241.1 miles later (238 miles driven and 3.1 miles ran), I caught up with this vivacious young woman who has chosen to live vicariously through herself. The woman is me and I completed my first 5k this past weekend on the lovely island of Hilton Head, South Carolina. I know some of the more seasoned runners and athletes run 5ks as their daily form of exercise and may scoff at a mere 3.1 miles, but for me- the kid who only ran (once) from dogs and had knee issues since my pre-teen years- this was a pretty momentous event.
Blame it on the post-workout endorphins, but about two months ago I felt encouraged to challenge myself, try something new and get-away all at the same time. So I signed up for the Hilton Head Bridge Run, a 5k and 10k race sponsored by Bear Foot Sports. Less than a gas tank away, Hilton Head is a relaxed, slow-paced escape from the bumbling Atlanta life. My tune changed about a week ago when I realized just what I’d committed myself to. Backing out crossed my mind several times (especially after the polar vortex decided to bring winter like temperatures to damn near all of America my neck of the woods) but Friday afternoon I found myself heading south on Hwy 16 with a stomach full of butterflies bound for Hilton Head. Just me. Alone. No family or friends. As I drove onto the dark island (seriously, the low-country folks are not about street lights… no lighted signs… nothing) I was still thinking what the hell have I gotten myself into? But there I was and I managed to find my hotel and an amazing spot for dinner. Exhausted from the drive and nervous energy, I pulled the blanket over my head and turned in early Friday night. Saturday morning was a new day and a different story.
I woke up before my alarm and treated myself to a delicious round of stretching. I opened the curtains and had to take a moment to take in the beautiful low-country landscape around me. Underneath the darkness of last night was row after row of Spanish moss trees and a charming city. Needless to say, I was feeling much better about my trip and the looming challenge was no longer “looming” and it became more like an adventure. My anxiousness faded into excitement and I was actually looking forward to seeing just what my body could do.
Standing at the starting line, I soaked in the amiable energy of the crowd. I mingled with a few cheerful faces, gained a couple of cheerleaders (who found me afterwards to congratulate me on completing my first 5k and take the celebration pic), scored a few pace-mates, made a friend and connected with others at various places in their wellness journeys. It was pretty cool to watch the crowd surge forward at the signal. I took off with them and slowly but surely I found my pace and fell into my groove. As I was running, I caught a glimpse of my shadow and in it saw a much different person than I remembered. Here I was up on a cold Saturday morning in a whole different state, running for the sake of running. Several months ago, I would have been one of the masses, bundled up and asleep, but today I had chosen differently. I’d chosen to push my body and the boundaries of my comfort zone (uh hello solo mini-vacay). In that moment I felt so alive and so free. Determined to not have frozen tears and snot trails on my face when I crossed the finish line, I fought back the tears and basked in celebration of my body.
This was more than a 5K. It was more than an incredible weekend getaway. My first 5K was me doing something for me to celebrate 60 pounds of weight loss and mark the beginning of a new challenge and a new chapter in the journey. I met some really incredible people (cute bartenders, encouraging athletes, friendly wine connoisseurs, and more) but the most amazing girl I met was this strong, sexy and (way) more confident version of me. In addition to running, I found myself plugged in to everything and everyone around me and not once did I feel alone. I felt confident and alive. Needless to say, I’m hooked and looking forward to the next one! #thisgirlruns