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Meet Carolina Herrera (and Get Inspired to Go Log Some Miles!)

The first-ever Women Run the World essay winners gather at the 11th Annual More Magazine/Fitness Magazine Women’s Half-Marathon Start Line. (From L to R): Runner-Up, Allyson Barkan, Runner-Up, Megan McAuliffe, Fitness magazine Editor-in-Chief Betty Wong, Celebrity Host, Hoda Kotb (Today Show), Grand Prize Winner, Carolina Herrera, Runner-Up, Jill Eisenberg, Runner-Up Mary Shahan and More Editor-in-Chief Lesley Jane Seymour.

In case you missed it, the More/FITNESS Women's Half-Marathon this past weekend brought thousands of women (not to mention some gorgeous weather!) to rally together and kick some serious asphalt in NYC's Central Park. To pump up the girl power even more, many entered our Women Run the World Essay Contest, telling us why they run. Below, read the entry of grand prize winner Carolina Herrera, who won a $500 gift card and some serious race-day swag. Her story of running to overcome an eating disorder will remind you how lucky we are to have our health and the ability to run every day.

Why I Run

I was thirteen years old when I developed an eating disorder that would plague me for 16 years, until the moment that running saved me from myself.

I never planned to run. Simply, I took on a part time job at a fancy gym that allowed me to use their equipment. After a few weeks on the elliptical I grew bored, and I became intrigued by the giddy bouncing souls on the treadmills. So I moved 3 feet to a different machine, and with these 3 feet my entire life changed.

At first a single mile seemed impossible. I huffed and I puffed and there were days I felt I could not possibly keep going. Yet I kept going. My muscles became stronger, and I came to the realization that maybe I could run two miles. Three miles. And then maybe I could run outdoors.

During this time I began to look at my body in a different way. I began to value it for what it could do, not solely for what it looked like. One June day in 2012, I met with a spiritual advisor and I confided to her that on the days I ran, I felt I could eat with no remorse. She said simply: “So run more.”

So I did. And soon I signed up for my first race. When I crossed the finish line someone handed me a banana and someone else draped a medal around my neck, and I realized there was no turning back. That was it: I was hooked.

Since that race I have run many more. I have also been laid up due to sinus surgery and then again after a back injury. These times have been difficult, but I always knew I’d get through because it was never an option to quit. Not for me, not anymore. I now know the road is always out there, just waiting for me to come home. For that is what it has become: running is home. Running is where I go to connect with myself and with the world. It reminds me that there is beauty all around us; that there is beauty in me. My legs are strong today. They are thick and they are strong.

What running has taught me, and the gift it has given me, is this: I have learned to love myself; I have learned that there is more value in what my body can do than in what it looks like. I have learned that the once booming voice in my head that yelled I was not good enough is but a whisper today, and that with each resonating step that my running shoes take, that voice quiets until it is no longer heard. I have not forced myself to throw up since June 9, 2012. I have treated my body with respect and love. I have, at last, found peace within myself.

And this is why I run.

-Carolina Herrera

Now Tell Us: Why do you run? Sound off in the comments below.

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