think I could survive a life in the entertainment industry being told that I wasn’t skinny enough for the part. I felt like I’d gone to Hogwarts. I didn’t know what to do with my degree, my aspirations or my ambition.
So I moved home to live with my parents to wait until the moment struck where I would “figure out” what to do next. Summer turned to Fall and I spent my days working a 9-5 job as a receptionist. I’d wake up, spend 15 minutes convincing myself to get out of bed, go to work, go to the gym, come home, and sit on the couch watching Real Housewives until it was time to go to bed.
I was bored. I was frustrated. And despite the fact that I was going to the gym every single day after work, I started gaining weight.
My biggest struggle has always been self love. For most of my life, I struggled with my weight. I’d been chubbier, almost skinny, and average depending on the fad diet I was on but it wasn’t until my younger brother passed away suddenly that my weight became a problem. Surviving my loss became insurmountable and within six months of his passing, I weighed over 200 pounds. Grief continues to be the fight of my life, but adopting a healthy lifestyle and losing/keeping the weight off is a close second.
Now I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I started running with hopes of losing weight. I didn’t know many runners at the time, but the ones I did know all had the body I thought I needed. So I started running and despite the fact that it hurt like hell and it took me about an hour to go three miles, I kept with it.
With each finish line, I started to learn to love my mind for it’s resilience. Or my body for what it was capable of doing instead of focusing on what I wish I could change. Suddenly, I wasn’t just setting goals to cross finish lines. I found myself setting goals to run a sub two hour half marathon, a sub four hour marathon, and then a Boston Marathon qualifying time. And despite the fact that I knew my own strength and how hard I was working to make my goals a reality, I still had love handles, stretch marks, cellulite, and a jiggly belly. I felt like an athlete but I didn’t believe that I actually looked like an athlete.
Before most of my runs, I had a nasty habit of looking in the mirror as I got dressed and feeling disappointed at the body I saw staring back at me. Despite the fact that I was working harder than I ever had in my life, I only saw my self perceived flaws. I had attached so much shame to my body image that I couldn’t see my body for its strength. And then one disgustingly hot and humid day, I came to my senses.
I was one mile into a 15 mile long run when I realized that the only reason I didn’t have the body I wanted was because I was convincing myself that it wasn’t good enough. So what if I had stretch marks? They’re scars from a time in my life that I’m honestly proud I survived. My love handles and cellulite don’t make me any less strong. I was working really hard and my body was reflecting that. The only reason I couldn’t see that was because I wasn’t working on my self love.
So I told myself no more. I took off my shirt and realized that other women were probably suffering with their body image as well. The #SportsBraSquad was born and I encouraged other women to shed their shirts along with their insecurities so that together, we could redefine what strength looked like.
The first few weeks I ran in my sports bra were terrifying. I run on the streets of New York City where I cross paths with easily 100+ people per run. I’ve had my fair share of insults thrown my way but surprisingly, they didn’t bother me. I thought the second someone called me fat, I’d fall apart. Turns out, when your self love is strong and resilient, other people’s insults ring hollow. You know your worth. You know your strength. And nothing else really matters.
My #RunLove is for my strength because for the first time in my life, I’m not motivated to run to lose weight. Running in my sports bra gave me a way to really love my body, perceived flaws and all. Because at the end of the day, I’m motivated by impossible goals like running a Boston Marathon qualifying time. Last year, it felt terrifying and impossible but during the Chicago Marathon, I took my time from 3 hours 59 minutes to 3 hours and 41 minutes. I’m only six minutes away. And honestly, if I can’t feel proud of the body that ran a 3 hour 41 minute marathon, then when can I?