We find running – or running finds us – at different times in our lives for different reasons. One day we simply realize it’s time to start moving one foot in front of the other at a pace faster than walking. The first run is often rough. Some may even say it feels like their hearts are pounding out of their chests and they can only run one minute before they have to stop and walk. As time goes on, that one minute becomes two, then three, then ten. Then suddenly a mile, 5k, half marathon, until finally with no notice and very little ado, a runner is born and a life has been transformed.
Read these stories of women who found running at different decades for different reasons. Anyone can start running at any time. You just need to flick the switch and go.
Age she found running: 13
Samantha R, 26
I started track in the 7th grade, I’ve known since kindergarten that I wanted to be a runner. I remember watching the Atlanta Olympics with my mom and telling her I wanted to run like that. She had me in sports from then on but my favorite part was always when I got to run as fast as I could behind the railroad tracks and beat my big brothers and all their friends. My relationship for it evolved however when I transitioned from running the 100 meter dash from 7th-12th grade to my first 100 mile race at age 22. The trails changed me. It was HARD when I started trying to run long, I had to take lots of breaks and constantly felt discouraged by my pace. I wanted more though, I wanted to take that same exhilarating feeling I had in a sprint and channel into a long race. It took time but once I accepted the pain that comes with distance I learned to enjoy the world around me instead of the speed. It changed my perspective as a runner forever.
Running is the partner that has never left me, the dog that’s always there to hug. It waits for me on the trail and speaks to me through my pain. I argue with it like a marriage, always thinking I’m right but knowing full well we are one. It saves me everyday reminding me that I am strong, that my strained breathes bring me life.
Running has brought me friendship, romance, heartache and pride. It surprises me every time I run a sunset and remember what it’s like to inhale deeply as the world goes to sleep.
It saves me from myself and leads me in life and on that trail. It’s what brought me to the skirt and the women that now move me. I love you running!!!!!
Age she found running: 14
Nora C, 47
I started running in Junior High when I joined the track team. The reason I started running was not so much because I Ioved it, but because track practice got me out of doing chores after school. By the time I got home from practice everything was already done! In high school I ran Cross Country (it was a small school so I didn’t have to try out) to lose the summer weight from working in a Mexican food restaurant. I also wanted to be ready for the sport I really loved at the time – basketball – where Coach used running as punishment. I also ran track as a sprinter and ended up competing in State my Junior Year (4×200 relay). I didn’t like running at first; it was just something to do. I did however enjoy the camaraderie of the team. I love running more now as I’ve gotten older. I’ve gone from sprinter to ultra runner. I lovehow I feel after a good run either by myself or friends. It’s such meditation where I can really focus and be in the moment.
Age she found running: 14
Michelle K, 39
I started running when I was 14. After my father died young of heart issues, I decided I wanted to be active. I was not athletic, but knew some other non-athletes who had walked on to our high school track team, so I tried too. The first day I went out running on a loop around the school with the team captains and they told me to return to the school when I got tired. I ran 3 miles that day (the whole distance) and have been a distance runner ever since – 25 years this month! Running has brought me confidence, fitness, and some amazing experiences and relationships I probably wouldn’t what otherwise. No regrets, no matter how crunchy my knees may be.
Age she found running: 24
Jacy V, 36
Age she found running: 26
Pamela McGowan, 39
I started running again at 26 when I quit smoking. I had my daughter when I was 17 so I did not run in college like some of my friends and I had picked up some bad habits in college like eating fast food, smoking and of course drinking too much. I did not want my daughter to grow up thinking smoking was okay or the other bad things either. I decided to quit smoking and when I did I gained a few pounds and decided to take up running again. I signed up for my first 5K in 2006 or 2007 and that has spiraled into many many races (running and triathlon) including the Boston Marathon and many others, a couple of Ironman events and a 100 mile ultramarathon last season. Running gave me a purpose in addition to being a mom. It has allowed me to build my confidence through the years and to take on bigger challenges in all aspects of my life!
Age she found running: 28
Latoya Snell, 33
I started running in October 2013- age 28 – after learning that my long time Myspace now Facebook friend signed up for a half marathon. From a silly conversation sparked an almost five year journey that I looked at as an impulsive bucket list item. On May 28, 2013, I grew tired of my 5’3 1/2, 265 + pound frame and wanted to lose weight. Instead, this journey changed my mindset.
My initial run was horrible: I remember feeling exceptionally winded, exhausting all of my energy and mouth dry. I couldn’t run a full lap without desiring water. In hindsight, I know that I didn’t do much research and threw myself in, thinking this was a one time deal. No Couch to 5K–signed up for a half marathon out of pure insanity and as a joke. Prior to this, I thought runners were absolutely nuts to run around for bagels, medals and a ‘pseudo high.’ In 2018, I know for certain that runners are absolutely nuts and that high is not imaginary but immaculate. Through running and the community, I built an extended family, built a new sense of purpose, I’m probably in the best physical condition in my life and I reinvented myself. Through running, I found my gateway drug to happiness.
