In January, I had to go to a biometric screening in order to keep my health insurance at an affordable level. The nurse made me get on a scale and then viciously stabbed my finger for a blood sample. It was horrible, and not only because the numbers revealed what I already knew - I'd become fat and unhealthy. I was told a few years back that weight gain following a hysterectomy (at age 41) was likely here to stay due to hormonal imbalance, and It seemed that diagnosis was correct.
Like most working moms, I feel guilty when I don't spend every waking moment doing things for my kids and husband, and when I spend time with them I feel guilty that I'm not working. This leads to fat, frumpy, stressed person who's lost herself somewhere along the way. Then, my brother died at 44 from an overdose. My mom died four years ago from breast cancer at 64. I learned that my father, whom I hadn't seen nor heard from since I was 15, died in 2011 at age 63. My mind jolted and I lost many nights' sleep worried that my health would take me from my children and husband, if not through early death, then certainly through being a burden to them, unable to move easily or be involved in their lives. I decided to be selfish and get myself back.
After a visit and advice from a Fat Lady Doctor, I embarked on a low-carb, low-calorie diet plan and started exercising again. I signed up to run a half marathon and started counting steps. Half marathon training began in earnest in July, and by that point I was down 30 pounds. I roused at the crack of dawn on Saturdays to do "long" runs with a group, and hobbled through the prescribed plan each week. I wheezed through 5 and 8 minute runs and cursed my Fred Flintstone feet and Hobbit body. But I persevered, since the running is raising funds for clean water in Africa through Team World Vision.
As I took this time to watch my diet and do four increasingly longer runs each week, the feeling that I was letting down my children, husband, principal, and students weighed heavily on my mind and soul. What right do I have to take precious and waning time away from them - my oldest child is a senior and leaving for college soon; my twins are freshmen. I missed part of some soccer games and was late to a couple of football games due to my Saturday run commitment. My kids said they didn't care, but my guilt was ever present. Why do we, as women, feel we must always subjugate ourselves to everyone else?
Fast forward to today - I've lost almost 60 pounds and my longest run has been 10 miles WITHOUT STOPPING, BARFING, OR DYING. I think of a 5K as easy, and recently placed in the top 1/3 of runners in my age group in a women's run. I've had to purchase new clothes in much smaller sizes. I feel better and look better than I have in years. I realized that I enjoy running long distances. The solitude is soothing and cathartic. I pop in some headphones, get into a rhythm, and go. I am slow - my latest run was 9 miles at 11:59 minutes per mile average. My PR for a 5K is 34 minutes, and my 10K PR is 1 hour, 12 minutes. Slow, slow, slow. But I feel good. Guilty, but good.
After the training and the race end, a few women I've gotten to know through training and I are starting up our own running club - the Menopausal Milers. We're going to meet on Saturdays and claim ourselves for an hour or so each week, running or walking. There are a few ground rules: no one with young and cellulite-free thighs; no "elite" runners; no guilt (by our age, the kids are sleeping until noon and won't realize we're gone anyway); no boys; NO PEP TALKERS. Pep talkers are the worst. You only get pep-talked if you suck. No one pep talks the winners. Reach out here or through Facebook if you'd like to join our group! You can be a virtual Menopausal Miler if you're not in the area... if I can do this, anyone can. I'm lumpy, jiggly, and my feet are weird. Please join in. Experience the thrill of meeting challenges and seeing your body do things you've never thought possible. Connect with other ladies. Gossip. Toss the guilt aside. And maybe drop a pants size. The possibilities are endless. Choose you.
Courtney is a most fabulous writer and teacher of gifted middle school students. She is the author of two novels - see the "Cate Books" page of this site for information! Watch for updates about future books that need to be part of your personal library. In the meanwhile, enjoy her pithy life observations.