How my life changed with a little sweat and determination
Story contributed by Josh Kaplan Chicago, IL. Edited by Ashley Gilday
Just over two years ago, I stumbled across a blog post discussing the book The China Study and the accompanying documentary, Forks Over Knives. Having always struggled with my weight, trying and failing at countless diet programs, I didn’t have too high of hopes for the plant-based diet they recommended. However, something about what they said spoke to me and I figured I’d give it a shot for a week and see how I felt. What did I have to lose?
Josh Kaplan 2004 pictured on left
One week later, after following a strict plant-based diet, I was down a few pounds and had seemingly endless energy! The immediate results far outweighed any longing for meat and dairy that lingered. Kale and quinoa quickly became staples in my diet and the relationship between food and overall wellness became clear.
I was hooked.
With my new-found energy and focus on wellness, rather than “dieting,” I decided to give running a shot. A co-worker found out about my new hobby and pushed me to run a 5k with the company team. I agreed. Prior to this, I had never ran more than a mile without feeling like I was going to die. So, training was in order. I started training for the 5K before and after work. I slowly increased my distance from a half mile, to one full mile, then quickly graduated to over three miles just before the race. When race day approached, I was ready. I completed the race without walking and I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.
Then something completely unexpected happened. I discovered a new love. A love for running.
I have always been one to bottle up my feelings and frustrations which caused countless issues in my relationships with those I cared most about. However, after I finished a good run I was on cloud nine. Any and all fears or frustrations from the day were gone and I was as happy as could be. Running soon became a form of meditation for me.
I would crave the time spent alone on Chicago’s lakefront trail, counting my breaths and working through all the random thoughts that went through my head. As my mileage started to increase, I found myself even more obsessed with running. If I had a good day, I would go for a run and it made it that much better. If I was having a bad day, I would go for a run and miraculously any negative feelings or frustrations seemed to vanish after the run was complete.
Within 4 months of that first training run for the company 5K (3.1 miles) I attempted my first half marathon (13.1 miles). Four months earlier, the thought of running 13 miles seemed obscene. There was no way this was me. That summer I completed two half marathons and started to wonder how far I could take this new love I had found.
That October I watched my cousin Keri run The Chicago Marathon and I immediately knew what my next goal would be. I was going to run The 2013 Chicago Marathon. For the next year, I dedicated my life to training. That year quickly became the most important year of my life. I was flourishing professionally, maintaining a balanced plant-based diet and spending 5-6 days a week training for the race.
Training wasn’t easy. Sometimes it felt more like work than fun, but I never gave up.
Training for the 2013 Chicago Marathon taught me that nothing was impossible if you fully commit. Waking up at 5 AM to run 10-20 miles every Saturday for an entire summer might not seem like the most fun, but I had one goal in mind and nothing was going to keep me from it. So, I kept moving forward reaching new milestones with every step.
On the day of the race, I found myself laying down in the middle of Michigan Avenue at mile 23. My legs were fully seized up and cramping. I knew there was only one way to go and that was to the finish line. The old me would have stopped and walked. That thinking doesn’t cut it anymore so I picked myself up, took 10 seconds to stretch and put one foot in front of the other until I found myself crossing the finish line at mile marker 26.2.
2 years, 60 pounds, and a thousand or so miles later, I’ve learned that no matter how difficult something is, there’s always an end in sight. You can reach your goals if you just put your head down and push through, fully committed.
No matter what’s happening in life, whether at home or at work, I am no longer scared of the unknown. The past 2 years of training and dedication taught me that no matter what happens, there is always a way through to a positive resolution. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. No problem is too difficult. No goal is out of reach. The seemingly impossible can be completed with some sweat, dedication, and a little determination.