Dereine: HA!...I've been a fitness buff since the early 80s when Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons were the fitness gurus. High top aerobic shoes, thong leotards and leg warmers were it. I was living in Washington D.C. at the time and I joined an all woman's gym called "Spa Lady". In 1998, I moved back to my home in Bronx, New York and joined Bally's Sports Club. I was hooked and a bit obsessed about working out. Yes, I became a "gym rat".
In 2001, my company participated in a running event, the Chase Corporate Challenge (now known as JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge), which is an annual series of 5K road races promoting "fitness in the workplace". I was captain for my company and took it seriously, so I created running/walking schedules for my co-workers, promoted healthy eating and stirred up some excitement throughout the office. I started to love running and since then I have completed duathlons, triathlons, marathons and even biked from Boston to New York! I was. . .I mean, I am an athlete!
In the midst of all my events, I quickly joined the New York Road Runners Club and participated in their weekly/montly races. I found myself running with them every chance available, collecting an obscene amount of t-shirts, numbers and medals. I was hooked!! The adrenaline rush I felt before, during and after each race was overwhelming. Running became my therapy! If I were angry or sad, I would run. If I were happy and energetic, I would run. I used running to get my creative juices flowing. I could solve world issues after a good run. I was cleansing and I started to notice my weight was manageable and that my desire to be healthy increased! Running caused this domino effect in my mind and body. . .I was living in heaven! Also, when that gun goes off for every run I participate in, that first step. . .all racial, physical, educational and economical factors disappear, they don't matter. These barriers do not exist when you are running. The common goal is to finish and it is refreshing.
When it comes to running and fitness, I find that so many people inspire me. I've run beside the elderly, the blind and the handicapped. I am in awe of their will, their tenacity and focus. When I am running and that annoying voice in my head starts whining about being tired, hungry, etc. . .I can look to my right or left and see a 75 year old woman in her cute running gear, the blind man being guided or someone with a prosthetic and I think to myself "really Dereine, that's all you got?".
Over the past year, I joined Black Girls Run and this group has empowered me to share my gift of health and love of running with other women, no matter what their ethnicity. I've always been a cheerleader for others, but now I find myself on my personal runs shouting out at women in my local park saying "YOU GO GIRL!". My advise to other women. . .take another woman by the hand who may not be as active or healthy and encourage her to change the way she views her body and overall health. Share your gift with others, that is truly what being an athlete is all about.