Me, starting No Boundaries in 2011 vs me coming back a year later as a coach!
by Chelsea Schiavone
Throughout my whole life I was a self-conscious person. I was constantly concerned about what people thought about me and how I looked, and I was obsessed with comparing myself to other people to see how I lined up. This mindset stuck with me all the way from childhood to my early 20s. In the fall of 2011, I was 21 years old, overweight (weighing over 200 pounds), I was struggling with anxiety and depression, and I had zero self-confidence. I cried in dressing rooms every time I had to go shopping for new clothes and I felt threatened by other women’s beauty. I was a jealous and insecure person. I had a good and happy life, a supportive and fun family, and a wonderful fiancé who loved me no matter how I looked. But that lack of self-confidence always lingered in the back of my mind– maybe if I was “skinny-er” I would like myself more? With that mindset, I decided to pick up running, as it seemed like the cheapest exercise I could do on my limited college student budget. One afternoon at work I saw a flyer for the Fleet Feet Huntsville No Boundaries 5k training program. I was such a shy person, and I HATED trying new things and especially doing things alone. So to this day, I cannot tell you what made me sign up for the program, but years down the road I am still so grateful to my past self for taking that step. It truly did change my life completely.
I should note that I have never been an athletic person in my life. I never played sports, I hated PE class, and the closest I ever got to exercise was the once a year powder puff football game I begrudgingly participated in at summer camp. When I showed up to my first No Boundaries meeting, I was a nervous wreck. WHY did I do this? Maybe I should just go home. There’s no way I can be a runner! I was anxious and afraid, but somehow I convinced myself to get out of my car and gather with my fellow trainees. On that first day, we ran a one mile. I had never run a mile before in my entire life, and to be perfectly truthful, I thought I was going to die. While running that mile, I cursed running and swore off the group completely. But then I finished! It was exhilarating! I did it! I can’t believe I did it!
No Boundaries was just a small taste of all the wonderful things that eventually came in to my life because of running. I finished my first 5k (Rudolph Run 5k) with that group, and throughout the training I met so many amazing people that I still run with to this day. After No Boundaries, I joined the Next Steps 10k training program and completed the Cotton Row 10k. After that, I got *really* brave and decided to join the Half Marathon training program and successfully finished the Huntsville Half Marathon. In the winter of 2013, I did something I always said I would never do: I ran a marathon, and of course, I trained for it with the Fleet Feet 26.2 Training Group. Along the way, there were highs and lows to my journey; I doubted myself constantly, and often felt like I wasn’t a “real” runner yet. But thanks to the wonderful support system I found in the training groups, I never ever gave up… even when I really wanted to! Without the coaches and mentors I had in these groups, I never would have had the courage to keep going. They all believed in me before I ever believed in myself, and being a part of this community has taught me so many valuable lessons.
Somewhere in the midst of all that training, running became a lot more to me than just a way to lose weight and have a smaller pants size. Instead of looking at my body and feeling ashamed and embarrassed, I began to appreciate it for its ability to be healthy and strong. My weight has certainly changed a little throughout this adventure, but my mindset has been transformed completely. No longer do I cry when I can’t fit into a pair of jeans in a store that caters to size zeros, and no longer do I hide or shrink or feel ashamed of what I look like. Losing this obsessive mindset over my looks opened my eyes to see things about myself that I never had time to notice before: I’m a good friend, I’m fun, people like me because I’m not afraid be silly and laugh, I’m loyal, I’m a really good cook, I’m kind. My body is capable and fit, but it is not the most important thing about me; it is my tool to experience the incredible world we live in, and that’s why I enjoy taking care of it, respecting it, and occasionally pushing it to its limits. Who cares how much I weigh right now or what I look like, I can run marathons!
These days I am an avid long distance trail runner (the woods are my happy place), mentor of the very same Fleet Feet training groups I was a participant in, and new member of the Huntsville Track Club Board. In the past two months I have finished two 50k races and full marathon as a part of the Huntsville Grand Slam series, just going to show that you should NEVER say that you’ll NEVER do something!! My running friends have become my family, and my adventures with them have been some of the best times in my life. I am so thankful for what this journey has given me, because it has transformed into so much more than I ever anticipated. I fell in love with the active life, and more importantly, I fell in love with the way that being active made me feel– vibrant, confident, happy in my own skin, and capable of nearly anything.
If you are interested in reading more about my adventures, you can find me at my blog home here: Chelsea Runs