During a job interview, I was asked the question, “What is an item you would not like to live without?” My response was simple… “my running shoes.” I think there are two completely different sides to running: you either hate it or you love it – no in between. Obviously, I love running. I am addicted. That was not always the case though.
I was always a pretty active kid. I tried every sport you could think of – soccer, swimming, basketball, and volleyball. I also tried dance. Was I good at any of them? Hell no. Ironically, during probably the most physically active time in my life, I had the most unfortunate and not particularly healthy eating habits. My middle school did not have a track program until my freshman year of high school and therefore, my running career did not exist in middle school. I had to do a mile trial for volleyball and I dreaded it every single time. I told myself I could never run any further than a mile. My brother Dan is 3 years older than me and he started running track the first season the program started at our school. He suggested I give it a try, I laughed at him and told him I never would.
Never say never. Once I started high school, Dan and I became closer than close. He was my best friend. I was sad he was graduating even though he was set on attending the University of Pittsburgh before he even got in and would be home all the time. So I decided to try spring track with him but I wanted to do sprinting because it was short distance. About 3 weeks in, I started experiencing severe shin splints and would finish last in every heat I attempted in the 100m and 200m races. I decided to switch to the distance team and started practicing with them. I ran in the half mile in last meet of the season and surprisingly did not finish last. Who knew?
The following year (2009 – 2010), I decided to do indoor track and stuck with the distance team with my two best friends at the time, Kara and Daria. At the first meeting of the season, I met my high school honey, Anthony. He may argue that we met at a football game two months prior to this meeting but I don’t count that. I totally started crushing on him. I thought he was cute but he was definitely not into me initially (this is a story for a different day). This season, I enjoyed running the half mile and the mile. One meet, my coach accidentally entered me into the 2 mile and I told him I could not do it – I would never finish. In February, I fractured my tibia and was in a boot for 8 weeks. My doctor told me I could never run again even after the fracture healed because my bones would only continue to break. I still went to the last two meets and continued to support my teammates, especially Anthony. I also went against my doctor’s wishes and continued to run indoor track the next two years.
My one regret in high school was never trying Cross Country.
During my spring 2013 semester at Penn State, there was a Color Run 5K being hosted in March. I thought “hmm, this sounds like a ton of fun except the running 3 miles part.” Then I searched on the internet how to train for your first 5K and I developed the motivation to train for it and I did it and was so proud of myself. I started running regularly after that. Then, I ran Color Me Rad 5K with a bunch of my friends in June.
In October 2013, I ran two 5Ks both in honor of my THON family – the Four Diamonds Conquer Run 5K in Hershey, PA on October 6, 2013 and the THON 5K in State College, PA on October 26, 2013. After that, I knew I was ready to take on a half marathon. In November, I registered for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon that would take place on May 4, 2014. My goal was to finish in 2 hours and 30 minutes and strictly follow a 12 week training plan. I ran the Pittsburgh Pirates Home Run 5K with my brother in April in order to gage where I was in my training and did not run as well as I hoped. Before I knew it, it was marathon morning. With the love and support of my family, I ended up finishing at 2 hours and 22 minutes – 8 minutes faster than my goal. I was grateful.
3 months later in July, I signed up for a 10-miler with my cousin, Maggie, in Sea Isle City, NJ. 8 of the 10 miles were on the beach and my oh my, was that rough on my shins. I still did it anyway. My goal was to finish in under 1 hour and 50 minutes and I finished in 1 hour and 45 minutes. A few days after my 10-miler, my cousin Heather sent me a message asking me for hotel recommendations in State College, for she was going to be running the Mt. Nittany Marathon on August 31. I gave her a couple of recommendations and wondered if I could run a full marathon. The thought was crazy but I really wondered if I could. You never know unless you try right? Well, I signed up for this race a month and a half beforehand without telling my mom, dad, brothers, and almost everyone else in the family or friends back home in Pittsburgh, for I knew this would be an inconvenient weekend for them to drive up and be there for me along the course or at the finish line. Thankfully I knew I would be able to count on my family away from my family: my Penn State family at the time. Lauren, Nicole, Lex, Eisha, Anthony, Mike, Bobby, Zach, and Michael. The fact that all nine of them sacrificed part of their day to walk up to Beaver Stadium, in the rain, wait for me to cross the finish line cheering, and walked back home may not have seemed like that big of deal at all to them, but it truly meant more to me than ever. Heather had already finished and came back and ran my last two miles with me as I crossed the finish line at 5 hours in 15 minutes drenched and with bleeding ankles. I swore I would never run another marathon again.
Fast forward through a few more 5Ks (Conquer Run in October 2014, THON 5K in October 2014, Turkey Trot with Daddy in November 2014, Pirates Home Run 2015) to the end of April 2015, I signed up for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon the Tuesday beforehand because I did not have any finals during actual finals week and I just felt like running it. I hit another half marathon PR. Flash forward to November 2015 where I ran Philly with a group called Cents of Hope and raised over $8,000 for the Four Diamonds Fund. In 2016, I ran the Rock ‘n Roll DC Half Marathon in March and the Pittsburgh Marathon in May. In November 2016, I signed up for the 2017 Pittsburgh Marathon again and devoted my heart and soul into training and racing for my Uncle Terry. As a result, I finished WAY sooner than expected. I not only hit a PR but I hit a life goal of mine to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The best part about it was that I did it all for my beloved Uncle Terry. The last time I ever spoke to him face-to-face was on that special day and I will never ever forget it.
As my life continues to change, running is always there for me when I need it most. Putting one foot in front of the other is sometimes the most satisfying part of my day. Running is now a huge part of who I am. No matter what obstacle life decides to throw at me, running allows me to push through. I run to heal. I run to laugh. I run to breathe. I run in the sun. I run in the rain. I run for health. I run for me.