Written by Sarah Carlin Edited by Mandy Brown

Meet Sarah Carlin, at 6’1” she has always stood out from the crowd but being the “tall” girl can sometimes feel like being the “big” girl. That is, until she figured out those stems can do more than stand tall, they can run, jump, and bring her self-esteem to new heights.

I’ve always been tall for my age. My Dutch and German heritage made it practically inevitable that I would grow to be the 6 foot 1 inch woman I am today. I grew up among giants on both sides of my family, and when I was (somewhat) little, I dreamed of the day I’d join their ranks and see eye to eye with them. I was signed up to play basketball before I even knew what basketball was, and I always knew my place in class pictures was the backrow.

I consider myself lucky, because being tall is something I’ve always been proud of, and I know that isn’t the case with everyone. But one thing I haven’t always felt good about is the way I’m proportioned – specifically, I’ve seen myself as “fat”.

I’ve struggled with thinking I was fat for as long as I can remember. I was athletic growing up, continuing with basketball and then swimming in high school, but I never felt like my body was skinny enough. In middle school, I’d pinch and poke my stomach, and I figured out how to cross my arms to hide it. The voices of insecurity echoed in my mind and stayed with me through high school and college. Instead of focusing on all the things my body had achieved, like winning swim events and helping our basketball team become victory, I focused on the physical flaws that I saw when I looked in the mirror. This mindset stayed with me through adulthood, until I began to run.

Learning to run has shown me that I am beautiful and capable and worthy, and it has made me feel so good about who I am inside and out.

I took up running two years ago after finishing grad school, a mostly sedentary experience for me. I wanted to exercise regularly again, and running seemed to be the best way to do so. Two years before that, I’d given running a shot and had broken my arm mid-sprint, so there was a bit of fear associated with trying again. What if my body can’t do it? There was a level of distrust between me and my body.

I started slowly, using the Couch to 5K program and I worked to complete my first race in March 2014. The experience was so much fun that I signed up for a full marathon soon after. Each week I ran a little farther than I’d ever run before – 10 miles, then 14, then 18. After every training run, I marveled at my body and grew more proud of it. I completed my first marathon in October, which was an emotional experience. I never thought my body would allow me to run 26.2 miles! Since then I’ve continued with half-marathons and am looking forward to my next full-marathon.

Running makes me feel strong in ways I’ve never felt strong before. It makes me stand even taller and feel invincible. I’m proud of my height because it’s part of who I am, but I’m prouder of what I’ve discovered my body is capable of. It’s gotten me through a marathon and more, it won’t quit on me and that’s something I’ve learned to be confident of. I can trust my body and those feelings of “can’t” have vanished. Learning to run has shown me that I am beautiful and capable and worthy, and it has made me feel so good about who I am inside and out. I believe that in my body and that has allowed me to believe in myself.