Running has been my passion since 7th grade. Prior to 7th grade, I loved to swim. After not making the swim team, I was saddened. I came home from school and there was a flyer talking about cross country running. It caught my interest. Once I learned how to run, I fell in love with it. I loved the team aspect yet running your own race. I ran 5 years of cross country. I was never really the best, but a good average runner to score some points for the team. I ran 2 marathons after high school, a few road races, and that was that. After college, I married and had kids and never made the time for running like I did before. I still enjoyed it but lacked the motivation and confidence to continue with it.
Three years ago, I was in a hospital bed awaiting the first of two cardiac ablations due to atrial fibrillation. I was dramatically overweight, inactive, drinking, and a bad role model for my children. After the ablations, eating gave me pain. Portion control and walking helped me lose 40 pounds. I thought about running but didn’t believe in myself enough to try.
Six months later, a friend challenged me to run Grandma’s Marathon. In the weeks that followed, I struggled to complete workouts. As the marathon drew near, a running accident sent me flopping to the ground and bruised the left side of my body. Then a family emergency kept me home that weekend. Frustrated but committed, I ran a marathon of my own. It took me a while, but I persevered.
Then in July, a hysterectomy sidelined me for two weeks. I couldn’t wait to get back out there. What started as a struggle was now my passion. Running became my favorite part of the day. As the pain decreased, I found myself running up those hills I used to walk.
Two months later, sick with a sinus infection, I completed the Twin Cities Marathon. Tears of joy streamed down my face as I crossed the finish line. My old life was gone. Instead of relying on alcohol, fake friends, and gambling to lift my spirits, running filled that void.
On World Autism Day, I ran a 52k in honor of the 1 in 52 boys living with Autism, including my son. I ran through sleet and snow and raised over $2,000 for Autism research. Each person that donated was with me in spirit. For the first time in my life, I felt like people believed in me. Running was now my saving grace.
But despite gaining confidence and losing 80 pounds, I experienced extreme gastrointestinal distress. After numerous doctor appointments and another surgery, I was frustrated. The doctors told me that I was making it all up, that I had mental illness.
This seemed ironic because I never felt more focused and driven. Doctors told me to stop running, but running was the only time my body felt good. People judged my outward appearance but didn’t want to hear my story.
Despite increasing pain, I knew that running wasn’t the problem—it was the answer. In September, I ran the Sioux Falls Marathon. I learned that day what an example I can be to others. People approached me and told me that my smile and stride pushed them to the finish.
My time qualified me for the Boston Marathon! I fell to my knees, praised God, and shed tears of joy. But two weeks later, that joy was ripped away when I received notice that I missed getting into Boston by seven seconds. I was broken! To achieve my goal, but not be able to participate was devastating. I questioned everything. I stopped setting goals. I swore off races. They would just end in disappointment, confirming that I was a failure. I’ll keep running for myself, but that’s it.
The following weeks were filled with anger. But despite my frustration, I found myself running farther and faster.
The thing that built me up then knocked me down was the only thing that would help me through. More than running from my poor choices, I was running toward happiness and becoming a positive role model for my children. Instead of turning to alcohol for temporary relief, I turned to running for lasting, contagious energy. My daughter used to ask to go to the bar with me—now she asks me to help her train for a 5k.
Running has become a metaphor for my life and can be yours as well. Quitting everything would have been easy after various disappointments, but life is an adventure and each path is worth exploring.
We may not know what lies ahead. We may fall along the way. Hills may be hard to climb. Paths may be icy. There will be intersections where we have to wait against our will. But if we keep running, there is hope and purpose. All we have to do is step out the door and stride toward joy. Lets do this race together and conquer those hills!
LET'S GET STARTED
From fearful to fearless