If you don’t know me, I am a runner. When you first meet me, you don’t think I am a runner because I don’t look like a runner, but if you live near me, you will often see me running, and it doesn’t take long to realize that running is my “thing”. If you want to talk about it, I have stories, experiences, and I love to share my thoughts about running. Get any runner talking about running, and we can’t stop. I share this with you because it leads me into my perceptions and observations of my neighbor’s recent running accomplishment. I will caveat this by stating: I believe that there are 3 sides to every story. The observer has a side. The person who experiences it has a side. Then, there is the real side. Today’s blog is simply the observation of an accomplishment. I didn’t actually interview the new runner.
I’d like you to meet Kellie. Kellie turned 30 this past Saturday. She is my neighbor, my trainer, my small group fitness instructor, and my friend. She has recently become my runner-friend, and if you are a runner, you know that runner-friends are different kinds of friends. There is something special and intimate that comes with a runner-friend relationship. When I first met Kellie, she was not a runner. She had tried running, and like many others, she didn’t enjoy it. However, as we have gone through this challenging Covid-year, many people have revisited hobbies that they once did not like. The world has been turned upside down, so it’s the perfect time to try things that we may not have liked in the past.
Back in March, military families on Okinawa began experiencing restrictions. Some weeks, it wasn’t so bad. Other weeks, it became stifling. People complained. People had melt-downs. I am people. However, Kellie decided to do something positive with the extra time she had been given. She began running again. First, she decided that she could find a half marathon training plan. She would spend a few weeks working up to 13.1 miles. She had run a half marathon before, and it had not been a positive experience; this would be different. The weeks of restrictions continued, and so did her running. The 13.1 experience was a good one, and she wasn’t ready to quit. We also weren’t seeing an end to our restrictions, so she decided to run her first marathon in the fall.
Summer training was brutal. I was training for my own fall marathons, so I was out there experiencing heat and humidity that is indescribable. I have done summer running in Florida, Houston, and I have run many miles in the heat of summer in North Carolina, but NEVER have I experienced Mother Nature creating an atmosphere of stifling heat and humidity, where running, even in the middle of the night was challenging. However, Kellie found her groove, and her groove involved some sacrifices. When I would be sitting on the beach having a Saturday night cocktail, she would be lacing up because she found night time running to be easier. No Saturday night cocktails for Kellie and her husband, Lee. He was a trooper and would do some of the long runs with her.
September came, and she completed her first marathon. Unlike most people who get to go to a race, who get amazing crowd support, and who get to have a course laid out for them, she was on her own. She had friends cheer her on at various stops along the way, but because life isn’t perfect, and neither is technology, I think she ended up running MORE than a marathon. The thing about races is we know for a fact where the finish line is. Kellie, on the other hand, had to run further than her finish line to ensure that she ran 26.2. Now, this may not seem like a big deal to you, but if you have ever run for over 5 hours to then realize that your technology is not cooperating, this WILL affect your mindset, and if you are an endurance runner, MINDSET IS EVERYTHING.
Fast forward to December, Kellie celebrated her 30th birthday this past Saturday. She continued to run in October and November, and as much as I wish I could say that the weather cooled down and was perfect, I can’t. It was still hot. The humidity had died down, so breathing became easier, but running was still challenging, and Kellie continued to do her long runs. When you are training for an ultra (or anything longer than 26.2), long runs aren’t just once a week like they are in marathon training. Every run looks like a long run. Kellie continued to teach her classes, continued to put together personal training programs for her clients, and she continued to run. Then on December 5th, 2020, she stepped off about 5:30am on a Saturday morning, and she ran north. On Okinawa, running north means running toward the hills. She did not take the easy route. She ran north for 30 miles, did a cartwheel, and celebrated her big accomplishment. She did it on her own, and she did it unsupported. She didn’t get a medal. She didn’t get a t-shirt, but I she got something better. She built up a series of memories that she can keep with her forever. She will know that as people sat around and complained about this challenging year, she created her own set of additional challenges, and she conquered them. She created a series of stories of mini-accomplishments that will enable her to remember that she can conquer the bigger accomplishments, and she created a tribe of people who love her and support her. Kellie is excellent at building relationships, and I bet she created and nurtured new relationships through this process.
I write about Kellie because I want people to know her story. I want people to remember to try old sports or activities that they may not have enjoyed in the past. Maybe it will be more enjoyable now because you are different, and the world is so very different. I want people to realize that as they are out there trying new things, they are giving other people confidence to try new things too. I have heard people come up to her and say that they started running because they watched her. I want YOU to SHARE your story and experiences because YOU may be the catalyst that has someone trying new things too. There is so much suffering and sadness in the world right now, but within the sadness, if we look, we will continue to find people who inspire us to do and try new things, and I am grateful that Kellie chose to be one of those people.