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The #WhatARunnerLooksLike Wednesday series features everyday women runners and their real thoughts on running, their accomplishments, struggles and bodies. We created this series as a way to help ordinary women runners tell their extraordinary stories. We have been inspired by the stories of other women runners and received much strength to know that we are not alone in our struggles. Some interviews are silly, some are long, some are short, and some are profound. We hope you enjoy, and if you’re interested in sharing your #WhatARunnerLooksLike story with us or know someone in your running circles that has an inspiring story to share, simply use this online form to submit your story.

This week’s #WhatARunnerLooksLike Wednesday feature is Shivali from @bake_n_run.

Women’s Running Community (WRC): What Made You Take Up Running?

Shivali (S): I have struggled with my weight my whole life. From being a person who enjoys the couch way more than anything else & finds comfort in rice & potatoes, I had never run willingly. I am not counting the punishment runs we had to do in PE class. I remember countless excuses & forged sick notes I made my mom write just to skip PE. No, I didn’t just hate running I vehemently despised it. I would say “It’s just not for me”.

In 2009 I moved to the US to start school and I didn’t realize how much free on campus food + emotional eating could affect me. In 2011 my highest recorded weight of 210 lbs …any sort of physical activity was literally the last thing on earth I could imagine myself doing voluntarily up until 2012. I remember numerous times I had “tried” to lose weight & failed miserably. I don’t remember exactly whether it was an inner awakening or comments from concerned friends &
family..but I had a realization moment when I went shopping for my graduation dress & thought I was a size 10 but really I was a size 14! I remember my eyes getting cloudy in the dressing room. I bought the dress & I wasn’t too excited about my graduation coz it sink in how I let myself go not caring for my health this past 1.5 years.

I kept waiting for the right moment to do something about it you know. I thought after I graduate I would join a gym. Then I said when I find a job I would. When I found a job & moved to a new city, 4 months passed in just settling down & getting used to a full time job & handling life!! One day after having 3 donuts for lunch at a work potluck, I felt miserable & I told myself I will never be ready until I take the 1st step. I remembered my promise to myself & how I let myself down so that evening, after work, there was a gym in my APT community, I decided to check it out.

Running was hard to me. I didn’t like it. I had a pair of Nike running shoes that my friend had bought me & on the recommendation of my friend, I downloaded the free mapmyrun running app for my iPhone. I thought I would give the treadmill a try. I couldn’t even run for a minute straight. But I set a goal for myself: Don’t quit. I “tried” to make better food choices, cut out fast food, drank more water. After a couple months of keeping at it, I could walk for 5 mins & then run for a whole minute without stopping. I set a goal for doing this for 10 mins which would give me 2 mins. of running & I did this 3
times a week along with yoga, zumba & other group classes offered at my local gym. Gradually I increased my cardio workouts to be 20 mins. & then 40 mins. with more running mins. incorporated in between. I still hadn’t become a runner per se but I did commit to going to the gym 4x a week & making those changes I started to see big results
fast….. -5 lbs then -10 lbs, -25 lbs …. I ended up losing exactly 59 lbs in about a little less than 2 years. Putting me at my lowest weight on this journey of 151 lbs.

In 2014 a friend asked me to join her for a 5k run. I looked at her & said, “You must be joking” Me and running? She said trust me, you have come such a long way, I believe you can do it… I did my first 5k , took me 45 mins! I signed up for a 10k & started to train for it.. I tried to power through & push myself to do a mile without stopping, then 1.5mile & then 3. I now love to run & sometimes I do it to clear my head, to stay committed to myself, to prove to everyone who said to
me “haha why chose her in our team? She can barely move”

WRC: What Do You Love About Your Body?

S: Its so easy to get into this cycle of obsessively focusing on weight loss, hating your body shape and thinking that your life will be perfect when you lose weight. I have been guilty of that myself. I kept thinking: “THE MORE I RUN, THE MORE I WILL LOOK LIKE THE IDEAL RUNNER ON THE COVER OF THAT MAGAZINE” so for my love of running, I kept clocking in 100 mile a month but I would still reward myself with whatever I felt like eating that day. We are conditioned by people around us to assume that being skinny and fit will bring us happiness and make our lives whole. But I have learnt that what is truly important is to feel free and connected, have lots of energy and have the confidence to fully express yourself.

Now I run for me and not that number on the scale. It took me a long time (and some days I still get back to that old vicious chain of thought) to figure out how I truly want to feel, to identify my core values in life and take ownership of my vision. Acceptance of self & the fact that everyone is different, so this has to be my personal manifesto. Now I let those values, that vision and those desired feelings guide me and I let them be my motivation.

WRC: How Has Running Helped You Appreciate Your Body?

S: I may not be the fastest runner ever and heck I may never qualify for Boston but I love the fact that my legs carry me through miles that feel incredibly hard on some days..and I have the zeal to carry on and not give up & still have a smile on my face.

WRC: How Has Running Helped You Physically, Mentally, Emotionally, and/or
Generally In Your Life?

