At the age of 12, I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. Every time I would try to run or play for extended periods of time, I would be left gasping for breath and feel tingly and panicky from the lack of oxygen. I was given a “rescue” inhaler, told to use it when needed and was left to figure out the details. From that point forward, it was a struggle for me to exercise and maintain my weight. At school, when we were required to run the mile, I would give up after 20 seconds because of the wheezing and it would take me the rest of the mile to get my breath back, even with my inhaler. My mile time was somewhere around 18 minutes.
In February 2012 (at age 26), I started having severe asthma attacks in response to my cottonwood allergies and I had to go see the doctor for help. He prescribed me a daily steroid inhaler and my attacks diminished. I was 60 lbs obese at the time and had just had my third child. Around this time, I heard about a program called “Couch to 5K”. Up to this point, I had made the excuse that I was too tired to exercise and my asthma just wouldn’t allow it. I was too exhausted mentally and physically after taking care of my three children, all age 4 and under, to waste my relaxation time on exercise. However, one day I realized that I didn’t want to wait until I was old and my children were gone to take charge of my health, as my parents had done. I had steroids to keep my asthma from flaring now, so that wasn’t an excuse anymore. I realized that my children were impressionable and the example that I set for them now is the one that they will follow. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t just for my health, but for my children’s health that I needed to lose weight and start exercising and that I needed to make time.
A few months later, in early June, I started the couch to 5k program. I told my husband that I would be leaving at 8 pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights and I would be going running for half an hour, so if any children were still awake or if anything was left undone, it would be his responsibility to take care of them. I looked on the internet for a 5k that I could run in three months that would be my “goal” (a goal is so important, I really think!) and I chose the Racing with Passion 5k in September. My first session of training was tough. I was tired after running for the 60 second spurts and I was slow. I had a hard time breathing, even though I was using the steroids and my rescue inhaler. I just had to keep in mind that this was important and that I could do hard things. That if I gave up, nothing would change and I would end up being like other family members. And I perservered and I made it through that first time. And then I kept working.
The first time I had to run for a mile straight in the program, I was scared. I didn’t think I could do it. But I tried it and I did it. And then that mile became two miles and then three miles. I discovered that instead of being more tired and grouchy during the day, as I thought would be the case after adding running into my regimen, I was actually a lot happier and more kind to my children and somehow, I had more energy. (The only time I skipped running was one week with a health problem, I stuck to the training nights that I said I would and I knew that if I made an excuse for “just tonight, I will not run” that I would stop running and my hard work would be for naught. If I came home from something late on a night that I was supposed to run, I went running anyway.) I lost 30 pounds over those three months and I’m working on the other 30.
When September came and it was time for my “goal” 5k, I didn’t know what I was doing, so I lined up with the other people near the front, with my regular running clothes on – an old tshirt, a pair of red yoga pants from a thrift store, my dollar store “athletic” socks and my $20 Champion running shoes from Payless – and a camelbak on with my music player in it and my earbuds in my ears. It was cold and I hadn’t brought a jacket, but figured I would warm up after running for a bit. I felt discouraged as I took off running with the other front runners, because I didn’t know at the time that the faster people start in the front and if you’re slower you should be nearer the back. However, I figured I would just run at my regular pace and keep going, even if I was dead last (which is what I thought I was as so many other people passed me at the start.)
I ran and I ran and I ran and I didn’t stop. I ran the whole 5k without stopping. As I neared the finish line, my husband, my three children, my mom and my brother all stood waiting and cheering me on. My kids were so excited to see their mom running the race. I finished with a time of 35:34.8 (11:26 min/mile), a personal best for me and 39th out of the women which was somewhere in the middle and 6th in my age group. When I hugged my husband after finishing, my four-year-old daughter looked up at me with her big blue eyes and asked with excitement:
“Mom, did you win the race?”
I smiled and answered, “Yes. Everyone who finishes wins the race.”