If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it. — John Irving
For many years I struggled on a daily basis—smiling on the outside, but fighting for light and joy on the inside. Depression is like that. An exhausting, ongoing internal battle. As a young woman in my early 20s, I reached my lowest and darkest place after the sudden, tragic death of a dear loved one. I coped with my pain by numbing myself with bad habits that only made me feel worse and even more helpless. I smoked cigarettes, didn’t exercise at all, had horrible sleep habits, drank way too much alcohol and lived on a diet soda and processed foods. I was lost and alone, heavy and tired. So sad. Desperate for change but completely unsure of where—or how—to find it.
Life has taught me that often the only way OUT when you are hurting is to go IN. As it turns out, the best way IN, for me, is through movement. And that form of movement is running.
In the spring of 1999, inspired by a friend, I decided to train for my first ever marathon. Running took me in so that I could take myself on. Anything but easy, each time I laced up my shoes for a run I went into it feeling doubtful and afraid and came home feeling stronger and more clear-headed. Braver. More alive. Lighter on the inside. Hopeful instead of helpless. Not only was I healing, but I was transforming myself and discovering a strength, a passion and a purpose within that I truly had no idea existed.
This discovery has shaped my life in ways I never imagined it would.
I crossed the finish line of my first marathon 14 years ago on a cold winter day in Philadelphia in 5:21:20. This spring I finished my 14th marathon—my second Boston and my fastest time to date—in 3:11:56.
Running teaches me every day that absolutely anything is possible. It reminds me that it is never too late to change your life from the inside out, that you have to let go in order to grow, and that it is so important to trust the process and believe that there is purpose to your pain and to your struggles. Running has become a way of life that I am fiercely dedicated to, and one that I truly want to share with others. In fact, I have built my career upon helping others take care of themselves from the inside out through running and Pilates. I am so thankful to be a coach and a teacher. It brings me so much joy and happiness to do what I love every day—to help others connect with their inner strengths, strive for the lives they love and go after the dreams in their hearts.
Last fall it was time to take the next leap in my training as a Pilates teacher. As I was researching my options for study, I crossed paths with a young woman named Kathryn who had recently moved to my town to direct the Pilates program at the new Lifetime Fitness here. Kathryn could not have been more kind to me as I embarked on this phase in my career. We connected instantly and she took me under her wings so that I could learn to spread mine as a teacher. Not long after we met, Kathryn’s father passed away suddenly. She expressed to me how difficult this loss was for her, and that the only place she seemed to really be able work through her feelings was while she was running. I could relate so whole-heartedly to what she was feeling. When Saucony invited me to participate in the 26 Strong program, Kathryn was the first person I thought of. I am so grateful to be able to give back to Kathryn in this way, to help support and guide her on this journey to her first marathon.
Together, we will be bold. We will be present. We will move forward. And with our heads up and our hearts open, Kathryn and I will FIND OUR STRONG.
For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.