Every runner has a story. Everyone has a reason why they laced up and decided to start running. For me, running actually started as something I hated and grew into something I can’t imagine not having in my life.
I’ve always been a very anxious kid. When I was very little I used to get myself so worked up over little things I’d just throw up. I distinctly remember when I was little, and my mom had just picked up our new car. We all got in excitedly only someone accidentally set off the car alarm. Being that it was new, my mom couldn’t figure out how to shut it off for about 30 seconds. The noise freaked me out so much that I puked all over the back seat. Of a brand new car. Yep. I was a real treasure to be around. Luckily, I grew out of my spontaneous vomiting stage, but I still used to get wildly anxious almost all the time.
In high school, I’d wake up every morning nervous. It’s a terrible way to start the day. It was pretty unfounded too. I didn’t love high school, but I didn’t hate it. Nobody was mean to me and any stress I had about school I put on myself. I think I felt the way most people felt about high school, but I was definitely way more anxious then most. All my nervousness has always lived in my stomach. My first reaction to any strong emotion is butterflies in my stomach. When I’m really nervous, those butterflies feel more like bald eagles flapping around.
Feeling this worked up every morning meant I never had much of an appetite for breakfast. Growing up with an Italian mother, this whole not eating breakfast thing lasted about 2 days. After that she said, “Tomorrow you’re getting up an hour earlier and you’re running before you leave for school. If you don’t wake up with an appetite, you will come home from your run with one.” Oh I hated her so much in that moment. Nothing in the world is worse to a teeenager than waking up and waking up even earlier is exponentially worse, but when my mom said something. You did it.
So, I got up, and I did it. She would only let me run in circles around the block because I was alone, which made it all the more miserable. The first day I came back, I still didn’t have an appetite, but she made me stick to it. Sure enough, the next day I came home from my morning run a little less worked up and a little more hungry, and I was able to eat. And my appetite has never ever, ever, ever gone away since.
I really hated running at first. Like hated every minute of it. It may have been the ungodly hour (honestly probably later than I’m out the door these days) or the fact that I was running in small circles or that I couldn’t listen to music (mom didn’t want me to get snuck up on), but I hated every step, every day until one day I didn’t. I’ve learned that’s how it goes for a lot of runners. You hate it, and then you just don’t, so if you’re a new runner, and you hate ever minute of it, one day you won’t. I promise.
I wonder if my mom knew back then that running (exercising in general really) is an absolutely fabulous way to calm nerves and manage stress or if she just really wanted me to eat something, but I’ll always be glad that she (literally) pushed me out the door.
I’ve since learned lots of other techniques to manage my stress and control my anxiety, and I rarely throw up in new cars anymore, but I still turn to running to clear my head, calm my nerves and center my focus, and I can’t imagine there was a time when I didn’t. I’m so thankful I run. I really am.