Dimity McDowell: An Introduction

My mom tells me the fastest she ever saw me run as a child was when I realized I’d left my hat for marching band in the back of her minivan, and she was driving away. Having the right uniform for high school marching band, I guess, was enough to make me turn on my jets as I never had before. (Yep. Marching band. Pin an “L” on my forehead.)

Thing is, I never felt like I had jets to turn on. I was active as a kid (softball, tennis, swimming, among others) but running, let alone speed, was not my forte. I was—and am—extremely tall. Always the tallest in my class, and these days, at nearly 6-foot-4, I’m usually the tallest person in the room. Despite the gazelle-like message my long legs may transmit, they lie. They’re actually quite heavy and uncoordinated, and during my childhood, getting them to run always felt like way too much effort.

My attitude changed when I got to college and joined the crew team. (Height is an asset in rowing; the longer the limbs, the more leverage on the oar.) We occasionally trotted out to the boathouse, and I was surprised to find, over time, I could run 3 miles continuously. My senior year, I got serious about rowing, and I spent the following year trying to make the 1996 Olympic Team. I didn’t make it, but I did log tons of miles on the road while cross training—enough that when I moved to New York City, post-rowing, I could easily lap Central Park 5 or 6 times a week. (I would’ve liked more variety, but I didn’t make enough money to join a gym.)

After watching—and being totally inspired by—the 1996 New York City Marathon, my friends and I decided we should run it, and we did the following year. I had become a runner without really consciously making that decision.

These days, running is just part of who I am: mother, wife, sister, daughter, writer, runner. I run less for the time on the clock than I do for the perspective running brings to my life; after a run, I am a more patient mother, a more loving spouse, a more efficient worker and a more positive, happy person. I still like to challenge myself with races that aren’t a gimme—I did an Ironman last year, and will do the Pikes Peak Ascent before going 26Strong at the Philadelphia Marathon this year—but a 4-miler on a random Thursday morning feels as good as any finish line.

I picked my cadet, Kelly Pollock, a mother of two and attorney from Chapel Hill, N.C., because she has a similar get-it-done-but-don’t-get-too-hung-up-on-it view on running. I’m thrilled to help her find her 26Strong—and have tons of fun as we virtually train for 26.2 together.

Although I am a certified running coach, I don’t coach individual clients; instead, I, along with my business partner and co-author Sarah Bowen Shea, focus on Another Mother Runner, a virtual aid station, and our two books: Run Like a Mother and Train Like a Mother. A third book will be out next spring!

Twenty-some years into my running career, I’m not sure I’ve ever run faster than I did in pursuit of my band hat. And that’s just fine; my miles have taken me plenty of places and solidified the person I am today.

For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.

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