There have always been three constant presences in my life, apart from my parents and brother of course. 1) A love of / obsession with making and eating banana bread, 2) an infatuation with “The Sound of Music” and with that comes the magnificent Julie Andrews and 3) a natural ability to run. 1 and 2 have never wavered in their prominence but 3 has.
I was a pretty decent runner as a child and was heavily involved in athletic training 2-3 times a week and then run meets on top. I did everything, from the hurdles and sprint to middle and long distance. Then at the grand old age of 10, I developed a pretty debilitating eating disorder (anorexia nervosa) and of course the running had to stop, as my body was actually eating my muscles to keep me alive and hence there was nothing left to actually run with. Sub sequentially, I was actually carried in to the local children’s hospital when I was 10 years old and left there for 4 months to vegetate. To sit on a bed and not move and there was definitely no running. Of course this quickly halted my running career and I never went back to it. I am not sure why? Maybe it was because it reminded me of a time when life was easier and achievable, light and free, not controlled and regimented (my own doing I may add). Then anorexia plunged that light into darkness and politely spat out a withered, haunted, less able version of myself. She may not have been who I really was, but I embraced her all the same with her long limbed gawkiness and not a muscle in sight. She was a safe way to look, not fat, but not dying, not muscular and manly looking, but lean and androgynous. I still exercised, but it was mainly walking and swimming, nothing that would require strength to be healthy or actually have muscle tone, as muscle weighs more than fat remember and weight = fatness in my warped, starved, fucked up mind. Years passed and I was happy in my sub existence and then suddenly my iron fist of control of my brain and its failings became weak and old issues gained some gusto and force and ate away at the grip I held. I was crumbling under their weight, but I needed to drive them back and become strong once more. Note; My brain lacks in serotonin and the best way to gain natural, kick you in the arse serotonin is through… ……. yes ……… exercise.
So, due to my mental struggles I discovered my body and mind needed more, it was craving to be pushed and forced away from safety and comfort, to become tired and exhausted, strengthened and liberated from its boundaries, to be crushed and rebuilt (wow now that was a dramatic sentence)
Therefore, 30 years on from pulling them off, 1 marriage and 3 kids later I am yanking on my running sneakers once more. Inspired by my ultra marathon runner husband and an innate need to push my body and earn 2 hours of quiet time, I’ve decided to sign up for a 1/2 marathon in January (baby steps) and then a 25K trail run (through the alligator infested Everglades) in February. Am I decidedly cool and inspired or fucking nuts, I’m not quite sure. As I had always vowed I would never do anything that may make me lose control of my bodily functions and really these may just do it. As in my world there is no hanging on when I need a shit, its now or a whole big mess to clear up. Now when running, I feel this could be a huge issue. So I may just have to take an enema a few hours before. People, this is a major fear of mine, so please be kind if I shit myself “Bridesmaids” style in the middle of Naples 5th Avenue, at mile 11.
My training is to be a cross train affair with 1 x 4 mile run, a yoga class, 1 swim in the week and then a long run at the weekend. Last weekend I completed 9 miles and I felt strong, it was an exhilarating feeling and actually made me cry as I never believed my body could still do this. Note this is the longest I have ever run, in my whole life and I did it alone, with my only company being a blog about cake baking. Did you know that before bicarbonate of soda and baking powder, that a cook may of had to beat eggs for 2 hours to get the same leavening effect. Now that is a a lot of beating by hand 🙂 The continuous pounding of my feet on the road, the slight discomfort of my knees, the ability to calm my breath and regulate it (I have anxiety) into rhythmic, steady breaths was empowering (I do hate this word, its kind of new age wanky), it settled me and pushed me into a space of meditation. Which I find I can never do sitting still with my eyes shut. I was alone, so I could notice the little things and sights, small details were prominent as manicured shrubbery and well built houses bobbed past to the steady pounding of my feet.
One hour and 30 minutes passed and I was sad to stop, the personal achievement overwhelmed me, yes I know its only 9 miles, but that is 9 miles, I never thought I could do. I must admit the amount of calories I burnt appealed to my suppressed anorexic self, the serotonin pumping through me sated the bitch I call anxiety, she is always looming with intent, my muscles were soft, stretched and fluid, when they are usually tightly wound and stiff. I felt good, my body beaten, but my mind rested and I remember my childhood, the need for this, my love of this and the sadness of those lost 30 years. I’ve felt so happy and calm and rested and driven. I am emerging from the years I left my self to fallow, curled up in my shell, protecting myself, scared to push the boundaries and crack that shell. A 10 yr old Kelly Dixon is in there, she is ready to come out and show you who she really was then and really is now in her older 40 year old form. She is no longer frightened or controlled, but open, raw and ready to just be. Not frightened or ashamed of who she is, the kooky, weird kid and now the kooky, weird adult. But you know what? I have missed her, she is resilient, sharp, honest and kind and I am proud of her. She will continue to run and run and push and finally break down everything she has built and reveal her vulnerable core, still 10 and waiting to truly live.
Next I will run 11 miles and then 13 and then who knows maybe I will double that – I had better buy some diapers 🙂