February 21 2018
Karen Lyons started running to escape hardship–and couldn’t stop.
*Courtesy of No Names Have Been Changed. No One Is Innocent.
Six months ago I ran a half marathon with someone I knew in high school. I think it would be an overstatement to say we were friends back in the day. But we weren’t enemies, and in my world, high school had a lot more enemies than friends.
Patti was always the super athletic one. Most of my interactions with her were through sports teams (her on the “A” team, me being told by the coach that I was literally the last person selected to the “B” team; in his defense, I peaked at 5’2″ in 7th grade and I didn’t have a lot of basketball dreams that he was shattering). She was always nice to me and I like to think I was nice to her. However, I also like to think I bear a striking resemblance to Christie Brinkley.
A few years ago we reconnected on Facebook as many do. The occasional post back and forth, etc. Nothing exceptionally ground-breaking.
There are many things we “see” on Facebook. We see how people have changed physically (when they haven’t creatively cropped pictures). We “see” if they’re married, have children, don’t have children, prefer dogs or cats to people and who they have voted for and why you’re an idiot for voting for your guy.
What we can’t see is what caused people to become the person we now see. We never know their paths. What Patti could see of me was someone who had gained a lot of weight. I was someone who used humor to distract people from how fat and unhappy I was. Other than that, there wasn’t much to “see.”
*Sidenote: Being overweight doesn’t guarantee you’re unhappy. And being unhappy doesn’t guarantee you’re fat—unless you’re me. I don’t care if you’re 500 lbs or 50, though I feel both might not be the best of choices for your health. If you are happy, that’s enough. I was not.
I over-share. In life and on Facebook, I over-share. It’s therapeutic for me. However, I did not talk about how sad I was, how low I got and how bad postpartum was for me. I didn’t talk about how I would literally grab handfuls of fat and wish I could just cut them off. I didn’t talk about how hard it was to hold a baby I definitely loved, but wished didn’t need me so badly so I could just focus on myself.
I didn’t acknowledge that I was going to try to lose weight. I would check in at the gym with my trainer, but that was more about advertising for him. Though I frequently feared an endorsement from me, who was 100 lbs overweight, wasn’t the best advertisement. What I did do was occasionally post pictures of the family in which I was no longer absent. That is it.
After losing about 80 lbs I was doing much better. It wasn’t where I wanted or needed to be but it was a start. One fateful New Years Eve we were celebrating with Mark and Mollie who were crazy enough to have signed up for a half marathon in October. The next morning she forwarded me an email with a discount code for that same race. I’m still not completely convinced I was yet sober when I registered.
I would love to say I fell in love with running and the weight fell off and it was a true romance from the get-go. None of those would be true. I hated it. I only stuck with it because things with Mollie are fun. And I’m too cheap to let a registration fee just float away. It was slow. It was painful. I literally laughed hysterically when I turned right to head towards the finish line and the marathoners went straight TO RUN THE WHOLE THING AGAIN. Crazies. All of them. Oh and I also gained weight training for it because the only thing that makes me hungrier than depression is running. Not metaphorically hungry. Literally hungry.
Eventually I began to love running. I fell in love with the quiet time, but what really changed me was when I started to run with other people. I realized my sturdy Italian self (I like to think of myself as The Little Italian That Could) could have speed goals. The friendships I’ve made through running have changed me for the better. Again, my relationship with running has not always been one of love. I have had injuries, I have hated running while running and I have hated running when I couldn’t run. I’ve struggled with goal setting and failure in running. Failure is not something I’m comfortable with.
What I didn’t know was that, through all these struggles, Patti was watching. Going through her own struggles. And while I was still grabbing handfuls of fat and hating my body, Patti was somehow being inspired by the insanity I call “The Trisha Show.”
I don’t have a lot of fantastic qualities. I am a good friend. I’m generally a happy person. I find the most joy in making others feel happy. If I had to list five things I’m the most proud of, inspiring Patti would make the list. It still feels awkward to own that—to say I inspired someone. Here is a person I would have loved to be like not that long ago. Yet somehow as life changes us, I inadvertently helped her to set some goals and achieve them.
Patti and I ran a half marathon together last June. Afterwards she posted (on Facebook, obviously) how nice it was that I came and ran with her and encouraged her. I am embarrassed to admit how often I look back at that post. Partly for pride. Partly because what Patti doesn’t really get is that she inspires me. Yes, I’m pretty damn proud of breaking a 2-hour half marathon this year. I worked hard for it and am so proud I did it. Yet the people who are out there longer than me are who inspire me the most (yes, you super speedy people are awesome too, I understand you work hard, too!). But those at the back have so many more chances to quit. Seconds. Minutes. Hours. So many more opportunities to quit, but they don’t. THAT is mental toughness.
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Patti is committed to being the person she wants to be on the outside. (FYI she’s pretty amazing inside and out, regardless of how she feels about herself). I am loving watching her change and put herself first (that’s an ok thing to do, people) and set big goals for 2016. I cannot wait to run with her again this May, it’s honestly one of the races I am most excited for next year. I cannot wait to be with her when she finishes. Even more than that, I look forward to seeing her love herself like we all do. But most of all I look forward to the day when we are running a race and I have to tell her to go ahead, because I have complete confidence that someday I will not be able to keep up with her. And that feels amazing.