“You’ll never be a runner”

Four years ago, I was diagnosed with a heart condition called Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia. After suffering through several incorrect diagnoses (one doctor actually told me I’d have to make sure I was never far from a defibrillator), I was finally referred to a well-known cardiologist at UC Davis.

“The good news is, you’re not going to die,” he told me after looking over my test results. “You’ll never be a runner, but you should be able to live a fairly normal life.”

And I was like no shit I’ll never be a runner, I weigh 175 pounds and my idea of athletics is spraying Cheez Whiz on crackers while watching half-naked men swim at the Olympics. Instead of taking it as a challenge, I looked at it as a get-out-of-exercise-free card. And for the next year or so, my weight continued to balloon to the point where I glanced at a photo on Facebook from a friend’s wedding and thought to myself, “Who is that fat girl wearing the same dress as me?” When I looked closer, I realized I was the fat girl. So that kind of sucked.

And in case you think I’m exaggerating:

July 2008

Fat girl wearing my dress.

Me at my heaviest (with my two superfit siblings).

Giant me in front of a giant sequoia tree (along with my super-fit siblings).

Obviously I knew I had weight to lose, but was too self-conscious to go to the gym since I could barely use the elliptical machine for more than 10 minutes without becoming drenched in sweat. So instead I counted calories. I had friends try and convince me to do all kinds of gimmicky diets (even one that involved drinking hormones from pregnant ladies’ pee!) but instead of “dieting,” I decided to create new eating habits that I could sustain my entire life. Instead of depriving myself, I left myself eat a cheeseburger for lunch if I felt like it. I’d just eat veggies for dinner instead of a huge helping of pasta and half a loaf of bread, like the old Heather would have. Slowly but steadily the weight came off, until I felt comfortable enough being seen in public wearing gym shorts. There was a lot of self-tanner and internal pep talks involved.

My first day at the gym I thought about what that doctor said about me never being a runner, and out of curiosity I hopped on the treadmill just to see what I could manage. The answer was: Not much. Like, I could barely run for a minute straight at a 12-minute pace. So I lifted weights occasionally and stuck to the elliptical for my cardio, and managed to shed close to 40 pounds.

My fitness/diet routine stayed pretty much the same until January of this year. I was going through a bunch of life changes that at the time felt pretty shitty. I needed a goal; something to work toward and feel good about. And for some reason that damn heart doctor popped back into my mind.

“You’ll never be a runner.”

That night I texted my mom and told her, “I want to run a half marathon this year.”

So I did.

Medal

Suck on that, Mr. Cardiologist.

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18 thoughts on ““You’ll never be a runner”

  1. lexi

    congratulations on over-coming some serious obstacles and becoming a runner!! keep up the good work. running is a great motivator, anti-depressant, and generally an all-around kick ass activity.

    Reply
    1. heatherhomefaker Post author

      Yes! I plan to reduce my mileage a little and focus on strength training over the next few months (dealing with some IT band issues), but I hope to do the Humboldt Redwoods Half Marathon in October.

      Reply
  2. Closet Strategy

    That is so, so awesome! Are you going to continue running in more races? How on earth did you get prepared for a 1/2 marathon in just six months? You’re making me think about doing that myself…

    Reply
    1. heatherhomefaker Post author

      I plan to! I’m going to reduce my mileage for the next several weeks due to some knee pain I’ve been having, but hope to do another this October. Training really wasn’t too bad – I usually did two short runs (3-4 miles) during the week and a long run on the weekend (I started my long runs at 5 miles and increased by a mile each week until I got to 12). If you can already run 3-ish miles I bet you’d be able to do it, too!

      Reply
      1. Closet Strategy

        Right now, I jog 5k on the treadmill 3x/week, plus 2-3 yoga or strength training sessions during the week. The jog isn’t difficult, but I am so bored by mile 2 that I start ramping up the speed just so I can get it over with faster. I can’t fathom running for longer distances, but perhaps switching to an outdoor trail might make it more interesting.

  3. Lori

    You were awesome on the BIG run! You ran it about 50 minutes faster than our first half! You will be passing us up in no time….oh, and BTW, you have always been beautiful. Yes, you are thinner and healthier now, which is AWESOME, but you have always been perfect in my eyes.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Twenty Thirteen | heatherhomefaker

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