When I was younger it would’ve been a rare sight to see me out on a run. Most of my life my favorite activities included watching TV, eating ice cream, and only dreaming about becoming a “fit” person. I mostly grew up in the Midwest and we drove our cars everywhere and ate a lot of good food. On top of that I was not a very active person – but through some life-changing experiences all that changed for me two years ago.
I can’t tell the story of how I became more active without talking about Maine. After graduating from college in 2015 I moved to rural northern Maine and did a 6-month long wilderness educator internship at Baxter State Park. This internship required me to live in the wilderness, mostly alone, without electricity or cell phone signal all while working and being thousands of miles away from my friends and family. It was physically tough because one of my work responsibilities was to climb Katahdin (Maine’s highest mountain) for 5-day intervals throughout the six months. In between those hard effort weeks, I gorged myself on banana pudding and large pasta dinners for one, which probably didn’t help my struggles with the climbing.
More than physically tough this entire experience was mentally tough. It forced me to push myself through some serious mental barriers. Spending hours alone in the wilderness makes you think -A LOT- and requires discipline to stay focused and sane. When I was finished with the internship I went back home and started to integrate back into modern-day life. I knew that I had grown a lot as a person, but after I was back I almost immediately realized that I also had the discipline to make changes in my life that I hadn’t been able to make before. I went from being a vegetarian who “couldn’t give up cheese” to a strict vegan in a few months after struggling to make the transition for 4 years. I also started to go to the gym consistently 3 days a week in the early morning, always doing cardio, and I spent all my weekends in the woods hiking and exploring. I lost weight, gained strength, and felt like I was finally living in alignment with my values.
All of this led me to one of the most cherished of all my hobbies – running. I started running for fun to see how far I could go before I felt like I was dying or, like in the past, vomiting. Soon I realized that I could run for 1-2 miles without stopping, and it didn’t make me vomit anymore (yay). Gradually I increased this to 3-4 miles, and before I knew it I was waking up at 5am every morning and running anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Gradually I started signing up for races and last year I started dipping my toes into trail running and I completed my first marathon at the Berlin Marathon.
I can’t say that running has been all smooth sailing. Those continuous miles of pounding have given me trouble with one of my knees and I’ve pushed my body very close to the edge of “too much” a few times. I’ve spent the last few months holding myself back and, in the process, have tried to find a balance that my body can tolerate long-term.
Now that I feel like I have a better handle on my knee issues and what my body can tolerate, I’ve decided to move away from the road-based running ventures and onto more adventurous trail runs. A few weeks ago I signed up for the scenic trail 27km (17 miles) skyrun in Lugano, Switzerland, which has an elevation gain of more than 2000 meters (6,500ft). That race is on June 9th of this year and I’m already super stoked about the training weeks I have ahead of me.
I won’t say that running is for everyone and I don’t think that anyone should force themselves to do something that they hate. One thing is certain though – sometimes all you need is enough discipline to push yourself through the tough stuff. Once you’ve put in the hard work and gotten over the initial barriers, you might find that your passion is waiting for you on the other side. So, get out there, grit your teeth and push through it. You’ll be thanking yourself later!
Featured image: http://www.playbuzz.com/mirandar10/how-do-you-move-through-life
Chelsea is a graduate school student studying Sustainable Resource Management in Freising, Germany. She grew up with her father in the military, so she isn’t sure where she’s from and either says California or Missouri, occasionally Maine, depending on the person asking. When she isn’t working on finishing her degree she’s is hanging out with her very excitable dog, outside running, in the gym, babysitting, or cooking (vegan) food.