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My family, from left, Calla; me; Elena, in front; my husband, Mike; and Leila in the stroller at the Color Run on Sunday, July 15. At every kilometer a different color was thrown at us, until we were a mosaic of color. By the way, it took over a week to get rid of all the color -- we looked like a family of smurfs.

Working Mom: Long journey to the finish line

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River Falls Journal
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Working Mom: Long journey to the finish line
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Having an 11-year-old and a seven-year-old who participate in competitive cross country and track (and I can't forget the three-year-old who puts her heart and soul into kids' fun runs), I'm often asked if I'm a runner.

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My usual reply had always been, "Not unless someone is chasing me."

Never did I think the answer to that question would be any different.

My journey to becoming a runner started with my job here at the Journal. I did an interview for a story with a very enthusiastic fitness trainer, Molly Jo Brenna-Severson, who runs No Excuses Bootcamp by Molly Jo.

During Molly's April interview I let slip that I was looking to start training for an early July 5K -- which my daughters and husband signed me up for.

Being the highly motivated and persistent person she is, she called me and suggested I give her boot camp a try.

At first I hedged. I had not "worked out" consistently for a while -- besides, I knew I wasn't going to train for this race and probably would pull out at the last moment.

But, with Molly's excuse bashing and motivating attitude, as well as my family's encouragement, I decided to give it a try.

The first day I went to boot camp was Thursday, April 12. We met at Glen Park.

To say I was nervous, scared and unprepared was an understatement. When I stepped out of my van, Molly and the other boot campers were smiling and welcoming me to the group.

The first thing Molly had us do was run about a quarter-mile, for 'warm-up."

I hadn't run since high school, so my thinking was, "I don't run." But Molly stuck with me.

As I clutched my chest thinking that my heart was going to explode, she looked at me and told me, "You can do it" -- for those few minutes I believed maybe I could.

The other women were surviving, so why couldn't I?

After the run and only 15 minutes into an hour-long session, I was already regretting not driving right past Glen Park.

Next on the agenda was more running -- down the path to the stairs that lead to the Kinni.

"Nice," I thought. "We are going to go down the stairs to take a hike along the river. Maybe boot camp won't be so bad."

I was wrong, dead wrong. There was nothing easy about what Molly had planned.

She ran with me down the path toward the river. As we got to the bottom of the stairs, she looked at me and said, "Run up."

I thought, "You have got to be kidding. Do you not see me? I am out of shape, and a little on the 'chubby' side. There is no way I can run up those stairs."

But I did it. With Molly encouraging me the whole way, I ran up those steps. At the top I felt strong and proud -- that is, until she told me to do it again.

I felt I would die if I had to do that again. But she wasn't letting me off that easy -- so again I went down the hill, through the clearing to the bottom of the stairs.

The next time was much harder. My legs felt like lead, my heart pumped, my lungs screamed and I couldn't catch my breath.

At the top, the feeling of pride and accomplishment was replaced by embarrassment and shame.

I was winded after going up 186 steps. Besides that I was starting to "black out" and thought I was going throw up in the bushes.

My only option was to sit down -- not something that is recommended when doing a hard workout, but cramping was the least of my worries. I was just hoping not to have to call 911.

As I hung my head and tried to catch my breath, the image of my girls running a race and the fear and dread I felt about my own upcoming 5K made me realize I needed this boot camp.

Molly sat with me the whole time, talking to me about the progress I had already made during that one-hour session.

I had run multiple times, including sprints, and I ran/stumbled/practically crawled up those steps two times. But, really, I had taken a step toward becoming healthier.

Would the next time be easier? Heck, I figured it was going to kill me that night, but I had to keep going. It was only going to get better...right?

It did get better. After five months I am coming up on 50 pounds lost and am over 40 inches skinnier.

I can run the whole quarter-mile loop without stopping. I have pushed myself up those steps five times without stopping -- that's 465 steps. More important, I have gained the knowledge that I can push past my physical limits.

Lastly, I completed that 5K. It was hard, but after the adrenaline got going I was "on fire."

And the proud smiles of my girls, the tears on my mother's cheeks, the congratulations from my father and the hugs of my husband were proof it was worth it.

So now when someone asks if I am runner, I can say, "Yes, yes I am."

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Jillian Dexheimer
Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.
(715) 426-1046
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