Hey, Salty Runners! I am utterly thrilled to be joining a community of strong women runners, as I’m sure many of my non-running friends are thrilled that I now have an outlet for all my running talk that isn’t them. I’m not an elite, but I’ve gone from zero to marathoning and ultramarathoning in a short amount of time and it’s rocked my world for the better. I hope that my blunt insights on running, life, and parenting bring you some inspiration and some laughs.
So many how-running-changed-me stories begin with a shocking picture. I have one of those stories, but there will be no shocking picture. That picture right up there on the left? That’s my transformation picture. It doesn’t look one, but how could a photo show a runner whose broken heart is mended, whose self esteem and trust has been restored, or whose passion is found?
My husband committed suicide in July 2006, leaving me and our 7-month-old son behind. I’d been the one to find him, lying next to his hunting rifle on our front porch steps. That morning life was good, my future exciting and full of happiness. I was preparing for my second year as a high school biology teacher. My husband and I were happy and totally in love with our little boy. We had a close community of friends and family that supported and loved us. At just past 6:00 that evening, the sun had fallen from the sky, I was flung far out of orbit into a swirling darkness, and my entire sense of reality turned to dust.
Even a year and a half later, I continued to live life going through the motions, often on autopilot, caring for my son and spending long hours at my job. I started dating another teacher. Iton didn’t know me before, so perhaps he didn’t realize I was just a strange shell of a person I used to be. One evening he told me about an upcoming duathlon, and suggested we train for and do it together. I didn’t know what a duathlon was. I biked quite a bit, pulling Kellen behind my mountain bike in a trailer, so that part sounded doable. But running? Two three-mile runs? I hated running. Iton worked his persuasive magic. I felt a huge sense of pride upon finishing. I’d never done any sports; I had always identified as a non-athlete, so this was my first taste of competition and sportsmanship.
Iton then suggested the local 4th of July 10k. I kept up running three days a week, occasionally four, stretching my runs up to 6 miles, and finished the race in 56:33. At that point, I was hooked. Seeing the miles add up on my calendar, planning my week around these chunks of time where I got to forget all the sadness, all the uncertainty, and just focus on my breathing and enjoying the endorphins that helped keep the depression at bay.
I signed up for a half-marathon in November. Then a full marathon in April 2009. I qualified for Boston at my second marathon in October 2009, when a year earlier I had no idea what Boston was or how you even qualified to get there. My metamorphosis continued. I returned to Eugene and ran the marathon there 13 days after Boston and finished a minute slower than my Boston time. I was a runner.
6 years after my rock bottom, I can add three 50k’s to my resume, some half-marathons, my marriage to Iton, one DNF, faster training, 5am running, a miscarriage, five disappointing marathon finishes (never living up to training that aimed me at a 3:15 finish), destination races with a few amazing best running girl partners, leaving my teaching career, a daughter, a comeback.
I now have a new goal: the NYC Marathon! I made this goal when I qualified for automatic entry in a half-marathon in fall 2014 running my PR, 1:32. This is twenty-three minutes faster than my first half! After my rock bottom, I’ve now gone from running zero miles ever to running six days, averaging 60-70 miles per week. Hills are my friends. I can drop Sub-7-minute miles that feel good, and smooth, and easy. I feel on the verge of more: a breakthrough.
If I could go back in time and show my 2008 self a picture of who I am now, I’d see myself, older, but stronger. I wouldn’t believe the other changes. A heart mended, a passion found, a family rebuilt, my rudder reattached and reinforced. Back in orbit. An athlete discovered in my own skin. Totally transformed.