Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Trails Of Our Lives: Sonia

These are The Trails Of Our Lives, the stories of our adventures, our demons, our victories, in running and in life. If you're interested in participating, please email your story (how you started running, how you ended up on the trails, your struggles, your triumphs, your photos, anything you want to share) to

This is the story of Sonia. It has been a pleasure getting to know her on and off the trails. Her kind heart and perseverance despite injuries are an inspiration. There are many adventures ahead of her, including crushing it at the upcoming Ontario Summit Half Marathon!

The Trails Of Our Lives: Sonia

I didn’t start running until about 3 ½ years ago.  Before that, I had never run a day in my life.  I was a very shy, quiet person.  Mostly kept to myself.  Starting after college, I slowly started putting on weight.  I have always loved food and used it many times for comfort.  I am an emotional eater.  I eat when I am stressed.  I eat when I am angry.  I eat when I have been emotionally hurt.  I eat because I am lonely.  I know what I am doing before, during, and after I eat and that it is only hurting me more, but I do it anyway.  After a while, I seemed to always have headaches and everything hurt.  I got winded just going up the basement stairs.  I was never active.  I still have this image in my head of myself sitting on my couch, eating bean and cheese dip as a dinner, and being alone and very sad.  I was disgusted with myself and depressed. 


One day I went to Subway for lunch and ran into someone I knew from college.  We became friends again and met frequently for lunch during the work week.  This person started running after college.  We would talk about running a lot.  After a while, I found myself wanting to take better care of myself.  Wanting to come out of my shell and try new things and meet new people.  I thought about what I could do that would be interesting and decided I would start going to kickboxing.  I signed up for a one-year membership in September 2011.  That was the turning point for me.  I loved kickboxing. 


Before I knew it I became motivated to lose weight and try running.  As I mentioned, I had never run a day in my life before.  I had no idea what to do.  All I knew was that I was too scared to even try to run outside.  So I started on the treadmill in the safety of my own home.  I tried running and couldn’t even make it 30 seconds before I couldn’t breathe and thought I would pass out.  So I decided I would try to run until that point, then walk, then run again after catching my breath, etc.  That first run/walk only lasted 12 minutes, but I was so happy I did it!  So I started with a run/walk program on the treadmill.  I did it every other day after work.  After a while, I was able to get to one mile.  With the run/walk it took me 23 minutes, but again, I did it!  I started incorporating other workouts like the Biggest Loser DVD’s, pushups, situps, various kickboxing exercises, biking.  After five months I finally ran 1 mile without stopping!  I took me 12 minutes and 30 seconds.  That was on February 23, 2012.  I had lost forty pounds since September 2011.  I was happy again.  I had tons of energy.  I felt great about myself.  I was eating better.  I started feeling more confident and finally decided in March, it was time to run outside.  I did three miles.  By May I had lost 60 pounds and ran my first 5k race on May 20, 2012 at the Lilac Festival.  I ran it in 31:25 (a 10:06 pace)!  I couldn’t believe how much I had accomplished in only 8 months.  And I did it all on my own.  On July 4th I did my first 10k race at the Irondequoit 10k, with a time of 59:03 (a 9:30 pace!)!  I know they say not to focus on time, but I couldn’t help it.  It was so wonderful and despite a bout of shin splints, I felt great! 


I was at my lowest weight after 9 months and had lost a total of 90 pounds.  I couldn’t believe how much better I felt.  And being able to find clothes that actually fit me was wonderful. 


February 14, 2013 was my first ever trail run with a group and it’s where I was introduced to TrailsRoc.  I had a great time and running in the dark was pretty fun.  On April 27, 2013, I did my first half marathon at the Flower City Challenge.  My goal was sub two hour.  My plan was to start with the 2:10 group and slowly work my way up to the 2 hour group and stay with them.  When I got halfway through, my plan was to be ahead of the 2 hour group, no matter what.  Along the way I found Eric and Sheila running and ran with them for a bit.  Eric was pointing out buildings and telling me what to expect along the way.  After a bit, I continued on my own.  I crossed the finish line at 1:57:39 (an 8:58 pace).  I couldn’t believe I actually did that!  Everything seemed to be going so great, despite some kinks here and there, but like I said, everything I knew about running, I taught myself.  My legs started to hurt all the time.  A local running store I started running with talked about foam rolling so I bought one.  Things started getting better. 


