We believe that one of the most beautiful things about running is the community it creates. Whether sharing early morning miles with a close friend or joining run clubs and meeting new people, running is an avenue for connecting with others. This month, we asked our RADs about the person who got them into running, and if they are inviting new people into the sport. Read Karen, Selena, and Susanna's responses below.
I began running in May 1976 from the steps of The University of Chicago Law School, from where I was about to graduate with my law degree. The person who inspired me to start running was the iconic Frank Shorter. His gold medal at the 1972 Olympics impressed me, and in 1976 there was a lot of publicity around the upcoming Olympics in which he would again compete. At the time, I did not personally know Frank Shorter, but a classmate and I were determined to try “jogging”, as it was known at the time. We liked it! During the next few years in Chicago I connected with other runners, but the winter conditions did not appeal to me at all! I moved to Dallas and continued “jogging” through my early legal career. I was fortunate to be part of a national champion corporate team (Texas Instruments). In the mid-90s I met and got to know Frank Shorter through an annual competition for senior executives at the Cooper Aerobics Center, founded by the famed Kenneth Cooper. By then I was an accomplished runner and had run Boston three times with a marathon personal best of 3:08. My new corporate team, Overhead Door, fielded a relay team that competed against Frank’s team. Our CEO (also my coach and an inspiration to me) beat Frank head-to-head in a 2 mile leg, even though our CEO was 10 years older. Over the years, Frank and I maintained some contact and he wrote my son a reference letter for a college application.
I like to think I have gotten a lot of friends and co-workers involved in running over my 47 year running career, but the most important ones to me are my daughter and son. My daughter, a musician and now an Episcopal priest, is now 39 and saw herself as a non-athlete and thought she was in the wrong family. She finally started running during graduate school and went on to do a number of marathons and triathlons. I got to run her first marathon with her in 2017 at Flying Pig. My son, now 37, started running at age 6 and was (too) competitive. He beat me for the first time in a race when he was 9. He went on to be a college recruit and a Kona Ironman finisher. I am filled with joy to have been able to pass on the lessons and joys of running to my kids.
I grew up in a rural place, surrounded by fields, gorges, and forests. A mowed path snaked through all this— when I was little, I called it the “blackberry picking path,” because it was framed by brambles. In reality, it was my mom’s running track— a field path maintained by my father and grandfather via a big blue tractor.
We didn’t have a lot of resources growing up — no fancy fueling, no special gear, not even a real running trail — but my mom never let that stand in her way.
I also remember when my parents first deemed me strong enough to ride my bike around the block: a 3-mile stretch of country roads, which formed a loose triangle. I remember setting out with my siblings and my father, pumping hard on the peddles of my second-hand purple bike.
But what I remember most was my mom. I remember my bewilderment — no, my wonder — as I struggled up the pavement, wheels spinning, purple sparkles flashing, because my mom was running next me as I biked.
Later, in middle school, I remember how she convinced me to go on a “casual” run with her. I remember staring at the 1-mile hill-climb aghast, panting You run up that?
Then, in high school, my mom got sick. She was in a coma for a month, with less than 1% chance of survival. When she woke up, she had significant brain damage, and had to learn to walk, talk, and breathe again on her own.
Then she ran a half marathon while sick with pneumonia and battling leukemia.
But she hasn’t been able to run since.
Until this month. I ran my first 100 mile race this month; she and my father stayed up all night tracking me. And while I’d like to claim that it was me that inspired her, I think it might have been Courtney Dauwalter’s mom.
After the race, I told her how I saw Courtney Dauwalter on the course with her own mother, supporting her to a first 100k finish. In response, my mom strapped on her shoes and went for her first “baseline run” in years— she’s been testing out trails on weekends.
So, I don’t know what to tell you, but brace yourselves. Because this woman is the toughest runner— toughest person— I know. And the trail running world doesn’t know what’s coming for it. But I hope it’s my mom and I, finishing her first trail race side by side.
I am inspired to submit for this month's journal because I want my friend Sommer to know that she is a pillar to my running journey. Sommer is not responsible for getting me into running. She is responsible for me getting back into running. I started running in high school, was set back by an eating disorder and then ran again from 1999-2005. 2005 was a big year of running for me with my first marathon and putting together a team to run Reach The Beach. Then I moved 1000s of miles away to Denver and pretty much quit running. Fast forward, I met Sommer working together at Children's Hospital Colorado. In 2016, we both moved into the same neighborhood, less than a mile apart. We started running at 5:30 am several days a week. We both had young children around the same ages so we struggled together to get out there after sleepless nights, sick kids, and full time working mom stress. When she trained for the Chattanooga 70.3, I did her run workouts with her. It was on these runs that I learned more about myself, that I could go longer and farther and faster. So I did. When the pandemic hit, we stopped running together for about a month, and then we started again. Our runs kept us sane, where we could talk about the world being on fire, our kids struggling with virtual school and work through stress and anxiety. Sommer also introduced me to my other favorite running friend and I hope she doesn't feel that I stole Toni but more that we get to share this also amazing person! Sommer hasn't been able to run far these days, she's been in school full time, still working full time, parenting and now working through an injury but I value our short runs at 5:30 am as much as I always have. As I prepare to run the NYC marathon, I reflect a lot on how I got where I am with running. After 2005, I told myself I'd never run a marathon again but here I am lining up for my second this year. Without Sommer, I probably wouldn't be lining up and sharing the joy I found in running.