This year, on my and my husband’s first wedding anniversary, we are running our second marathon – the Marine Corps Marathon.
Because of my running journey and how much of a positive impact the sport has made in my life, I am choosing to dedicate this run to and fundraise for Girls on the Run. I chose Girls on the Run because, for many reasons, I believe society has failed our girls and needs to work on building them up. Girls who participate in sports do much better in school, in their personal lives, and in their careers. This is a program that helps girls run and shows them confidence in themselves. It also teaches them about nutrition, values, and friendship.
In my own youth, due to issues at home, I had trouble making friends and had low self esteem. By elementary school, I started gaining weight and was never any good in gym class. Whenever I didn’t run fast enough or didn’t catch the ball, I felt like all the other kids were mad at me… and their parents too. This persisted throughout high school, and I always tried my hardest to sit on the sidelines. One time, we had to run The Mile indoors due to weather and we buddied up to keep tallies for each other. After slacking off so long, running proved to be rather difficult. My friend ticked my tally marks off so fast, I can only assume to save me from dying in the gym, that she had me finish the mile in 7:45 (while a mostly unimpressive time for another person, this was simply not a possibility for me). On my “last lap” she signaled for me that I was done and to stop running. Confused and relieved, I walked / waddled to the bathroom to throw up. I looked in the mirror and was frightened by how red my face was. I walked back to the gym, still lightheaded and nauseated, and was confronted by the other students. “There’s no way you ran a mile in 7:45” “Ok” please leave me alone can’t you see I’m not feeling well “Admit you cheated” “I didn’t cheat” please don’t make me keep running, I can’t make it “You’re a liar” “What’s it to you?” You still ran your mile in 6 minutes, why can’t you be happy for yourself and leave me alone, Katie. They kept confronting me and I held my ground, unclear why they cared about my mile time so much.
Overall, I was an angry teenager. I got in with “the wrong crowd,” and I got in a lot of trouble – so much so that I had a state assigned social worker following me around in her car. I had bad grades in school, and my attendance was spotty at best. It took until my twenties to take control over my life and with that, embrace physical activity on my own – no doubt thanks to a healthy several-year break from the humiliation that was gym class. Around this time, I also started to run – on my own and for fun. Running was a simple choice – I didn’t need a gym, or any special equipment, and I could do it whenever I wanted to. I was with an ex boyfriend at the time, and he was in the same shape I was, so we struggled together trying to run around the block. Eventually, he left me and I was running alone. But that 180 pound loss also made me lighter and I was eventually able to run a whole mile by myself. A whole mile! Something that I struggled with so much in high school. I thought that a mile was the holy grail of distances and so I kept with that distance for the next few years. Only those godly can run a 5k.
After college, I started dating a new boyfriend, (my now husband) who, at the time, was doing the Couch to 5k program with his mom. They ran a Turkey Trot 5k on Thanksgiving that year. The event was unfathomable to me, so I stayed home (I never really understood that people go spectate and support each other for these things). Great for them, I thought. But that will never, ever, ever be me.
Two summers later, I was doing Couch to 5k myself (an amazing program that I recommend to everyone who wants to run). Even though I can run a marathon distance now, that first 20 minute consecutive run during Couch to 5k is still my greatest and proudest accomplishment. I was wearing a yellow tank top with grey Georgetown shorts, an outfit that I still wear today, and I was listening to Pandora. It was my first time feeling elated and finally feeling like a runner. It is a moment I often go back to – that humid Washington DC evening when I felt I could accomplish anything.
I ran my first 5k in September 2014, and Colin came as my spectator. He was the first person to ever cheer me on. I remember running toward him (recognizable by his bright red hoodie) at the finish line and him ringing a cowbell. I ran past the volunteers collecting bib strips at the finish line, not that my placement mattered, and straight into his embrace. I ran a 5k!!
I want everyone to have that moment. I know how it is as a young girl with no physical prowess. I know how it is to be made fun of and bullied and feel like an outsider. But through running, my accomplishments were my own. I didn’t hold anyone back, instead I propelled myself forward. No one was angry with my performance, instead I was proud. You are your own obstacle, and you are your own accomplishment, and you are your own prize.
Running is a personal sport that you can also enjoy with the company of others. The entire running community is such a positive group where everyone helps each other while working toward their own goals – either through motivation or actual physical help crossing the finish line. I am excited to be part of this community and to volunteer for the Girls on the Run 5k this June so I can cheer on and motivate some young girls as they accomplish something for themselves.
Even though I don’t need a bib from Girls on the Run to run the MCM, I have decided to fundraise for the program anyway with a goal of $300 to allow one more girl to participate in the program for an entire season. Please click on my link below and consider donating.
About the Marine Corps Marathon:
The Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) is also known as the People’s Marathon. It offers no prize money and has been voted both the Best Spectator Event and the Best Marathon for Charities. In the 70s, this marathon was created to promote the public image of the marines after the Vietnam War. On Nov. 7, 1976, the first MCM was run. There were 994 male and 24 female participants making a total of 1,018 finishers. It cost $2 to run the course. Today, there are over 20,000 runners – the largest field was in 2012 with 23,519 finishers – and it costs $176 to run the course.