S: A year and a half, 7 halfmarathons and a journey of 1200-ish miles & sometimes I still am uncomfortable when friends say “Oh & she is a runner”. Losing the unwanted weight wasn’t the hardest part about my journey, however gaining SELF-LOVE & SELF ACCEPTANCE was the most difficult. I love nike ‘s ad campaign “Everyone has an inner athlete”. No
matter how crappy my day was, if I would see that commercial, it used to always pump me up & make me feel like a badass. I started to maintain a personal log on Instagram (@bake_n_run) & I saw all these fitness pages with slender women happily confidently working out in their sports bras. But I didn’t look like them. So even after putting in some great, some sh***y, and some forgettable miles, I would question my runs. I would shun the thought of running a marathon coz to run 26 miles, I felt like I needed to prove to myself that I needed to be a certain weight, look a certain way. But the thing about running is that it gives you certain LIFE REALIZATION moments. Running makes you resilient, & strong & courageous & confident. And I understood that trying to be the best version of myself was the ultimate performance. Its me VS me. And eventually, I became secure in that knowledge. And I found acceptance when I accepted myself.

WRC: What Do You Think About When You’re Running?

S: When I run, I get reminded of how dreadful was the time when even running for a minute straight without stopping used to seem like a humongous task!! 59 lbs heavier, u bet I hated to run. But when I run, its like a moment of clarity, I am in my zone watching a film without sound playing in my head..flashback to NOW. During my run, sometimes I smile thinking about my journey, & sometimes I have my eyes filled with cloudy little tears coz this journey hasn’t been easy.

If you would have told me a year ago that I would be working out almost every day and running 100 miles/month, I would never have believed you. Running really snuck up on me. I had modest aspirations and didn’t really care if I was great at running. I just wanted to stick to my one goal. Don’t quit.

WRC: What Do You Love Most About Running?

S: There’s lots of good things about running. I love running outdoors. Taking in the views 1 mile at a time. Through running, I made some amazing friends. The running community is so supportive & welcoming. My favorite part about running is when I do long runs on Sundays, I look forward to pancakes & scrambled eggs. Or french toast. YUM.

WRC: What’s Your Favorite Part Of Being A Runner?

S: My favorite part of being a runner is that I now have the courage to set goals that TERRIFY me. That drives me to put in the effort coz its not about something being perfect, its about you putting in effort every single day. That’s how you crush goals. You dream of something that terrifies you, then you put in the work for it.

WRC: Do You Engage In Other Sports or Activities? If So, What And How Often?

S: Besides running, I love yoga. I have a desk job so after a long day at work, I come home, light up some scented candles, put some relaxing yoga music (I have a spotify playlist) I get on my mat & just practice some asanas. Unwinding that way had helped me calm my mind & also helped stretch my muscles sore from running. I do this once a week. But when I am just looking to do some quick recovery stretching, I practice some quick cats & cows, downward dogs & my favorite is to lay in the pigeon pose.

WRC: How Do You Stay Motivated When You Don’t Want To Run?

S: The thing with running is that you are not going to want to run every day & not every run is going to be fun..I have had that happen to me more often that I would like. When that fire is weak, turn to a buddy or your partner for help. Every runner needs a support network – a group of runners who can help them through good and bad times. Through every injury question, every PR, and every bad workout. My hubby is my biggest cheer leader & on days when I stick to the couch, he either says he would join me if I go for a run NOW or he reminds me how awesome I feel after I run. Also I am a part of a dope crew called Concrete runners. Sometimes on days when I don’t feel like running solo, I ask others who are running & join them. Thats how I mostly turn the frown upside down.

WRC: Most Memorable Race Or Running Accomplishment?

S: I turned 30 last week & at the beginning of this year I started to wonder, how crazy would it to be to celebrate turning 30 in the most momentous way by running 30 miles. I wanted to do something special, something I would remember for a long time to come to celebrate my milestone birthday. Please keep in mind my longest run had been 14 miles yet. If you ask my friends who I went to high school with or even college, everyone for a fact cannot associate me with being active. I myself didn’t believe that I could do it. But the thing about running is that it makes you feel like you can slay the world! I
wanted to do something special, that would challenge me, push me to my limits and I would remember for a long time to come. and I DID IT!!!!

I RAN 30 miles the day of my birthday 🙂 This feeling of accomplishing what was so daunting in my head..and while I was doing it I was questioning every cell in my body, “you could have had 30 mini donuts or something, you crazy 😜 ” Being a runner has been the biggest blessing of my life 🙂

WRC: What Is Your Best Tip Or Advice For A Newbie Runner?

S: When I started running, I wanted to prove to myself and to others that I could do this. I also wanted others like me to get outside of their comfort zones and try things they always wanted to. That’s what was my motto. Just because you think you hate running may not mean you hate running. Take my word when i say that 🙂  A few weeks is all it takes to catch the running bug. When people ask me how I became a runner, I tell them that running the race is easy compared to the challenge of starting to train for it. When you are at the start line, your body & mind are prepared to face that challenge & have developed the hunger for it. But for people like me who are battling self doubt, the 1st mile itself is a marathon . I say be patient with yourself. Coz that is what the body needs to continue from that 1st step to an even more important 2nd step- KEEPING AT IT. Whatever limit you set for yourself, DIG deep & keep pushing at it. I remember when I first started running, I would tell myself “Just make it to that Stop sign, and slowly you can run 2 blocks without stopping. Gradually building on it, you would realize that you can keep moving your finish line further & further away. Enjoy yourself & celebrate your little accomplishments.

WRC: What’s Your Favorite Affirmation?

S: REMEMBER WHY YOU STARTED. Do it for that, do it for YOU!




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