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Never say never, just do it

  • Published
  • By Capt. Laura Christensen
  • 325th Comptroller Squadron
No one ever said you had to be rail thin and a 6-minute miler to be considered a runner. Some run for the great feeling afterward when endorphins kick in. Others run to compete. The point is just to get out there and get moving to get yourself in shape.

Being physically fit is important for the mind, body and soul. The problem is most of us like to make excuses about why we can't get to the gym, why we can't run or why we can't do something physical. There comes a time when we have to stop making excuses and get serious with ourselves.

That time came more than five years ago for me. I sat there crying in my apartment about how out-of-shape I was and how much weight I had gained. My story may not speak to everyone, but I'm sure there are some who may feel or have felt the same way I did. It has been a long emotional roller coaster, but I finally reached my goal of being in shape. If I can be in shape, anyone can.

I am not an elite runner nor a competitive triathlete. On the contrary, I'm rather slow. But that doesn't matter to me. It doesn't matter that the fastest I can run a mile and half is 11 minutes and 45 seconds or in a big triathlon I am usually finishing in the middle of the pack.

The enjoyment I get isn't from winning, it's from finishing and being able to look at myself in the mirror and say, "I did it." Some people who know me now think I have always been this way, meaning I could always run, bike or swim for hours. Those who knew me six to eight years ago know differently.

I played soccer and basketball and any other sport I was asked to play. In high school during conditioning for basketball, our coach would have us run two miles and I would be sick inside knowing I had to run that far. It's funny how things change after 11 years.

Six years ago, I was 30 pounds heavier and couldn't run more than 30 minutes without wanting to fall over, never mind the painfully slow pace. Six years ago, I would starve myself a few weeks before the mandatory yearly weigh to ensure I was under my maximum allowable weight.

For most of my life I have battled my weight and my image of myself. I was tired of the yo-yo weight gain, tired of being afraid of the scale and tired of feeling inadequate. So, I finally decided it was time to make a change.

I was sitting and listening to college friends of mine talk about the first half marathon they ran and I thought to myself, "Thirteen miles? You are crazy!" But, something that day clicked inside of me. I joined a weight management club to help lose weight. I hit the gym and then I hit the road and started to run again. The first time I ran four miles I was ecstatic.

A good friend of mine, who is addicted to running 5Ks, got a group together to run a 5K in Panama City, Fla., five years ago. I placed third in my age group and that changed my life and motivated me to keep going.

Later that same year, I was listening to some of my Navy friends talk about the Gulf Coast Half Ironman and I thought to myself again, "Swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 and run 13? You are crazy. I could never do that."

I was stationed at Eglin AFB, Fla., at the time and each year the base hosts a miniature triathlon called "My First Tri," so I tried it, and liked it. Before that race, I only swam once and couldn't swim one lap without stopping. The farthest I rode my bike was maybe 10 miles, and at that time, the farthest I had run was maybe five miles. That race was the beginning of my serious addiction to triathlons and working out, and it changed my life even more so than the first 5K.

Today, I am 30 pounds lighter and have completed more than a dozen sprint triathlons, three half ironmans, three marathons and this past year, completed Ironman Florida. That's a long way from the 30 minutes I could barely run six years ago.

Why do I tell you all of this? I guess it's to show you we all have to start somewhere. All it takes is some dedication and motivation to keep going and you'll reach your goals. That goal can be a 5K or an Ironman. The point is just to have a goal and work at accomplishing it.

Not all of us were born athletes and runners, but we all have an inner athlete that just needs a push. Stop making excuses and get to the gym or hit the road running. You'll thank yourself the first time you cross the finish line and look at yourself in the mirror and say, "I did it," and you won't care if you happen to come in last.

I can't explain the feeling that came over me when I ran through the tape at Ironman Florida, and heard the announcer say, "Laura Christensen, you are an Ironman."

Maybe one day, that will be you.