today, i am honored to feature a fantastic guest post from sarah. 

now...i have never met sarah.  we haven't talked on the phone.  we aren't long-lost high school buddies.  i know sarah because of the remarkable world of instagram.  i know, i know...social media based relationships aren't deep and real...i hear ya.  but, let me just say that the phenomenon of social media does have its perks and i am beginning to understand its unique value.  you can befriend people with whom you might have never-ever had the opportunity to connect.  and sarah is one of those people. 

we somehow found each other on instagram a few months back [i think it was our shared love of cheeseburger and liz lemon inspired hashtags...kindred spirits] and she began to consistently "like" my pictures.  we had a nice little tit-for-tat happening, liking each other's pics.  and then, we started commenting and chatting and sharing.  and let me tell you, she has been such an unexpected source of encouragement to me.  even leaving sweet comments on all my silly preggo pics.  AND, what an inspirational journey that i have been honored to witness from my iPhone.  she has a great story of perseverance and determination.  i am talking marathons, people!  well, i won't steal her thunder.  take a look at her story below. 

and if you want to stalk her on instagram like i do, you can find her @ spiercebrown

sarah, thank you for sharing. 

folks, please enjoy!

...

The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.

John Bingham

It all started on the third treadmill on the left in a humid gym aboard United States Coast Guard Base Boston. It was about 11:46am and I'd just finished thirty excruciatingly boring minutes on the elliptical. The sky was sunny that morning but had turned overcast and sullen (my favorite kind of day) as I looked out the window en route to the fitness center. It was July and sweltering.

With great trepidation, I broke through the fear of failure, the fear of the desolate unknown, and pressed the green "QUICKSTART" button, faded in the center from years others beginning and continuing their own journeys. The belt began to turn under my feet and, for the first discernible time, I donned my classic game face.

At that point in my life, I'd lost about 15lbs after being continually fed up with toeing the line twice a year on the active duty weight standard upheld by the Coast Guard. Paired with a balanced but low-calorie diet, the elliptical was my friend. Although I was still staring down five unsightly pounds to shed until I met my goal weight of 140lbs, I'd achieved more than I thought possible in those fifteen pounds. Looking back now, all I can do is chuckle. That was only the beginning; the tip of the iceberg in terms of weight loss, of personal growth, of picturing a goal and clawing for it to be mine.

pre-running sarah
That day on the treadmill I effortlessly achieved something that took me a month of training to do just seven months before. I ran for fifteen minutes at a ten minute per mile pace and a 1.5% incline without stopping. I met the Coast Guard's minimum running requirement for females (1.5 miles in 15:26), which was a major hurdle for me to achieve during boot camp. I never was a runner. I didn't just hate running, I abhorred it. I vehemently despised the idea of such torture. Oh, what a difference fifteen pounds can make.The next day, I got a wild hair to double my time on the treadmill. Just...to see. To see if I could do it. The fear of the unknown had become, in the span of 24 hours, an exhilarating adventure where "I can't" had been replaced by, "I did." Running could...maybe...be enjoyable, I remember thinking, standing on the treadmill third from the left for the second day in a row. I exhaled quickly and mashed the same faded QUICKSTART button. There weren't butterflies in my stomach, there were bats.My goal was simple: a thirty minute 5k. I hit 5k at 31 minutes and some change. The next day, I hopped on my treadmill (as I decided it would be until I could get my act together and hit my time goal) and told myself, "You can do anything you set your mind to do...even a marathon." With that ridiculous notion, I burst into an uncontrollable laughing fit (I probably torched 100 calories) and pressed QUICKSTART.I hit my goal that day. 5k in 29:36. Shortly after implementing running into my exercise routine, I shed the last five pounds. The achievement of both these goals were huge for me, revitalizing my faith in myself and showing me that through effort, anything is possible. And yet...I still wasn't satisfied. Twenty pounds lighter, I didn't look the way I always imagined 140 to look on my frame, and I knew the only way to carve the body I knew I had somewhere out of the fat was to keep running.

On 20 October 2011, I hit my revised target weight of 125 pounds. I was the coveted size 2. I was wearing an extra small shirt. I felt like the body I created finally matched the soul with which I'd been born. On the fitness front, I was running a minimum of five miles a day on my treadmill. It was, without a doubt, the happiest time of my life.

size 2 sarah

I kept up this lifestyle and maintained my weight in the 120s for the next few months. 18 March 2012 was a life-changing day for me: my first outdoor run. The seasons were changing in New England and for the first time in ages, walking outside wasn't a brutal chore. I was headed to the gym to log another mundane hour or so on the treadmill when I just took off in the opposite direction. I had never thought about anything less. The wind practically blew me down the sidewalk.

