Monday, September 3, 2012
A Summer of Firsts…and Seconds
For about as long as I can remember, I have been playing sports. It started with soccer when I was in Kindergarten. In fourth grade, I added basketball. In high school, I dropped basketball but joined softball and eventually swimming. Nonetheless, I’ve always been the fat kid. Even now, at 19, I have yet to maintain the “former” as my weight is a constant struggle.
I started college last fall determined to graduate as the thin girl. Well now that’s no longer my plan, but I am determined to graduate as the fit girl. The fall of my freshman year led me to Princeton Rugby. At 5’1” and a weight that I’m ashamed to admit that I hit, I joined a team that would go on to be in the top 16 D1 Women’s Rugby teams in the country. Well, I had definitely signed up for an adventure. I worked with a nutritionist on how to make the best eating decisions. I worked out more and harder than ever before. I was determined. From September to May, I lost almost 50 lbs.
As the season ended, I didn’t want to lose all the progress I had made. I’m one of those people who needs deadlines and tangible goals. I guess you can say that they make me accountable to myself. With my nutritionist (and personal cheerleader—thanks, Victoria!), I set the goal to run a 5K that was eight weeks away in under 45 minutes. I felt like that was a reasonable goal for me. My running was terrible. I couldn’t sprint. I couldn’t run distances. I just huffed and puffed on the field, hoping that the ball would come back towards where I was.
On June 26, I ran my first ever 5K. I had two goals going into the race: to not stop running—at all, no matter how tired I got—and to finish in under 45 minutes. Low and behold, I did not stop running at all (I don’t understand the people who do the whole sprint and then walk thing). Just a few weeks before, I had been doing a sprint workout with a teammate of mine who told me that physically you get the same relief from picking up the pace as you do from slowing down. I don’t know that is scientifically true or if she just put it in my head, but it’s worked for me. And it was exactly that that I told myself throughout the run. When I wanted to give up, and boy, there were multiple points where I did, I just picked up the pace and felt that instant relief. Eventually, I’d find myself slowing down, but I never stopped. And to me that mattered far more. I finished my first ever 5K at 37:26, almost eight minutes under my goal.
I played rugby the rest of the summer. In the last game of the summer, I took a dump tackle that left me concussed. I had to take three weeks off in recovery time. I’d rather take the time off then so that I was sure that I was good for the fall season.
Those three weeks are up. I’m back to running on the daily even though I’m on vacation. I’m feeling good but out of shape. We’re eating terribly, but I really am trying.
I have another 5K coming up. My goal is to be at 34 minutes this time. I know I can do it.
My name is Emilie Burke, I’m 19 years old, and I run to...do what I’ve never done before.
EMILIE BURKE is an undergraduate at Princeton University, concentrating in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs with certificates in Latin American Studies and Portuguese, where she plays Division 1 Women’s Rugby. Emilie’s life-long struggle with her weight is a driving force in her decision to become a more active runner. Her long-term goal is to train for (and eventually run) a half-marathon in the off-season.
Writer: Emilie Burke