By Jillian Van Leer
My running journey started 5 ½ years ago. Growing up, I was an avid hater of running. I couldn’t run a full mile, let alone be one of the fast kids in gym. I hated it so much, I wouldn’t even run while playing tennis.
Life went on, and in January of 2010, my soon-to-be sister-in-law asked me if I would run the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure with her. I laughed and said, “I don’t run.” She said, “I don’t either.” Since the two of us don't live near each other, I trained for five months with a friend. My training started on the treadmill, but I hated it with a passion, so I started running at night in my subdivision and, boy, did I become addicted quickly! I trained with the Couch to 5K program. My sister-in-law ended up walking the entire 5K because she still hated running. I still tease her because I fell in love with it and she despises it with a passion, but it was her prompting me that start got me addicted to running!
I really was astonished to discover that I loved running! I loved the alone time, the openness of the road, and the freedom it entailed! I loved how I felt afterward, how I felt like I could do anything. I had more confidence, I was happier, more joyful, and I had more energy to play with (then) young boys! I couldn’t believe the new-found positivity that running gave to me. More than all of these things, though, running helped me in ways I never thought possible.
You see, I had been struggling with overeating/purging ever since my oldest son was born. I hated my new “MOM” body. I wasn’t good to it. I overate because I was depressed, and the things I ate were bad for me; I didn’t nourish myself at all. After eating those bad things, I would feel so sick that I would make myself purge it. It was not fun, and definitely not healthy.
When I began running, I had been dealing with the eating disorder for four years. Nothing seemed to help. I couldn’t get myself under control, I was trapped in a dark place no one else should have to experience. Counseling didn’t seem to help, and even telling family members only helped a little, but not enough to make me STOP. That is, until I started running.
Running gave me a new-found confidence I’d never felt. With running, I gained the confidence in myself not only to run farther and farther, but to actually take care of myself overall. It was quickly apparent that if I didn’t eat healthier, I couldn’t run like I wanted; I also learned that when I did overeat, running was difficult and not as enjoyable. Not all the credit goes to running: counseling with my then-pastor was tremendously helpful, but without running, I don’t think I could have overcome my disorder.
|With my three kiddos after the Mother's Day 5K this year.|
I still go through spurts of unhealthy eating, spurts of not running, but it’s all a process and I know that. I know I might struggle my whole life with this, but the older I get, the easier it gets to handle. The more confident I become in myself, the better it gets. I owe my life to running: it finally helped me love my body, appreciate my body, and want to take care of it. My goal for myself is always to appreciate what my body can do, and be thankful for what my body can do!
|Me and my awesome kids after my first half-marathon.|
My body has run many miles in the past 5 ½ years, including three half-marathons! I’m hoping next year to complete a full marathon, and run even farther than this year. Without running, I am terrified of where I would be today; I can’t imagine life without running! I am very passionate about getting girls (and boys) the help they need to overcome eating disorders, which is one of the reasons I love Girls on the Run so much. It gives girls so much confidence in themselves! I wish it had been around when I was younger, but am so happy to be a part of it now as a coach!
|Girls on the Run!|
I just wanted to let you all know that if you’re struggling with this, or know someone who is, you’re not alone! Eating disorders happen in all walks of life. I was 24 when mine started! I am so thankful to my family and my running community for helping me succeed and love myself. Keep running, everyone. Keep encouraging one another. You’re all the best!
Want to get to know Jillian better? Check out her "Runfie" questions!
What brought you to DRC? I saw that a high school friend of mine, Tony McDuffie, posted his run on The Daily Run Club via Facebook. I immediately joined!!
Favorite shoes? How many pairs of running shoes do you have? Well, for the first four years of my running, I wore New Balance running shoes. Nothing fancy, just the cheapest, good running shoes I could find. Last year, my husband suggested I try Asics, so I bought a pair and I love them! They are so cushiony! I only ever have two pair. I know, I know... Once I get a new pair, my older pair gets to be my "around the house/mud" pair. Then I donate my older older shoes. I don't like a lot of clutter.
Do you have a dream race? Hmmm... dream race. I would love to run in a Disney race just because I've loved Disney since I was teeny tiny. I still love Disney & watch all the movies with my kiddos when I get the chance!