Ten miles. Ten invigorating miles after which I didn't necessarily want to lay down and die. Ten miles that began the turn of the gears in my head, slowly at first, then more rapidly and finally at a speed which couldn't be ignored: I was destined for 26.2.

I began to run outside every day and experienced a strange pain in my left calf as well as the humble beginnings of shin splints.

Having purchased whatever shoes were on clearance on puma.com and not exactly knowing the function of a compression sleeve, this doesn't surprise me now. Then, however, I was utterly vexed at my weakness and decided to man up and run through the pain. A week or so after my exhilarating ten miler, I hit the streets after work to log my longest outdoor run yet: 14.33 miles in 2:04.

A run of that distance, to a recreational runner, is astounding. I was proud of myself in an unspeakable manner, a way that words aren't really able to adequately convey. I was skinny. I was fast. I was able to go the distance (literally!)...and I was about to lose it all.

As I slept that night, my left calf became worthless. I tore the muscle on the run, yet symptoms didn't manifest until I was inactive. Upon waking up and slogging out of bed on 28 March 2012, I fell to the floor. I couldn't walk.

The following six weeks was the darkest time of my life. What had become almost like a religion to me had been taken away. What gave me happiness, both in the way I looked and in the way I felt, had been snatched from my hands indefinitely. Recovery was a jagged Dorito in my throat for six ugly weeks and the only outlet I had to vent my mounting frustration was through food. First was the notion that "I need lots of calories, I'll heal that way!" And then, as the weeks dragged on and it dawned on me that I would NEVER RUN AGAIN, I just let myself go. Why not have five plate-sized chocolate chip pancakes with peanut butter on both sides of each cake plus butter and syrup and bananas? Really, why not?

I gained 30 pounds and I was almost back to where I started: fat, purposeless, completely disillusioned with my life and all its many possibilities. In the same manner as July 2011, I looked at what I had created of my life and not only decided, but demanded: I wanted more.

With that mental fortitude came physical strength. I miraculously transformed from Dr. House into who I used to be, who I always was under the veil of my recent blues: determined, ambitious, simply unable to accept failure or defeat. And with that, the dream of the marathon was officially born.

I healed and began training for the Wineglass Marathon (held 30 September 2012) in late May. Training was exhausting and uplifting at the same time, a simultaneous equilibrium of fatigue and achievement. Once I completed my 14 mile training run strong and injury-free, I realized that the running world truly was my oyster.

My weight was a concern of mine at first. I worked tirelessly for months sculpting a body I finally felt was perfect only to have it ripped from my grasp. I restricted calories during the first phase of training and my fat clothes had a nice, loose fit...but I experienced a sort of feebleness that can only be described as "burnout" whenever I ran. Begrudgingly, I put my longing to fit back into my sexy size 2s to bed; eating enough to fuel a run is more important than looking good. I slowly began to realize that my body couldn't withstand the pressure of distance running when it was deprived of calories on a daily basis and only 13% body fat. I began to care a little less every day about my weight.

After 18 weeks of pushing myself to my limits then pushing some more, I found myself in Corning, NY at the starting line of the 31st annual Wineglass Marathon. The bats had returned to my stomach and in the final moments before the race began, I felt like the same twinge of the unknown pulling at my heart strings. I was back to my second day on my treadmill; traversing a distance with which I was unfamiliar and welcoming any surprise that came my way.

I crossed the finish line of the Wineglass Marathon in 4:43:54. "This is living," I thought to myself as I jogged over to my husband and father at the finish line barricade. From the moment I became a marathoner, my next 26.2 was all I could think about.

My next 26.2, as it turned out, was scheduled for 10 November 2012 in Richmond, VA. My plan was to reverse my taper then complete a few long runs before tapering again. I registered to the United Healthcare Half Marathon in Newport, RI (hosted by the Amica Marathon) on 14 October 2012, exactly two weeks after finishing Wineglass. As race date drew nearer, my wild hair that led me to Day Two on my treadmill came back to taunt me and I was, like a moth to the flame, completely infatuated with the idea to take on another marathon.

I wrestled for five days with the decision. Do I play it safe and run a distance that is as easy as the alphabet for me at this point, safeguard against injury and recover smartly? Or do I take a risk, dive in with both feet, and achieve something that made even the marathoner in me apprehensive?

I crossed the finish line of the Amica Marathon in 4:48:29, fourteen days after my first 26.2.

marathoner sarah
Distance running has taught me so many things, but the most important have been the Three Ps: patience, persistence, and perseverance. Running for over four hours at a time sharpens your ability to withstand almost anything that life can deal out. It's also taught me the supreme importance of living your life to the fullest. Whether it's developing a passion, building a career, or completely reconstructing your life, never, ever be afraid to take that risk and have faith in yourself. You'll be able to accomplish more than you ever dreamt possible. Trust me.