Convinced by my study hall teacher (and XC coach) that running would help me get in shape for softball, I went to my first cross country practice in the 8th grade. As I finished that first run in second place, Coach Gibson declared that I would NOT be playing softball. Because I had enjoyed the run and the team atmosphere, I happily became part of the first ever Houston High School (Germantown, TN) XC team. Our school was large, and running became more than just running; It was my niche, my social life, and my teammates were my family. Our team was successful, largely due to our coaches’ emphasis on team and tradition, and this positive experience led me to continue running at the collegiate level.
I chose Lambuth University (Jackson, TN), because I was convinced that it would be an opportunity to help begin and build a program similar to our high school’s. Unfortunately, the school showed little concern for cross country, and we went from having one inexperienced coach to another, and my junior year the janitor drove us to our few meets. The stark differences between high school and college ingrained in me an appreciation for the concept of team and the importance of camaraderie within athletics.
My college sweetheart and I were married, and I managed to continue running, even as the Lord blessed us with four children in four years. One of my favorite memories is from a 5K in Memphis. I was running, very visibly pregnant, and pushing two children in the double baby jogger. It was comical to pass people, hear the hushed comments about me pushing two children, and then see their faces when they noticed I was also expecting!
When we moved to New Albany, MS in 2001, my husband became a teacher at East Union Attendance Center. With the help of Coach Greer from Myrtle and the kindness of several other area coaches, we started the cross country program there. For three years we worked with the students and tried to develop the same type of family-team atmosphere that had helped my high school team to success. Our efforts were not in vain!
At this point in life we moved to Louisville, KY to help start a church. Through our (amazing) YMCA, I heard about an event called the “Triple Crown of Running.” If a runner completed a certain 5K, 10K, and 10 miler, each only a week or two apart, she received an extra t-shirt. Although I had not run more than 6 miles in years, I was sold. Runners will do some crazy stuff for an extra t-shirt! These races got me excited about longer distance running, and this excitement carried over when we moved back to New Albany in 2007.
Back in Union County and without a team to coach, I continued running and began a cross country team for homeschooled students in our area (the Spartans), again with the emphasis on the team aspect of the sport. In 2010 I also became the cross country coach for Blue Mountain College, and I truly wanted to give the Toppers the college team experience that I did not have at Lambuth. BMC is a great place, but after two seasons I realized that being the wife of a football coach, homeschooling 4 children, coaching the Spartans, AND coaching/ recruiting at the college level was more than I could effectively tackle at the time.
During this time, I ran the Memphis St. Jude half marathon a few times and was bitten by the MARATHON BUG… I got it in my head that I would like to train for a marathon, and being from Memphis, the St. Jude seemed like a great place to start. ( Koach) Kenneth Williams gave me a plan, and I began my journey into the unknown. In my mind, I was only going to do ONE marathon. Just to check it off my bucket list. It would logically follow, that if I was going to do only ONE marathon, I wanted to do it fast enough to qualify for Boston. Made sense to me, but all of my veteran marathon friends were a bit dubious. Although I did qualify for Boston in that first marathon, it was not my last. On the way home from Memphis, I was googling marathon calendars and thinking about trying the distance again.
I followed Memphis with New Orleans, Memphis again, and then the Goofy Challenge last January. The Goofy Challenge (13.1 one day, 26.2 the next… all for an extra t-shirt!) was probably the most fun running I have ever had. Seriously. That race was a blast!!! I did New Orleans again with a friend, and then Boston last spring. By the time Boston arrived, I think I had worn myself out with too much racing, and my hopes for a PR were unrealistic. I ran a qualifying time, but just BARELY!! The overall experience was unparalleled and unlike any other race I have seen or experienced. I do not want the tragedy of 2013 to be my only Boston experience, and so I would like to return again this spring. However, after last April I was too worn out and broken down to train for another faster qualifying time… so we will see in a few weeks if I am going back in 2014!
Meanwhile, I continue to balance finding time to exercise with spending time in God’s Word, being a football coach’s wife, homeschooling, being foster mom to a 14 month old, coaching the Spartans, and all the joys and difficulties of being a mama. Running has been part of my life for years, and will hopefully continue to be… but it is just a PART of who I am. My relationship with Christ and my family make up the lion’s share!