Barring any unforeseen injuries, I'll be running my first 5K race six weeks from tomorrow!
(Yes, I'm totally knocking on wood right now, after the injury reference. I'm not terribly superstitious, but...oh, who am I kidding? I'm a baseball fan! Of COURSE I'm superstitious!)
The race I've chosen is incredibly meaningful to me. It's the Arlington 9-11 Memorial 5K Run, and you can read its history at www.arlington911race.com.
My 9/11 story is nothing special - I didn't lose a loved one, or witness the horrific events as they unfolded. But I was in DC that day, just a few blocks from the Capitol and scared out of my mind. The experience had a profound effect on me, and not in a positive way.
Everyone I know seemed to recover from 9/11 and go back to their normal lives with little difficulty, but the terror and overwhelming sadness caused me to lose any skills I once had for coping with stressful situations. I don't know why it all affected me so deeply; all I know is that I never was the same after that day.
Losing the ability to handle stress definitely had an impact on my weight and fitness, as I became much more prone to emotional eating. I'd been in great shape leading up to my wedding just 10 days before the terror attacks, but lost the drive to exercise when it felt like the world was ending.
From then on, every major challenge I faced in my life, from my mother's deteriorating health to my struggles in finding a permanent job, etc., led me further down the road to poor health. Without good coping skills, I drowned my sorrows and stress in junk food and laziness over and over and over again.
I think the reason the pattern kept repeating so easily was that I didn't even recognize what was happening. Only in the past couple of years have I been able to look back with clarity and pinpoint all of the problems and how they built upon one another. September 11th didn't make me fat, but I realize now that if I had dealt with my own emotional reactions to that day in a more constructive way, I might not have developed such unhealthy habits in the aftermath. It's my own fault for letting things get so bad, but at least I'm finally doing something about it now!
When I run around the Pentagon on September 11, 2010, I will remember the poor innocent souls who perished there nine years before. I will pray for their families and loved ones and hope that they're living well today. And with each step I will release the fear, sorrow, and anger I've carried for far too long, and hopefully start getting back some semblance of my pre-9/11 self.
Not to put too much pressure on my very first race or anything, but it sort of feels like I'll literally be running for my life. :)