This week in the spotlight is Valerie from Berkeley California. Valerie's smile and story will melt your heart! Her courage, strength, and intelligent is hard to believe and she makes juggling work and family look like a walk in the park!
What got me into running? The party-like race environment and camaraderie of runners. Why do I continue to run? Exploring new neighborhoods and trails brings adventure into my life. Time on my feet gives me a chance to reflect on life and brings me peace. And, as a runner, I appreciate my body- it is a machine I need to fuel properly. Thank you for letting me share my story.
In early 2000 I had been struggling on-and-off with anorexia nervosa for about five years. At that time, I was doing dramatically better than when in high school, but I was still very thin and was overly focused on the shape of my body. After walking a 10K with my father, I fell in love with the carnival atmosphere of races and decided that I wanted to be a runner. Running completely changed my life! I began to acknowledge my hunger and feed my body without restrictions. I remember in college, there was an 8-mile loop I loved that ended at the San Marcos River. Frequently after completing the run, I would walk a few blocks to Subway and eat an entire foot-long meatball sub. Other days I let myself eat an entire pint of ice cream after running for a couple of hours. My body was starving but now I was a runner and so I was happy to feed myself without judgement or guilt. The more I ran the more I loved my body and all of its abilities.
I ran my first half marathon in April 2000 and continued to run half marathons for a few years. After completing an eighteen-mile run, I decided I was ready to train for a marathon, and in April 2004 I completed my first marathon-the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, TN. Eight weeks later (and on a whim) I ran my second marathon in Estes Park, CO. I ran a few miles with a 50-stater, and I made it a goal to complete a marathon in all 50 states. This was during graduate school when I had seemingly endless free time, so the travel involved did not bother me. And indeed, my first 21 marathons/ultras took place in 20 states and one Canadian province.
During Summer 2008, I decided to join the Marathon Maniacs (I'm #1057). I truly love this group of runners as the carefree party ambiance they bring to marathons brightens my world. The spirit of the Marathon Maniacs is exactly why I decided to become a runner over 11 years ago. Every time I see a mob of yellow filled with lots of encouragement, smiles, and silliness, it reaffirms just why I do this -- sheer joy.
Today in 2011, I am still a runner but I am also a wife and working mother. My life is more than just research and running like it was in graduate school. I will happily miss a run in favor of spending extra time with my son Sebastian. How do I continue to run marathons, be present with my son, and "bring home the bacon" for our family? I do the best I can, and I frequently feel like I am pulled in many directions with the weekends being a particular challenge. Should I run or volunteer at a local race? Work on my research? Take my son to a park to play? Cook a special meal for my family? Or spend some one-on-one time with my husband? Of course, I want it all, and I do everything but a little less than I'd like. I wish I could run more and do more research and have more family time, but alas I am human. I do the best I can and I'm happy with that; 31 marathons/ultras (24 marathons, 7 ultramarathons) in 22 states, 10 published research papers, a tenure-track position at the University of Miami (starting 01/2012), my beautiful 19 month old son Sebastian, and my wonderful husband Jerry. Life is good.