I am not motivational or inspirational. I’m just a girl, standing in front of a salad, wishing it was a pint of

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream.

My name is Maria and in 2017 at the ripe age of 32, my life was almost over. I was being consumed by depression and anxiety. I had 2 choices: let my mental health deteriorate or find ways to fight back. I chose to fight.

After my husband spent a grand total 16 days in the hospital over the course of two months in early 2017, I made the decision to overhaul my family’s lifestyle. No more fried or greasy foods, no more junk food, no more sodas! We also began walking daily.

The first family walk lasted 15 minutes and I was in so much pain. Nevertheless, we went out again the next day. We walked for 30 minutes almost everyday. Eventually, my daughters were “so over it”. My husband started using the elliptical and treadmill at home and I walked alone.

I continued to walk everyday that I could. I found an indoor walking exercise that I used on days I couldn’t get outside. I started wearing a Fitbit that I received as a Christmas present from a previous company I worked for. My goal was to get in 10K steps daily. I was on fire!

One day during my daily walks, the rain caught me about a block and a half away from home, so I decided to run back home as a way to protect my phone and Fitbit from water damage. That. Was. Hard! I was so out of breath after that short run. However, it stayed in my head, “Maybe I can become a runner!”

I remembered a friend of mine talk about a program called Couch to 5K. So I looked for an app for my phone. I chose the Fitness 22 App. June 17, 2017 was my first run using the app. I stopped and then I started again on July 9, 2017. I was sticking with it, until weather reports started saying a hurricane was heading straight towards South Florida with storm surges of 8 – 10 feet. At this time, we lived about 2 blocks from the ocean. We were on mandatory evacuation. Not knowing if we were going to come back to rubble, we packed all our important documents and said goodbye to our house and prayed anyone who stayed in the neighborhood would be safe. As we are preparing to evacuate, I get news that my cousin passed away from an undetected heart condition. He was 48. A few days later, Hurricane Irma hit.

I didn’t run again until October. I had signed up for the Foam Glow 5K and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I was unprepared, but I had paid for the race entries, so off I went. I ran for a few minutes of each and walked most of the way. The short runs on each of these days were enough to re-ignite that drive to prove to myself that I can complete this program.

I signed up for a few more races for fun. I signed up for virtual runs. The bling really kept me motivated. After a few set backs, I finished the Couch to 5K app and moved on to the 5K to 10K app. I finished that program as well and have my sights set on completing my first and second half marathons in 2019.

I used to say, “I need a buddy to workout.” That was my excuse; that I didn’t have anyone. I finally realized that I am my own best workout buddy. No one is going to achieve the goals I set, except me. So I’ve gone on this journey alone. Every run, I learn something new. I wing it. I come back and if something didn’t feel right, I Google and research. I’ve joined running groups on Facebook, I follow running accounts on Instagram, but this journey is all mine. The mistakes, the downfalls, the comebacks and the victories… all mine!

I’ll share my experiences with you though; you’re cool.