By: LaTia Barrett, BGR! Washington, DC Member
I've been overweight pretty much my entire life. In December 2007, I was hospitalized with a DVT and a Pulmonary Embolism. Further testing over the next couple of months revealed that I had Lupus.
Living with Lupus has been a rollercoaster ride that has taught me quite a lot about myself and how not to view my limits but consider my possibilities. I spent the first year after my diagnosis feeling sorry for myself and being so fearful of death that I didn't know what it meant to live (I had a cousin who passed away at the age of 30 from complications from Lupus. Lupus is a chronic illness that is potentially fatal, and has no cure. www.lupus.org). Life has been a constant battle of pills/medicines, joint pain, fatigue, fevers, and other yuckiness. In addition to all that Lupus brings to the party, I have some permanent vein damage in my leg where the DVT was which means that I will deal with pain and swelling in that leg for the rest of my life.
In January 2013 I decided that I was going to make a serious effort to get healthy. My Lupus was in remission (no symptoms present, hurray!), and it was time to regain control of my life. I was at my highest weight ever (326 lbs), had just turned 35, and I did not want to reach another birthday in the same state I was in. I'd made half-hearted efforts before, but nothing longer than a month or so, and nothing that really stuck.
I started slowly, initially by gradually adjusting my eating habits. After about a month, I began to incorporate a little bit of exercise by taking a once a week dance class. Eventually, I was ready to add more to regimen, and considered adding walking. However, running had always intrigued me. Whenever I would see people running in my neighborhood I would always think about how it looked so freeing. Being the weight I was (still a little over 300 pounds at that point), my thoughts were that running would be unrealistic for me and my joints.
I recalled seeing one of FB friends "liked" a running group page, and I set out to stalk her page to see if I could find it. I eventually found discovered that it was BGR!-DC that she was a fan of. I spent the rest of the day going through the page, looking at pictures, and generally taking it all in. I was amazed that such a group existed, that not every person was a size 0, and that it included runners of all paces/abilities.
[caption id="attachment_66291" align="alignleft" width="154"] Me Now!! (New Years 2013)[/caption]
I joined the FB page and lurked for a while, and during that time, I discovered that there was a neighborhood run only about 10 minutes from me. So, I decided that if I were going to entertain the idea of actually running/walking in public, that I needed to get proper shoes and such. I went to my nearest running store, and spent a good hour there going over options. I got a pair of shoes, and they sat in the corner for another week. After a week of debating the feasibility of my actually trying to run, I laced up and ran (and walked) about 2/3rds of a mile... and almost died! At that point it became a matter of pride that I had to: A) be able to last longer than 2/3rds of a mile, and B) do so without almost dying.
The next week, I finally decided to take the plunge and show up at the neighborhood run closest to me. I was nervous, and several times I considered the possibility of turning around and going back home. Just when I got to the point that I was seriously on the verge of doing just that, the other ladies showed up. We all introduced ourselves and the run coordinators explained how things worked. Once the run started, it became quickly apparent that the other ladies were much more serious runners. I immediately became discouraged and again considered going back to my car and going home, but then remembered my reason for embarking on this journey anyway... I wanted to get healthy, and I wanted to show Lupus who was really in control.
I managed to walk about 2 miles that day, and toward the end of that 2 miles the other ladies ended up coming back around to where I was and they walked the rest of the way back with me while chatting. I left feeling excited to have found such an encouraging group of people, and was determined to stick with it.
That same week, I signed up for my very first race... the Baltimore Women's Classic. I knew that having an event to look forward to would help keep me motivated to hit the pavement. Each week I met with the ladies for a weekly neighborhood run, and eventually began to add days of running/walking on my own. Race day came, and it was such an emotional day for me. I broke down in tears after crossing the finish line. I had achieved a dream that I originally didn't even know I had. It was such an amazing feeling to conquer my fears and feel so strong and accomplished.
Since then, I've completed 4 other 5k races, in addition to running/walking on my own. Since I first started my journey to get healthy, I've lost 60 pounds, my Lupus is still in remission, and my joint pain is actually much better now that I've lost some weight and gained overall strength. I still struggle with some leg pain from the vein damage, but I won't let that stop me. I'm already registered for 3 races for 2014, and I'm anticipating more. I'm still not fast, I still have more weight to lose, and I still can't run a full mile without walking, but I am so grateful for the support of BGR! that gave me the courage to not only start my journey to become a runner, but to continue it.
I hope to get the opportunity to inspire someone as I have been inspired.