Every Mile Matters

Every Mile Matters
Amber Hadigan

May 11, 2013. I laced up my running shoes for the first time. I was 204 pounds and wore a size 18 pants. I downloaded a couch to 5K app, as I had signed up for a 5K race exactly eight weeks later as motivation. That day, I could hardly run to the end of my driveway.

I heard the call up the stairs once again. It was about 11pm, and I had to get up at 5am for school the next day, so I was already in bed. Yet, for some reason, my mom felt the need to yell from her chair, up the stairs, for either me or my brother to wake up, come downstairs, and change the TV channel for her. She was too lazy to get up and do it herself.

My entire high school career was like this. My mom wanted someone to serve her and do all her chores for her, while she sat on her recliner. It was always a frustrating situation for both my brother and me. I got up early for school and he had to be to work at 5am.

I think, by the time I was in high school, my mom just gave up. She worked a job she absolutely hated, but really needed because it paid enough for her to support herself and us. She worked all day, and when she came home, she had nothing left to give. She was overweight and chose to not do anything about it. There was a not-so-secret stash of candy and chips by her chair that we weren’t supposed to touch.

I watched my mom eat and sit for years. Her knees started to go and she couldn’t even walk the stairs of our townhome to take a shower every day. Yet, for some reason, she never did anything about being fat. I think she actually took pride in it. She used the word fat and talked about being fat like it made her special. Back in those days, it was very rare to see an overweight person.

I loved my mother, but I always knew that there was something slightly wrong with the way she conducted her life. It wasn’t a conscious awareness, but a nagging feeling in the back of my mind, one that would pop up just before sleep, when the thoughts about the meaning of life hit this adolescent. I couldn’t articulate it at the time, but as I grew into adulthood, I began to understand.

I swore that I would not be like my mother. There was something sad and just a little bit desperate about the way she lived her life. When I was in my 20s, I talked about not wanting to be her. Even when it was hard, I worked on completing goals I had set for myself, such as going to college and getting an advanced degree. I explored activities and was rarely home.

Fast forward about fifteen years, to May 11th. What spurred my decision to lace up my shoes, pull out my iPod, and trudge down the road, even though I could barely catch my breath?

 My worst fear had come true. I had turned into my mother. I was spiraling out of control, straight into a pit of depression and desperation. At over 200 pounds, I felt uncomfortable in my body. I worked a job I absolutely hated. After working all day, I came home defeated, too tired to even get up off the couch. I developed a terrible sugar addiction. I looked in the mirror and saw the woman I had become, and I hated her.

I toyed with the idea of running for years. I was a track kid in school, but hadn’t really run for over twenty years. But something changed when I looked in the mirror. 39 years old, overweight, and couldn’t fit into my own clothes. It was time to stop the cycle.

Reading the paper, I saw an ad for an inaugural 5K race during the July 4th weekend. On a whim, I signed up. Now I had money invested, so I had to follow through. I downloaded a couch to 5K app, and on May 11, I went out for the first time.

I thought I would die. My body was not used to moving, let alone running. But I refused to give up. Up at 5am, I would go out and complete my run/walk intervals faithfully, three times a week for the next eight weeks.

An amazing thing happened. I started to be able to run a little longer. When I couldn’t run for a minute the first day I went out, by week 6 I could go twenty minutes without stopping! Although I couldn’t complete a full 3.1 miles yet, I felt I had accomplished something.

On race day, I thought I would die. It was about 100 degrees and the course was sunny, but I didn’t give up. I learned about the supportive nature of the running community. Two women talked to me before the race, cheering me on. My husband came down to watch me cross the finish line. And though I walked some of the course, the feeling of crossing the finish line was something incredible. I wanted to feel it again.

I was hooked. Although training was hard, racing was my savior. I ran 4 5Ks that first year. Then I trained for a half marathon, then a marathon. And although I suffered an injury that sidelined me for 9 weeks, I never gave up faith that running was changing my life.

I could see it in the mirror. I was happier. My clothes fit better. The scale crept down into the ones. And, for the first time in many years, I had a motivation to improve my life. Since I started running, I also started working toward other goals I had dreamed about. I quit the job I hated and became a freelance writer. I began taking creativity coaching classes and want to teach adult education. Each day, I make steps toward the life I want to live. I believe that running spurred all these changes in my life.

Every mile I run proves that I can work hard.

Every mile I run proves that I can set a goal and achieve it.

Every mile I run proves that I am stronger than I was yesterday.

Every mile I run strengthens my perseverance muscle.

Every mile run proves that I am alive!

I don’t really know what happened to my mother. She gave up on life when she was about my age. She still may be living, but she does not participate in life.

 As for me, I started living at age 39, when I started running. My 40s will be my best years yet! 


Amber12Amber Hadigan currently lives in Hyde Park, NY with her husband John and her two cats, Sobe and Scrappy. Originally from Wisconsin, she has lived in many different states. Now settled, she spends her time working, freelance writing, and writing and performing folk music. A runner as a child, she began running again in May 2013 and has rediscovered the peace and joy running gives her.



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