Wednesday, June 17, 2009

One telephone pole at a time.

Friday, I'm running with twelve teammates to bridge the distance over the Back of the Wasatch Mountains from Logan to Park City, Utah. That's 180+ miles if you are wondering. In 24 hours. My personal chunk of the mileage is 16.8 miles broken up into three segments, including a lung burning four mile climb over Guardsman Pass above Midway, Utah where I will run 4 miles at 8,000+ feet gaining 1700 feet in elevation. Did I mention I'm running it at 3:00 in the afternoon. The hottest part of the day?

Yes. I am nervous. But I have trained hard and I am ready. I've done all I can do to prepare so it's out of my hands. Time to put my faith into a higher power.

Ten years ago I couldn't run a half mile. I was that girl in gym who did everything possible to get out of that treacherous mile and half run. Running was for suckers and people with no imagination. So I told myself to hide the envy I felt for all those svelte cross country stars.

By the time I was in my mid twenties I had numerous health problems. I felt old, tired and unattractive. I never wanted to go anywhere or see anyone because I knew that people were judging me. For being overweight. Ugly. Lazy. I hated myself and it showed in my charming personality. But I accepted my weight and my sorry life as what God intended. I was just one of those women with big bones. I was born to be heavy. I deeply resented "naturally thin" women. It was so unfair. Why didn't God want that for me?

Then I overheard two "naturally thin" women planning their week in the halls in church one Sunday. At five a.m. every morning they were running at least 5 miles. They'd been doing this every weekday morning for years. It hit me like a stack of hymn books. Natural thinness was a myth. Like small bone structure. These women worked very hard to maintain health and shape. They ran through heat and snow and freezing temperatures every single day. I couldn't stop thinking about that. I pondered that revelation a very long time.

If they could do that. So could I. Right? Maybe? Why not. At least I could try. Then I got angry. Angry at all the naysayers who ever said I couldn't do those things. Angry at the gym coaches and school teachers, and immature adolescent boys who said I was too fat or brainless or ugly. Most of all, I was angry at myself for believing that humongous pile of crap! It was all a myth. And I had fallen for it!

So I pulled an old pair of aerobics shoes out of my closet and went for a run. I ran the distance between two telephone poles before I had to stop and catch my breath.

The next day I ran it again.

And again,

and again,

and again.

Adding distance one telephone pole at a time. My view of myself changed on those runs. All those negative voices started to fall away. Left in the dust of my running trail. Instead of only seeing the things I wasn't capable of, I began to see all the things I was. After a month of running six days a week at six a.m. I ran two miles.

I cried.

Never in my entire life did I think I could run two whole miles. It's still logged in my memory as one of the best days of my life. I went home so ecstatic over what I'd accomplished that I chucked all the junk food stashed in my house. I wanted to be able to run far and I couldn't do it on EL Fudge and licorice. In another month I was up to four miles, then six, eight, ten, twelve. Every mile marker was another milestone adding to a positive believe in myself. Please don't mistake what I'm saying. It was not easy. It never is. But it did get more tolerable in time. And after a while. I needed those runs like I needed nutritious food and water. My biology changed. My spirit became one with my body.

In six months, I lost over 45 lbs. My new confidence led me to apply for a teaching position at a local college. I job that I love. A job I could never have imagined for myself 15 years ago. The quality of my relationships improved and I created many new friendships as I used my new found confidence to try new things. I became a better mother. More organized, tidy and full of life and energy. And I started writing because I finally felt like I had something important to say. I changed my belief in myself one telephone pole at a time.

We are all capable of extraordinary things. The adversary doesn't want us to believe that. He wants us to decompose on our sofas in self loathing. Changing how we feel about ourselves is not easy. Losing that weight, writing, staying organized, teaching college students are all incredibly challenging at times. I have to work at it every single day. It's a struggle to lace my sneakers and get my tired butt out the door. In the same way that it's a challenge to put my butt in the chair to write or put that delicious chocolate chip cookie back in the cookie jar. I just do it and worry about the consequences later. Because the joy is in the journey and once I take those first few steps or type those first few words it's just a matter of going as far as I can that day. One telephone pole at a time.


Mary Campbell said...

You are so awesome!! It still shocks me to learn that you ever struggled with confidence. I always thought you were brimming with it.

Anonymous said...

You kick trash, girl.

L.T. Elliot said...

I am so glad you shared this story. You'll never know how much it's already changed my life. You've changed my life, Kristi. And I'll never be able to repay that. Thank you. Thank you for doing that hard stuff so that someday I could see your example and know that there was a better life for me. Thank you for going through it all so that I get to know I can make it too.
With all the love and gratitude I possess,

Kristi Stevens said...

L.T. You can repay it. Just let your light shine. The world needs it!

Jill- So do you.

Mary-Looks can be deceiving. It's what's on the inside that counts anyway. The rest is all smoke and mirrors my friend. Smoke and mirrors.

Jaime Theler said...

This is awesome! Thank you so much for sharing. I need the runs to work through stress and self-doubt and all those other things that try to plague me. I'm so excited for the race, and even though I'm not sure I'll see you on the course - you go, girl!!!

Shari said...

You so need to speak at Jill's enrichment.

This post is amazingly inspiring. This message needs shared. And who better to share it than you.

PS Can't wait to pound the pavement in my new asics tomorrow!

Elena said...

Wow. You're amazing. I love this story. I've maxed out at three miles. Maybe I should start adding on one telephone pole at a time. Personally, I'm a dedicated believer in the occasional chocolate chip cookie. Or brownie. Yum. Maybe that's my problem. Though exercise has saved my life in a psychological bad time or two. Or ten. Nothing like natural dopamine and seratonin for well-being.

But I'm thinking maybe I need more pain in my life, if that's your secret to being the happiest person I know.

Melinda said...

Thanks for keeping it real, Girl.

Rachelle said...

Fantastic Kristi! You've inspired me and I need to write a post too about the first time someone referred to me as "naturally thin" and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor because I always had "big bones" too before I started running and eating better. Thanks for sharing this! :)