How Running From My Problems Helped Me Find My Purpose

I was talking with a friend about why new runners or people who aren't used to feeling athletic struggle to call themselves runners. Personally, it wasn't until I ran a marathon that I actually felt like a runner which is ridiculous because now, I know that anyone who runs, fast or slow, is a runner.

For years, I had developed a habit of quitting anything that I wasn't innately good at. I struggled with my weight and spent decades consumed with the fact that working out was the worst thing to ever happen to me. Physical activity made me feel terrible about myself so to avoid the disappointment I experienced every time I gave up on a weight loss goal, I convinced myself that I wasn't a runner or that I wasn't an athletic person. Having labeled myself as "nonathletic" made my disdain for physical activity feel less like a personal failure and more like a fact of the universe.

Then my brother died and I found myself in the eye of a never ending storm. I sat in a pause, waiting patiently for someone to help me find a purpose or to show me how to survive my unimaginable loss. So I did what I now know thousands of people do when their life falls apart, and I started physically running from my problems.

If there is one thing running has taught me, it's that you can't let fear stop you from moving forward. For 19 years I lived my life sure of myself, confident and in control but after my brother passed away, nothing made sense anymore. The path I was traveling on dissipated and I was drowning in my own mortality. Running literally gave me a way to put one foot in front of the other, as cheesy as that sounds, it taught me that you don't need to know where you're going in order to move forward. Life is one huge leap of faith and as long as you want to survive, your resilience will help you endure whatever life throws your way.

Running showed me how to move towards something that I thought was impossible. I was intimidated, terrified, uncomfortable and afraid every step of the way but in the blink of an eye, I went from non-runner to marathoner and looking back, I wish I would have leaned into the unknown sooner. I don't regret that year I spent too terrified to move forward with my life because I needed that time to learn that I can't sit back and wait for opportunities to come to me.

Whatever you do, don't let fear or doubt stop you from doing something that feels impossible. Patience is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself whenever you're facing a challenge. Second guessing yourself is natural but it's OK to move forward even if you don't know where you're going. We're all capable of so much more than what's comfortable. Dare to challenge yourself, question yourself, and try new things. You're bound to hit speed bumps and detours, just welcome them with open arms. Believe in yourself. You'll figure it out.

Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.

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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.