Jillian s Story
Binghamton, NY USA
“I ran 10 miles once, and I’d like to tell you about it...
See, this experience was unlike any other. I had what they call a ‘runner’s high’, which is basically a feeling of euphoria you get that allows you to run those three, or in my case five, extra miles. I probably sound crazy to most of you because I can’t name more than a handful of people who genuinely enjoy running, let alone for 10 whole miles.
Anyway, it started out like any other day during my first semester of college – a school which I ended up leaving for many reasons – where I woke up, ate a banana for breakfast (yes, just a banana, which in previous years would have been piled on top of chocolate chip pancakes), and went to class for the day. I would stop for my mid-day caffeine fix to feel temporary-coffee full and head back to my room to do homework. Then, I would lace up my sneakers and go for a run.
Every day I strove to run more than the last. At the beginning of the next week I would start over and see how far I could go by the end of the week. I had every running/calorie tracking app you could think of. This day was different though, because I had just recently finished studying for a big exam and ate less than usual in the days before it; so right before my run, I ate what felt like four times my body weight. I felt so guilty – even though I had already planned on running – and just as I’ve witnessed many others do, I tried to run that feeling away.
I was in the best shape of my life, yet also of the worst shape of my life. Physically for those who didn’t know me, they didn’t see anything wrong. They couldn’t hear what was going on in my head though. At school I felt a lack of academic challenge and I also recognized that no matter what I was doing throughout the day, I felt out of place and ill-prepared for the complete responsibility I had to accept in order not to waste any money. I also knew this wasn’t what going away to college was supposed to feel like. So I started blaming myself for even choosing that college to begin with. I didn’t put as much effort in the college decision making process as I should have looking back, but I was too caught up trying to quiet the throbbing worries in my mind about what was awaiting me in the future, if I will even have a future. Yeah, sometimes the worries got dark and dreadful.
When I went for a run, I was focused on breathing and challenging the mental obstacles that slowed me to a walk when my body wasn’t even tired yet. I felt in complete control seeing the number on the running app go up as I completed another mile.
Around the sixth mile I felt that obstacle, that little voice telling you you’re getting tired as f*ck and your body tenses and cramps up because it knows you’re dehydrated yet must keep your heart rate up so you don’t lose too much oxygen. But then I said to myself, why and how do 26 mile marathons exist? If other human beings can make their bodies complete a full 26-mile run, I most definitely do not have to stop after six.
Think about how long it takes you to run one mile, then multiply that by 10 and then account for natural exhaustion and slowing of pace. Imagine telling your mind you’re up for one more and you end up going for two. At the time, I had already shed 15 pounds off my natural sitting weight in just a few months, so for those back home it was quite alarming, especially to hear about how excited I was about what I’d accomplished that day. But what I saw was a girl with a very loud mind, but very invisible-in-appearance disease taking control over her mind and body, and realizing that she is much more capable than what she gives herself credit for.
While at the time this experience was very dangerous for my heart and body, it now serves as a symbolic memory I recall when I feel stuck or worried about the future. This experience taught me to take on obstacles with a new perspective, to not worry so much about the end goal but rather remember how far I’ve come. This experience allowed me to accept that if I want to keep going, I must make that extra effort to check in with my worries and not let them consume me and take away from my quality of life. Just like you 26-mile runners, and you one-mile runners, you all have the choice."