I see the finish line (and then I chase the next one)

(2018) I’ve run this 5K course more than a few times; I know we have more than a few blocks to go. I know this threshold I-might-puke-now feeling well, but this threshold is new. I try to ignore the time on the clock, the pace on my watch, the heart nearly beating out of my chest. I try to ignore that a few years ago I ran this course much faster, that I’ve run these same streets during miles 22-24 of the Marine Corps Marathon four times. I try to stay in this 5K, three months after delivering my first baby. I focus on the street signs. I see the finish line.

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I try to be gentle to myself, to see the runner I am now as strong, capable, and motivated. I try not to look back, searching for finish lines of my past. I try to remind myself that finish lines are both behind us and in front of us, but why look back? I come back to this moment, where this pace feels damn near impossible but yet I’m still moving. I say to myself, you can have more of these moments, these last few blocks, these race-day feels. Run with the race you’re in.

— — — — —

(2009) I’ve been off the scale for years. I stopped counting the calories. I work everyday to stop keeping a “calories consumed” tally in my head. I eat foods that used to be on my “not allowed” list. I try to stop thinking of healthy as a black-or-white state of existence. I settle in with the grey.

I’m running new-to-me distances with new friends in new places. I chase down finish lines in races because I don’t know where, or how, recovery ends. I don’t know if my body will jump-start my reproductive system again anytime soon, if it feels safe or taken care of. I don’t know if I’m doing it right—the eating more, the caring less, the balancing act. I don’t know how many times I’ve stalled my forward progress with poor body-image days, impulsive nutrition fact label checks, sticks of gum chewed to stave off hunger or a desire to snack. I don’t know if I can see the finish line, but every day I wake up squinting, hopeful that it’s there and that I haven’t taken too many wrong turns.

The month after I run my first marathon (2010), I go off birth control for good and keep squinting. I get my first natural period in six years. I stare at this in disbelief. I realize this both is and isn’t the finish line I was searching for—it’s just the beginning.

— — — — —

(2018) “Are you comfortable sharing your story on national TV?” she asked. I didn’t hesitate to say yes, to take an opportunity to share this message on a national platform, to so many who might need to hear it, who might  otherwise never know that Orthorexia exists. That there’s a name for what they feel and experience, that there’s a road to recovery.

I had no idea how nervous I would be. I sat in the hallway of NBC studios, waiting for my call time, feet shaking and hands wringing and heart beating just as fast as the last few blocks of the 5K. I took deep breaths, I remembered that this is just about my story and my work. I focused on the finish line—In about twelve minutes, you’ll be done.

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When my segment about Orthorexia was over, I sat in the audience next to McCall, and we watched NEDA’s CEO Claire Mysko and Dr. Ramani Durvasula talk more about how to combat diet culture, how to talk to kids about food, how to stop complimenting people on their weight loss. When their segment was over, we all congregated backstage, debriefed, and waited for a chance to chat a little more with Megyn, off the air. We took photos.

We agreed—there’s SO much more to say.

There is no finish line. This work keeps going, our stories continue, our message keeps spreading. We lean on others and then let others lean on us along the way. We pace ourselves and then we pace others. Sometimes we jog, sometimes we sprint, sometimes we chase the finish lines, and then sometimes we walk and realize there’s no end in sight. Here, we’re always in Lane 9. Out in the world, we’re always keeping on (side)eye on diet culture and one on the work that needs to be done. We see one finish line and then we chase the next.

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