My dad was a runner for a really long time. Ran in high school and kept running until very recently. I still remember him taking me to volunteer with him at the Olympic Track and Field Trials when they were in New Orleans, where I grew up, in 1992. He's also worked for the YMCA since I was five years old. Because of these examples, health and fitness have always been a natural part of life. I didn't grow up involved in sports; I was a musician. I just started working out in middle school and trying to stay healthy. I feel lucky that I grew up in this environment. Learning these habits when I was younger made it a lot easier to maintain them when life got difficult, and to challenge myself to push my limits.
I started running in high school. I ran track and cross country for a couple of years for Livonia Stevenson. I was lucky enough to run with some amazing girls, some of whom even went on to run at big universities. I got to be part of a team of fun, strong, brave women. I also learned a lot about myself as a person. Running was the hardest thing I'd ever done. It didn't come easy, like school or music. It hurt and it was hard and I had to practice a LOT to see any improvement. I quit once and DNFed a couple of times. I got a stress fracture. In the end, I quit so I could spend more time pursuing music and drama. But I'd gained enough confidence and knowledge to lace up and get out and run on my own, and I did.
Through college, I ran for weight loss and stress management. I earned a Bachelors from the University of Michigan in music education. I taught elementary school general music and choir for 10.5 years. I was the administrator for the Michigan Opera Theatre Children's Chorus for six years. Somewhere in there, I earned a Masters (also UofM, also music ed.). I ran and worked out at the Y, with varying levels of consistency. I probably didn't workout out for three years straight while working on my masters degree and thesis.
Of course, I put on weight. In the past, when this would happen, I'd head to the Y and start running and lifting weights. My weight would fluctuate. Eventually, I'd find myself too busy and would stop exercising. I was never "a runner;" I was just working out. Finally, in the summer of 2013, my husband and I were on a cruise and nothing I'd packed to wear to dinner fit. I got on a treadmill in the ship fitness center the next morning and ran a slow (for me) three miles. In retrospect, I know many people wouldn't have made it through a mile. I know my history gave me the strength and belief that I could do it.
I don't know what happened that summer. I don't know what was different than other times I'd started running again. But this time, running stuck. My husband and I registered for the Detroit Turkey Trot 5k. And then, on New years Eve, we registered for the Detroit Free Press International 13.1. Again, I have NO idea what made me think I could run a half marathon, but every time I saw the race billboard, something inside me knew it was time for a new journey.
Since that 2013 Turkey Trot, I've raced everything from 5ks to marathons. I've consistently run 5k times faster than I ever ran in high school. I've qualified for the BOSTON MARATHON. In high school, 10 miles seemed INSANE. I was selected as an inaugural race Ambassador for the Free Press Marathon, the race that started it all. I run with my husband. I have a whole new family of running friends. And I've found new strength, confidence, grit, passion, and bravery.
I was a music teacher for 10.5 years. I have two degrees in my field, I'm published, and I conducted and presented research. It's hard to consider leaving a career in which you've invested so much time and money. But every year, I realized more and more that teaching wasn't the right career for me. In addition to the elements of the job I just didn't care for, it wasn't my passion.
In the Fall of 2014, I started working with my former coach, a former pro triathlete, Terra Castro. She believed in me as a runner, and occasionally would ask me to coach Mechanics classes for our Detroit endurance team, the Be Bold Crew. As the team grew, she saw how much I loved running and encouraged myself and my best friend, Amanda, to attend the RRCA coaching certification program. I continued to occasionally coach for the Crew, and she started recommending me as a coach to runners. My friend, Justin, the owner of RUNdetroit, asked me to help coach their beginner's program, 3.101. All of this was while I was still teaching full time.
Finally, in the summer of 2017, I decided I couldn't waste another minute in a career that wasn't right for me. I left my full time teaching job. I continued to sub while looking for a full time job. Finally I realized it was time to pursue coaching more actively. I left a career for which I had no passion to pursue something that fills me with joy and excitement, something I can't wait to talk about, something I love to learn more about, read and write about, listen to podcasts about, and share with others. I've felt this way about running and fitness for a long time, but it was scary to think about making such a drastic change. But I'd rather take a chance pursuing something I love, even if it might be a difficult path, than settling for something less.