February 13 2018
Colleen Kelly Alexander discusses the accident that changed her life and how she has rebounded in spite of the trauma to her mind and body.
My proudest moment came early on in my days as a runner, about two years ago when I first completed a 5K jog without walking or stopping. The splits? Who knows. The accomplishment was so special to me, I called up my older brother, a longtime runner and cross country competitor.
“Nick, I don’t think I’ve ever ran 3 miles straight in my life.”
For me, running had always conjured memories of seventh-grade gym and the dreaded “mile run” day. Heat radiated off the blacktop in scorching Southern California afternoons, and off we went. A plump preteen who preferred books to baseball, I would inevitably get “lapped” by the long legs and lean bodies of student athletes. One mile seemed plenty.
Learning to love running has been a long, slow, frustrating and sometimes painful process. But along the way, I have lost 100 pounds, found my inner athlete, and discovered joy. In training now for my third half marathon in Füssen, Germany, I won’t be breaking any land speed records, but my journey to health is distinctly my own.
Discouraged from my lack of athletic prowess, I didn’t play any sports in high school and as a result, began to pack on pounds. While at college in New York City, stress and homesickness turned my “freshmen 15” into a “freshmen 40.” Each time I noticed my jeans growing tighter, my heart sank.
At 21, I snagged an internship at the headquarters for a large company, complete with a fitness center. Without the prying eyes of college gym rats, I quietly began to walk on the treadmill after work, hoping to fit back in to some cute summer duds from the year before. I started ordering salads, packing my lunches, and snacking on fruit, counting my calories on a smartphone app. That summer, I lost 40 pounds and felt stronger and more energized than ever before.
A year later, I was down 100 pounds, with a BMI back into the healthy range. After that first 5K day, I eased my body into longer distances. Some days felt like flying, while other runs left me aching as if I’d been hit by a bus. I kept running. Soon after, I ran my first half marathon through the challenging hills of San Francisco in just under 3 hours, bursting into tears as I crossed the finish line.
What began as just an efficient calorie-burning tool became a type of therapy and a challenging motivator. As I struggled to finish a final mile or overcome a weight loss plateau, I began to see how running personified my journey to health:
Some days are hard while some are easy, and you may not ever be the fastest or the first. But eventually, with practice and a little perseverance, you’ll get there.