Updated: Nov 13, 2022
“Surprise!!! I'm sure you'll be shocked to read this.”
I used the above sentence as a preface to my email announcing to my loved ones that I had registered to run the 2020 Chicago Marathon. I went on to say that I never thought I would aspire to run a marathon and am still surprised that I have become a "runner."
To be a real runner, I always thought you had to possess extreme athleticism, intensity, and physical skill — three traits that I did not think I had. But after working as a Pre-K teacher, running became a much-needed outlet. It allowed me the time and space to disconnect, explore, and listen to my favorite music (thank you, Lizzo).
I aspirationally signed up for the Nashville Rock & Roll Half Marathon in 2020 (mainly as a joke and an excuse to visit Nashville) in support of a friend running the full marathon. As a result of the pandemic, the event was canceled. Despite this, I continued to train and I ran the 13.1 miles at home, in solidarity.
Accomplishing this milestone, one I never imagined myself seeking to pursue, reminded me that I am strong — so strong, in fact, that I decided I wanted to run a full marathon. I registered and started to train for the 2020 Chicago Marathon in support of Bright Pink. Bright Pink helps to prevent lives lost due to breast and ovarian cancer by empowering women to know their risk and manage their health proactively. I hold this mission close to my heart as my family has lost loved ones to breast and ovarian cancer. It was my mission to run in honor of those we have lost and to empower ourselves and so many other women.
However, as with the Nashville half marathon, due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ caused by COVID, the 2020 Chicago Marathon was canceled. While this felt like a big blow to my momentum, I was determined to taper my training and stay in running shape so that I could tackle 26.2 the following year. I did just that.
Training for a marathon is hard work. You have to wake up early most days, as you steadily build your endurance up to running 20 miles before race day. Many days, you don’t want to run. You feel tired, sweaty, and sometimes bored. Your feet blister. Your laundry basket is constantly filled with gross, wet clothes. And you spend lots of time stretching and nourishing with pre and post-running meals.
Why would anyone subject themselves to this? For me, there was nothing more gratifying than proving to myself that I am capable of more than I could have ever imagined. That’s what building mileage on my long runs feels like and that’s what continually propels me forward.
I am still learning to distinguish between the days that are reserved for rest and the days that require the mental push to get out the door. But I know that my best runs are the ones where the hardest thing was lacing up. There’s a sense of fortitude–both physically and mentally that I have gained through this process.
The 2021 Chicago Marathon weekend finally came and I was emotional. I felt anxious in the big crowds and long lines to get my bib. I felt overwhelmed having family in town just to cheer me on. Physically, though, I felt fine. I had already run 20 miles. I could do this.
And I did. The day was a blur. In reporting to my loved ones after completing the marathon, I wrote, “I think I had a smile on my face for almost all 26.2 miles (the end was tough). Running has been an empowering journey both physically and mentally and though I can barely make it down stairs today, I think I have a lot more running in me.”
Eleven months later and just over one month away from the 2022 NYC Marathon, I am in the thick of marathon training and as determined as ever. I’ve experienced some lower back discomfort, which is new, and have started working with a physical therapist (thank you Kerry Nolan at Fit Club!). I’m exploring a city I’ve never before traversed via running. I am powerful and inspired.
I run to empower myself and all those who don’t think they can. Believe me, if you want to, you will.