Skip ahead to about a year and a half ago…my job at the time was a very toxic environment.  Managers started involving themselves in my personal life.  They started making bigger demands of me and made me take on even more work.  I was extremely stressed and would often go home crying.  I started eating emotionally again.  I stopped taking care of myself.  I was still running but everything else was going downhill very fast.  I started gaining weight again.  I started eating almost all my meals out, especially getting breakfasts at McDonald’s about 2 to 3 times a week. My work environment got worse.  I was being taken advantage of.  It was do as I say, not as I do.  I would get in trouble for talking to other coworkers when they came into the office.  I was told I was no longer allowed to talk to anyone.  A change in ownership of the company happened.  My safety officer duties were slowly being taken away from me.  I was only allowed to work on safety for one hour per week maximum.  After a while, I gave up.  I didn’t even bother to do that.  I was being told how to do my safety job from someone who has zero education in the area.  I was being micromanaged by three different people.  It got extremely bad.  I was getting hurt while running even more.  One day it got to be so bad at work my heart started pounding and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I was light-headed and couldn’t think straight.  I was so scared it was my heart since we have a high family history on my mother’s side.  I called the doctor.  They called me back and told me to have my family pick me up from work and take me to the emergency room.  I sat there all day.  I was told it was a panic attack.  I had never had one my entire life.  After I got out of the hospital I called my office manager at work to tell her I was okay.  She said, “well are you still working tomorrow?  Because I have an appointment.”  Wow.  Because I am such a nice person and never want to let anyone down, I went to work the next day, but first I went to see my doctor.  She put me on anxiety medication.  Over that next week, I had anxiety attacks all throughout the workday.  I would go home crying.  My managers didn’t seem to even care that most of my issue was the demands they put on me.  After a few months, I wasn’t getting better.  The doctor increased my dosage and also diagnosed me as severely depressed.  I started going to therapy.  My therapist gave me techniques to use when I had anxiety attacks, especially at work.  One was to just go somewhere and take a few minutes to just breathe.  Since the office was small, the only place I had was the bathroom.  I told my manager once I wasn’t feeling well and had to use the bathroom (panic attack, but I didn’t tell her).  After about five minutes I came out.  Feeling like I had to justify myself, I confided to her that I had an anxiety attack and just needed a few minutes.  A couple hours later, she walked to the bathroom and exclaimed as she went in “I have to go have a panic attack.”  This is the toxic environment I had to deal with.  Things got worse.  I stopped taking care of myself and my house.  I stopped cleaning.  I stopped cooking and ate take out most of the time.  I fell back into my old habits. 


Fast forward to January 2, 2015.  I was layed-off from my job.  While it was good for me to get out of that toxic environment, now the stress and anxiety was replaced with not working.  The depression got much worse.  I would get up in the morning later and later.  I barely ate, and when I did it was junk food or fast food.  I just didn’t care anymore.  I ran, but my heart just wasn’t in it anymore.  At group runs or in public, I would put on a smile and pretend nothing was wrong.  Like I wasn’t depressed.  Then I would go home and cry and eat bad food.  I started gaining weight again.  My old job called me and asked me to return.  I said I need to think it over.  I just couldn’t go back to such a terrible environment, could I?  People would tell me to take it.  It was better than being home.  No one really knew how bad it was there, and they just didn’t understand why I struggled so badly about going back.  I cried all the time.  I started having anxiety attacks again.  I got a letter from my old job.  The offer changed and I was to take a 20% pay cut and my safety job was taken away from me.  This was the last straw for me.  I refused the offer.  I just couldn’t go back.  My health was more important than a paycheck at that point.  If I returned, I knew I would end up back in the hospital. 


That brings us to today.  I started a new job three weeks ago as an administrative assistant after not being able to find a job in safety.  While it’s not what I want to do long term, the environment is so much better.  The people are really friendly.  No one is asked to work past 4:30.  Once a month they have birthday cake for that month’s birthdays.  Every last Friday of the month they buy the employees pizza for lunch.  Once in a while they bring us bagels in the morning.  I had never worked at a company that actually showed they cared about their employees.  I had my very own office.  Something I never had before.  I’m not being micromanaged, but trusted that I can do my job.  I started walking every day with two other coworkers at lunchtime.  The anxiety attacks have stopped.  I continue to go to therapy once a month.  I have gotten rid of negative people in my life.  Despite all this, I continue to battle my severe depression.  I have gained almost all my weight back that I lost.  I still am unmotivated to clean.  I don’t have people over because I am embarrassed for who I have become.  I am ashamed at basically having to start all over again from where I was 3 ½ years ago.  My running has suffered so greatly that I can barely run.  I think to myself “how am I ever going to lose this weight all over again?”  Very few people know about my anxiety and even fewer people know about my severe depression.  While I get better every day, it will be a long road ahead.  But I know with the wonderful family and friends that I have I will have tons of support.  While I haven’t told you everything about my story, it is a big relief to write this and have people be able to understand, as it makes me who I am today.  I wish this story had a happier ending, but for now, I am taking one day at a time.  For those who are curious, I am including some photos of me at my heaviest and my smallest.


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