3 Years Ago Today, I Ran My First Marathon

"What am I doing here? I'm not a runner. My outfit looks stupid, why did I match my hat to my pants. Oh God, I forgot a water bottle. How will I take my energy gel without a water bottle? I really hope I don't hurt myself. I don't know if I can do this. But I can't call my Dad and have him pick me up. I can at least walk it. I can't walk it, people know I'm trying to run a marathon. What will they think? Did I put deodorant on?"

When I think back to the the morning of my first marathon that took place 3 years ago today, I remember those thoughts as I stood in my corral, waiting to run what would become the 26.2 most painful and life changing miles of my life. I wasn't ready to run a marathon. 6 months prior, I couldn't run a mile without stopping to walk. 4 months prior, I ran my first half marathon and almost quit at mile 11 because I didn't think I could finish. I was scared I wouldn't make it but the only way to go was forward.

I didn't choose to run a marathon, I felt like I needed to prove to myself that I was capable of doing something that felt impossible. The day I went for my first run, if you would have asked the desperate girl with a never ending stream of tears falling down her cheeks if she would one day run a marathon, I would have said "No. I can't run a marathon, I'm not a runner." But I learned first hand that you don't have to be good at running or a "runner" to run a marathon, you just have to have a good enough reason to run. For me, I needed to run away from my problems. I wanted an escape and running turned out to be a perfect way to kill time that would have been spent on the couch feeling sorry for myself.

If there is one thing I can tell you about a marathon, it's that the marathon will make you stop and reflect. I've run 5 marathons now and every single one made me stop and think about my life in a way that I had never thought about it before. I think about my brother and the empty void that sits next to my heart that aches every second of every day. I think about how grateful I am that I got to know him for as long as I did. I think about everything I've gone through and everything that is to come. I think about my family and friends and the beauty of their support, laughter and presence when I fall down a rabbit hole of grief and can't figure out which way is up, down, forwards or backwards anymore. And I think about what I'm capable of.

Today I sat with a new friend in Union Square Park and had a really humbling moment to reflect on my first marathon and every mile I've run since. There have been great miles, there have been truly shitty miles, and there have been forgettable miles but every single all brought me to where I am today. I don't believe that everything happens for a reason but I do believe that whatever path you find yourself on will take you where you need to go. Some paths take longer than others, some have wonderful detours, some have tragic ones, but every choice we make brings us to a path.

I don't believe that I would have found running had my brother Scott not passed away andeven though I would give anything to have him back, I am beyond grateful that I found running. Running gave me hope. It gave me a way to love myself, be kind to myself, believe in myself, trust myself, and it gave me a way to run forward in the face of uncertainty. Running is a lot like grief, it doesn't get easier. You just get stronger. And more resilient. And more vulnerable. And open. And eventually, you just feel grateful to be wherever you're at because being present and mindful isn't easy, just like running.

Time is going to pass whether you want it to or not. Why wouldn't you want to fill that time with terrifying and challenging goals? Our time is limited. I'm not saying go run a marathon, I'm just saying don't let what you think you can and cannot do stop you from chasing the best, fullest, and strongest version of yourself possible. Here's to what I hope will be many more years filled with great, shitty, and forgettable miles. Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.

First Marathon

Kelly Roberts

It all started when a silly joke made headlines back in 2014 when I took selfies with hot guys “hottie hunting” my way through the New York City Half Marathon. But ironically enough, I haven't always been a runner. As the self-proclaimed former President of the "I f*cking hate running club", I spent most of my life finding ways to avoid physical activity. Growing up, I missed over 70 days of PE my senior year. Working out was something I thought I had to suffer through in order to lose weight. 

Then, in 2009, my younger brother passed away unexpectedly and struggling to manage my grief, I gained more than 75 pounds. With the weight gain came a new fight to regain my sense of self and learn to love the body I saw when I looked in the mirror. Then one Thanksgiving morning, drowning in grief and self doubt, I decided to go for a run. I didn't make it half way down my street before I had to stop to walk but for some reason, struggling forward made more sense than getting back into bed. It turns out that running is a lot like grief, neither ever really get easier, you just get stronger. 

Over time, I realized that while some people are in fact born runners, others are made. I created this blog Run, Selfie, Repeat and my new podcast by the same name with the hopes to inspire others to say yes to themselves while making them laugh hysterically because laughing, in my opinion, is the solution to everything. 

Named by Women's Running as one of twenty women who are changing the sport of running and by Competitor Magazine as one of 12 Influential and inspiring runners under 30, my mission is to inspire others to get embrace a healthy lifestyle and pursue the strongest version of themselves possible.