Emily’s CHAARG Journey: My Knees are not the Enemy

31 miles in 31 days – for me, that seemed nearly impossible. I was going to Chile + I knew I wasn’t going to have time to run while I was there, plus, running + I aren’t exactly the best of friends…

For me, running is that one ex-boyfriend that you can’t seem to get over. We dated for a long time, we fell in love [hard], + then we had a nasty breakup – the kind that involves crying + screaming + burning old pictures because it hurts too much to look at them anymore.

You see. I used to love running, but when my knees gave out, I had to quit running [actually fitness all together] + I didn’t take it very well.

Before the CHAARG FitPlan last fall, I hadn’t worked out since my dreams of playing collegiate sports went down the drain. There was something really wrong with my knees that doctors don’t usually find in people until they’re 50 or 60. Lucky me, I found out I had old-lady-knees at the ripe age of 17, just as I was applying to colleges + dreaming about swimming collegiately. My knee problems sent me to a dark place — a place where I had to come to terms with the fact that my body had turned against me, a place where I had to realize that my sports career was over, a place where I was forced to reevaluate my future: I was no longer *Emily the Athlete* —  I was *Emily the Cripple.*

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It. Was. Hard. My knee problems took a toll on my body physically, but more so on my body mentally. I was defeated + I gave up. I got surgery on my left knee on March 6, 2013. I was fully cleared from recovery in September 2014. I joined the CHAARG FitPlan in October 2014 ++ then, my life changed.

The first week involved an incline running workout. Since my breakup with running, I had toyed with the idea of getting back together. I would try it out, go on a few short runs, + then remember that I hated running + I’d quit again. I saw that first Rise+Run workout + thought “…do I have to?” But, in the spirit of CHAARG, I tried it out… ++ I loved it! That first running workout pushed me to realize that I can run if I want to run – I just had to do it. It was then that I adopted my I CAN + I WILL mantra.

I realized that my knees were not the enemy — my mind was. I had been putting myself down all this time + telling myself that I couldn’t do anything. I told myself that because that’s what I’d been told by my doctors, “You can’t run. You can’t squat. You can’t exercise.” Well you know what? I can + I will — I can do anything I put my mind to!

…except run 31 miles in 31 days…in a foreign country. #runCHAARG started on January 1st + I left the country on January 2nd. Was it really feasible for me to try + do this challenge? Probably not, so I decided not to participate.

As I was packing my bags on January 1st, I started freaking out. I didn’t have everything I needed for Chile, my coursework wasn’t finished, + my suitcase was about 50 lbs over the 50 lbs limit. I sat on my bed + started crying — I was too stressed out to function. Out of habit, I started scrolling through my #inCHAARG Instagram + saw all these girls posting photos for RunCHAARG. I realized that I was worrying about a million things, but the one thing I wasn’t worrying about was myself. I needed to take care of myself first + my suitcase second. I dropped everything I was doing + went on a run. During my run, I decided I was not only going to participate in the #runCHAARG challenge — I was going to complete it.

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++ so I did! I went to Chile, I studied, I ate, + I ran. My classmates thought I was c-r-a-z-y! It was constantly in the 90’s + we were always tired, but when we were done with class activities for the day, I would run. I didn’t run every day, but I did it as much as I could. I battled the heat, exhaustion, the bustling city streets, the language barrier, the GPS satellites, + a lot of street harassment [which is very common in Chile, especially when they see a 6 foot American girl running like a gazelle down the streets in the middle of the day].

I fought against everything standing in my way, but the one thing I didn’t fight against was running. I was tired of fighting with running, we’d been fighting for four years. I sucked it up + faced it head on. ++ so I ran… a whopping 37 miles!

I ran 27 miles in Chile, more miles in three weeks than I’d ran in the past four years! Then I came home + kept running! I did another 10 miles back in Maryland! My #runCHAARG journey took me through both extremes of the spectrum – I literally ran in 99 degree weather + 1 degree weather. I ran in the sunshine, the snow, the sleet, + the rain. I ran in two different countries + I didn’t let my travels stop me from making my health + fitness my first priority. #runCHAARG taught me that I am unstoppable – [I CAN] run + [I WILL] run, all I have to do is put one foot in front of the other.

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[FROM INSTA] IT’S SO INSANELY HOT…

In fact, it’s so hot that our professors canceled our activities for today because of the heat. So naturally I went on a walk outside anyway + just about died from the heat! But, luckily I packed my favorite post workout snack — LARABAR. I literally packed 25 LARABARS in my suitcase + brought them to Chile with me. How can I participate in #runCHAARG without my favorite snacks? Thanks CHAARG for inspiring me to stay #inCHAARG in Chile!

+Emily [@emilyh_inchaarg], UMD CHAARG

#CHAARGJourney highlights our members’ amazing journeys through CHAARG — physically, mentally, emotionally. Emily was one of the five winners of the #runCHAARG 31 miles in 31 days challenge. We could not be more proud of all of her for getting after it while abroad + cannot wait to continue following her journey through CHAARG [++ prayin’ for her knees, as she will be undergoing a second surgery in the future].

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