Ah, April Fools’ Day…that one day a year where child pranksters and the less-than-mature adults among us plot to get the best of their unwilling victims. In my humor-loving family, we’ve had a few memorable April Fools’ pranks on each other over the years. Sorry, Dad.
This year, I think the joke was on myself.
Back in February, my friend and I saw an ad for the Fools’ Run in Kutztown and decided to sign up for the 10-miler. I was ecstatic to be back in my beloved college town once again, since it had been four years since my last visit. We decided to drive down the night before and book a room outside Allentown instead of making the two-and-a-half hour drive Saturday morning. We loaded up a cache of bottled water, two pizzas (for the traditional carb load), and our running gear and spent the night preparing for our race.
This race was very important to me for several reasons. Since my last visit in 2013, I lost almost 90 pounds! I wasn’t there to merely complete the race, but to get the best finish time I possibly could. This was my homecoming, and it felt like an important milestone to me.
When I studied at KU, I could only imagine being the fit athlete I am now. Back then, I was just relearning what it meant to be “normal” without the chains of CIDP. I was ashamed of my body, and the rejection from the guys I liked didn’t help. I figured they thought I was only this imperfect, fat body, and I didn’t deserve to be loved because I wasn’t skinny. Who I was inside didn’t matter…only what I looked like. And if Christian guys were like this, then there was no hope for me.
I wish they could see me now.
With all of this on my mind, I readied myself for the start of the race. There were probably at least 200 people there of all shapes, ages and sizes. I took off running, and quickly learned that a mile in southern PA feels slightly longer than a mile in the Susquehanna Valley. Maybe it was the hilly terrain, but then again, we have hills up here too.
The sky was overcast, with the sun peeking out for a few minutes at a time. The temps were in the 40’s and it was pretty windy. I wore my neon green nylon windbreaker, which I ended up taking off less than halfway through the run. The roads were wet from Friday’s rain, so I made sure to watch my footing on the tricky, tight downhill curves. Even though I hadn’t been training much outside, all of my cross-training at the gym had really paid off. My only injury was a shin splint on my left leg, which didn’t really bother me until after the race.
I was hoping to finish the race in an hour and 45 minutes, but the steep hills on the way back made me slow to a walk for a few intervals. Fortunately, I had enough energy to barrel down the final stretch and finish just before two hours. It was a really good time for me, and I felt so amazing afterward!
A few hours later, on our ride home, the muscle soreness started to kick in. Stretched quads are never fun, but they are a badge of honor. After all, there was a time when my legs didn’t work.
Some people say that runners are foolish. We willingly risk muscle pain, shin splints, side stitches, bad knees, and the chance to be hit by cars. We leave our warm beds to wake up at crazy times, brave the cold wind, and step out into the unknown. Are we fools? Probably. But we’ve also experienced the thrill of the finish line, the pride of a job well done, the runner’s high, the cheer of strangers and volunteers, and the comradery of other crazy fools doing what we love. And for me, 90 fewer pounds on my frame. That alone is worth more than any medal I could ever earn.
At the same time, I am learning to love and accept my body the way it is. Because nobody’s body is perfect. And because I’ve earned these beautiful calf muscles…and nobody can take that away from me!