I began running when I was in elementary school in England, chasing ponies and their riders at a local riding stable. I loved running alongside the young riders while taking them out on a trail ride, which is probably where I found my love for running the trails, knee-deep in mud in the pouring rain laughing like the school kids we were was the best part of being a child.
Competing in cross country and track through secondary school and college for a local running club, as well as my school, kept me busy and out of trouble! When I graduated from my university and moved overseas, I found a love for my career and running became something I didn’t do as much. When I moved to America in 2000, I realized how lost I felt without running being a core part of my life and knew I needed to run to feel like “me” again. I also realized how it served as a way for me to process my days, to solve my worldly ponderings, and formulate plans to take on the next day with an open heart and mind. I started running again by joining my high school kids at their cross-country practices, learning that they could seriously leave me in the dust, but their energy led me to want to feel the energy of training for “something” again. Knowing that I couldn’t get back to the speeds I ran just a few years prior, in 2003 I set my sights on running a marathon, a distance I had never run, so a distance where I had nothing to compare. I quickly learned I loved running long, and ran a couple of back-to-back marathons, before jumping into a couple of ultras, without really knowing what I was doing (sometimes, ignorance really is bliss!). I started to figure out how to coach myself, and after all, I had completed my coaching certification in the UK, so I knew what I needed to do. It was fun, I loved it, and I really came to treasure those moments to myself. In my role now, I am sure that it’s my daily running that lets me figure out some of the most complicated things I need to tackle in life.
In June 2007, I happened to be in Spokane for a conference while the Ironman Coeur d’Alene was happening, and jokingly, said out loud that I’d love to do that someday. My colleagues laughed and made some sarcastic comments about “running not being long enough”, which of course, led me to sign up for the 2008 race. I had not ridden a bike since college (over 10 years), nor had I swam since I was a child, but, hey, I could run, so what could go wrong? I found a local triathlon club, bought a wetsuit, dusted off a bike, and jumped in a lake swim race—which I promptly DNF’d, rode 10 miles and felt like I was dying, and quickly realized…oh dear, they might be right. But I had time on my side, a strong work ethic, and knew that I could do this crazy thing. Where there’s a will there’s always a way, right?!
By January 2008, I was in a training groove and starting to figure this Ironman thing out. By May, I was feeling pretty confident, but then I got sick, and by sick, I mean really, really sick in a not-normal cold/flu kind of way. I had a horrendous pain in my face (learned later that that pain had a name: trigeminal neuralgia), I felt completely exhausted, and just plain miserable. My doctors didn’t know what was wrong and put it down to the amount of training I was doing. I survived the Ironman, still feeling lousy, and promptly signed up for the following year, having had an absolute blast (even despite feeling sick still). The weird thing was that after I finished, I didn’t get better, and I actually got worse. Eventually, I was diagnosed with MS. Thankfully, I was referred to a neurologist who told me that while there were meds, the best way to manage MS was through diet and exercise. I remember feeling so relieved that they didn’t tell me I needed to give up running! Thanks to their words of wisdom, and their working with me, I figured out how to manage my training load and living with MS. Through perseverance and many trials and errors, I was able to get off of all my medications except one. I learned to run every day, which is something I’d never even tried (I used to live for rest days!!), knowing that just a few miles made the world of difference in how I felt.
Since being diagnosed with MS, I’ve run 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and am qualified for numbers 13 and 14. I’ve completed 97 marathons, including 7 full Ironmans, three 50-milers, and several 50k’s; my 98th marathon was on 9/12/21, my 99th was Boston in October 2021, leaving number 100 for Boston in 2022!! As if I wasn’t busy enough with work and training, I also completed my Doctorate in Education in 2015. I served as an assistant principal and principal for 15-years before moving into a district office leadership role, as one of our executive directors of teaching and learning. I absolutely love the work I do and appreciate the fact that I am in a position where I can embrace both my love for my work and my love for my running. I find ways to wear rabbit every day at work (thank you long sleeve EZ tees and tortoise necks), and as I live in the district in which I work. I run almost exclusively in rabbit gear (with the odd Boston gear thrown in for good measure!) so I’m easily spotted; while I might not be a big social media user, I’m definitely a huge ambassador in real life!
I’m absolutely convinced that running every day saved me and prevented my MS from getting any worse. On those days when I feel absolutely miserable, I know that running will make me feel better, and that the effects of not running would be far, far worse than how I am feeling in that moment. BUT, I’m not going to lie, some days are tough, especially when I haven’t felt like I’ve had as much sleep as I need (and I am sure I can sleep for England!), or I’ve had crazy long days, but I wouldn’t change it for the world!!