Running at Different Weights

A runner’s size doesn’t tell you as much as you might think. In my near­ly 15 years of run­ning, I’ve had the unique expe­ri­ence of doing so at weights dif­fer­ing by near­ly 50 pounds. On my 5’5’’ frame, that’s sig­nif­i­cant. My weight has played a major fac­tor in my run­ning – but prob­a­bly not in the ways you might think. Sure, I was my fastest at my light­est weight – yet it was also my unhealth­i­est; I was able to run my far­thest at my heav­i­est weight; and I was my weak­est men­tal­ly at my ide­al (accord­ing to BMI charts) weight.

running-at-different-weights-1The sum­mer before fresh­man year, I was 15 and excit­ed about join­ing my first high school sport, cross-coun­try. I found run­ning fun and sat­is­fy­ing, so I gave it my all. Then I made var­si­ty and spent the next four years in a love-hate rela­tion­ship with run­ning; I loved the feel­ing it gave me to com­plete a work­out or run a new dis­tance, but I hat­ed the com­pe­ti­tion and nerves of rac­ing at the var­si­ty lev­el. I weighed around 115 pounds through­out high school, falling with­in the ‘healthy’ sec­tion high­light­ed for my height on the BMI chart. I was com­fort­able and con­fi­dent with my body, proud of how it allowed me to run.

The first half of my fresh­man year in col­lege I dropped to 105 pounds. I had vol­un­tar­i­ly cho­sen to skip join­ing the cross-coun­try team that first fall, because I want­ed a break from the nerves and pres­sure I put on myself while rac­ing, and I want­ed to focus on adjust­ing to col­lege life. By spring, I could no longer get clear­ance from my doc­tor to join the track or cross-coun­try teams because, at 98 pounds, I was too under­weight. I stayed at that weight through­out col­lege, and con­tin­ued run­ning on my own. Although my low weight was due to dis­or­dered eat­ing and bor­der­line OCD, my ded­i­ca­tion to run­ning had nev­er been stronger. I had unin­ten­tion­al­ly freed myself from the expec­ta­tions of a team and was only run­ning for myself. I start­ed run­ning half marathons and even won one in 1:27:00. I real­ized train­ing solo and rac­ing longer dis­tances was where I felt most at peace – even at such an unpeace­ful time in my life.

I put on 20 pounds over those two years, and qual­i­fied for Boston with the com­ple­tion of my first marathon.

A cou­ple years after col­lege, I began dat­ing the man I would even­tu­al­ly mar­ry. Being a pro­fes­sion­al chef and avid rock climber, he was in incred­i­ble shape and knew what healthy real­ly meant, through and through. With­in two years of dat­ing, he had com­plete­ly re-edu­cat­ed me on what ‘healthy eat­ing’ real­ly means, and shown a lev­el of com­mit­ment to me I’d nev­er expe­ri­enced, which gave me con­fi­dence to try just about any­thing. I put on 20 pounds over those two years, and qual­i­fied for Boston with the com­ple­tion of my first marathon. I then signed up for my first triathlon and was soon train­ing for a half Iron­man. I put on anoth­er 20 pounds over the next two years and found myself at 140 pounds. What­ev­er wasn’t mus­cle must have been con­fi­dence; I’d nev­er felt fit­ter or faster in my life. Final­ly I signed up for my first ultra marathon, a local 50K, and my hus­band ran it at my side.

Half Ironman, 140 lbs.
Half Iron­man, 140 lbs.

Our third year of mar­riage, we decid­ed to take a stab at par­ent­ing. At that time, my doc­tor rec­om­mend­ed I slow down on all the train­ing and even gain a few pounds. I was flab­ber­gast­ed – gain weight? I was already at my heav­i­est ever! Turns out, mus­cle (and con­fi­dence, of course) weigh a lot more than fat, so the num­bers on the scale real­ly don’t tell you what you want to know. In need of a men­tal and phys­i­cal break from all my long dis­tance train­ing any­way, I com­plied with the doc­tor and backed off on my work­outs. My weight hit 145, and you know what? I still felt good. I still felt fit. I still felt con­fi­dent. Then….I felt pregnant.

Five weeks after giv­ing birth, I squeezed (bare­ly) into my old run­ning clothes and began the process of get­ting back in shape. Hav­ing lived through birthing a nine-pound baby, I had a very new respect for my body and its capa­bil­i­ties. Run­ning and breast­feed­ing brought me back to my pre-preg­nan­cy weight with­in two months, and I won my first trail marathon at 130 pounds, when my daugh­ter was five and a half months old. I felt bliss­ful­ly hap­py, con­fi­dent, and healthy.

Trail Marathon, 5 Months after Birth
Trail Marathon, 5 Months after Birth

It’s been a 15-year jour­ney so far, but I have def­i­nite­ly learned to respect my body at vary­ing weights, and I under­stand now how lit­tle a num­ber may actu­al­ly reflect your health, abil­i­ties, and con­fi­dence.  Here’s to the con­tin­u­ing jour­ney and embrac­ing health! 

By: Audra Run­dle