We hosted a lively discussion with five amazing and very unique women at the Boston Marathon. While their accomplishments range from Olympic Trials qualifiers to brandishing the cover of Vogue, these thought leaders grounded themselves in a way that way truly humbling. They connected with each other and related with the crowd through running.
“I came to distance running in 2012 when I was going through a period of depression,” said activist and organizer Allison Désir. “My boyfriend was cheating on me, I couldn’t find a job and my father was 7 years into a Lewy Body Dementia diagnosis. Thankfully I saw on Facebook that my friend was training for a marathon and raising money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. He was this black dude, former member of a fraternity, not your typical runner and it opened my mind. I thought, if he can do it, I can do it.
“So I ran that marathon and I raised $5,000 for the society and remained active and started thinking about how transformational the experience had been. I wanted to share that with my community.”
Allison went on to found Harlem Run, an organizations that helps empower underserved communities in New York City. More recently she started Run 4 All Women, and led a 240-mile run from Harlem to Washington D.C., raising over $100,000 for Planned Parenthood.
“I was just desperate enough to start running.”
Kelly Roberts, Oiselle Haute Volee athlete and founder of the blog Run, Selfie, Repeat said, “I graduated from college and I didn’t really know what to do. When I was in college my younger brother passed away from acute alcohol poisoning at 16. I gained a lot of weight, over 75 pounds.
“Earlier that year I’d watched my best friend do a marathon, who was never a runner, and I just felt like I needed to do something. So I went for my first run, down the block. And I had to walk. But for some reason I kept going. And then two months later that same best friend who had run a marathon got me to run a half. I barely survived and I slept for like 20 hours afterwards.”
Kelly didn’t immediately take to running, she is the former President of the “I F*cking Hate Running Club” and founded the #SportsBraSquad movement encouraging women to embrace their bodies and show off that sports bra. Running helped her stop body shaming and embrace the shape she is in. While none of it has been easy, she has finished several marathons with a personal best of 3:45 and hoping to toe the line in Boston someday. For Kelly, the hardest part was getting started. Model and activist Candice Huffine felt the same way.
“I watched [my husband] and saw how running changed his lifestyle,” Candice said. “I cheered him on, but I always kept it at arm’s length. I was just scared, to be honest. I was scared to start and I just kept telling myself that I couldn’t do it.”
But with time and the support of her friends and her husband, she was ready to make the leap.
“I was making plans for the New Year [entering 2016] and decided I was going to do a half marathon,” Candice said. “Once you put that out there, then you’re accountable. I had to put my money where my mouth was and there was an end goal I could meet in the near future. I thought that was going to be my only race, but then I did it and it was, ‘What’s next?’
“I wanted to create a community that inspired other women as well, because I feel like there’s a little secret that we’re all in on when it comes to the benefits of running in your life, and I felt like it was time to share that.”
The organization Candice founded is called Project Start, and it helps women do exactly that: start running and then start to make other positive changes in their lives.
For some women the challenge isn’t just to start, but to keep going.
Amanda Nurse is an elite runner who qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2016 with a personal best time of 2:40.
“I’m totally in a new chapter of my life. I was supposed to be seeded in the elite field this year, super excited for that, but I found out the day that I got my elite bib that I’m pregnant,” Amanda said. “So new twist, I’m going to be running in wave one and running for two this year.”
She ran this year’s Boston Marathon in 3:05 – not her fastest time, but one that would be a PR for many runners. Amanda is approaching motherhood with the same confidence she brings to running. And if we could each learn something from her, it’s that you don’t have to give up your goals and ambition with a newborn. Instead, Amanda is thinking long term and targeting the 2020 Olympic Trials.
Our last panelist to share her story was Kaitlin Gregg Goodman. Kaitlin runs for the Strava Track Club and is an Olympic Trials Qualifier in the 5K, 10K and marathon distances. Kaitlin started running track in middle school and the talent that would later lead her to a professional running career was immediately evident. She explained how it helped her find her place during her teenage years.
“Running was always something I was good at and I took a lot of confidence in that during the awkward high school years with glasses and acne and braces,” Kaitlin said. “So the track was always a place where I could be myself and stand with confidence, even when I didn’t have a lot of it.
“My mantra is to run joyfully … to run is a gift. It’s not, you have to go running, no, you get to go running.”
The reasons each of these women run is as varied as the way they approached the sport. They run to battle depression and overcome loss, to accomplish things they never thought possible, and to gain confidence as a teen and as an adult.
Maybe running helped you get out of an uncomfortable situation or maybe running pushes you to a new limit. Share the reasons why you run in the comments below.