Age she found running: 27
Joni Watkins, 32
I was dealing with effects of PTSD and self medicating with food, drinking, drugs. I started running because I grew tired of being physically and mentally unhealthy and wanted to change my life. I still remember the first time I ran one whole loop around the park by my apartment. I worked up to it for months, and when I finally made it around without stopping, I felt invincible. Since then running has taken me beautiful places, introduced me to a wealth of amazing and supportive friends, and taught me a lot about myself, including how to prioritize self care and pursue goals with patience and persistence.
Age she found running: 39
Becky Calderwood, 48
I started running at age 39, so I’m coming up on my 10 year runniversary! I’ve always been active and fairly fit, but never a runner due to exercise induced asthma, which I used as my excuse NOT to run up until that point. It all began when a friend said “let’s go for a run.” My reply was “I don’t run.” She said, “Can you run to that light post?” Sure. So we ran to the light post, then walked. Then we ran to the next street sign. Then the next. Run/walk intervals until we had completed my normal 4.5 mile walk loop. I figure we ran half of it. And that is how it began for me. The very next day I walked to the high school track, ran a lap, walked a lap, 4 times each. The third day I ran 2 laps, walked 1 lap, etc… That very first week I said, “Maybe someday I’ll run a 5k.” I did that 6 weeks later; then you all know how that progression goes! If I can run a 5k, I can run a 10k, a half, a Marathon (two)… I have suffered overuse injuries in the past, but I am back running strong and pain-free, as a solid middle-of-the-packer, training for my first trail marathon this year with the goal of a 50k for my 50th birthday in spring 2019!
Age she found running: 37
Eva McCarthy, 43
I started running at 37 after I quit smoking. I was an 18-year, almost two-pack-a-day smoker. I am a mother of four kids and my oldest two were on the track team. I actually started running 5k’s as a smoker, and smoked while running. When I quit smoking, I started to run so I wouldn’t gain weight. My goal was to just run – without stopping – a 5k. The more I ran, I changed my goals. I was diagnosed with COPD, and asthma, on top of already not having any cartilage in one knee and one hip, and take daily medication for both. But, I found out that through hard work, I can run a 24 minute 5k, a 52 minute 10k and I have run 50-milers, 100k’s and 100 mile races. Last year, at the age of 42 I ran two 100 mile races and one of them I finished 3rd overall female. Of course, I run all my long ones in my Gotta Go skirt! I started running to not gain weight, and then I continued running through injuries, and setbacks, pain and agony so my kids would be proud of me.
I gave up college to raise my kids and they don’t get to brag on me for the normal things in life. I wanted them to be able to have something to “brag” on me about. This turned into me wanting to be proud of me. Running is so hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to work at. I’ve had my knee go out during a 100 mile race and I’ve literally dragged it for 50 plus miles just to get to the finish line. Running is hard. For those last few seconds of any race, those couple of seconds when I cross that finish line, I AM MY OWN HERO. I know the work that was put in to get there, I know the sacrifices I made to make it happen. I know that and those few seconds are just for me. I have run half marathons with my oldest two kids and my oldest son ran the last 13 miles with me on my first marathon. My third child was part of my crew for my second attempt at a 100 mile race that I didn’t finish the year before. My youngest son, still in high school brags whenever he’s given the chance. He always smiles when someone says their mom has ran a marathon and finishes it up with, “My mom runs 100 mile races.”
Age she found running: 39
Stacy McNall, 45
I started running the day after I turned 39 on January 10, with the plan of running my first marathon before I turned 40. I told my husband and he laughed because he knew how much I had always said I hated running. Well, his laugh sealed the deal. I started running. I did my first half marathon in May and thought I was going to die. He was at the finish line and saw how awful I looked and he asked if I still planned on doing the full marathon in September. I didn’t even respond. Just kept training. And training. Without any help, or advice. I had a woman who worked in the local running store ask me what I used for nutrition and I just gave her a blank look. I had NO idea I was supposed to eat during a long run.
So I trained hard for the September marathon but two weeks before that, I did another half marathon as a training run and I ended up with some weird metatarsal issue where the bones in my foot crossed each other and I had a ton of pain and swelling. I tried to do the marathon and made it to mile 18 before I had to take the laces out of my shoe because the swelling was so bad. I saw a chiropractor, got my foot straightened out and signed up for the last marathon in Wisconsin before my birthday in January.
The day before I got sick. Really really sick. Influenza sick with high fever and all of it. I downplayed all of it to my husband who is also a nurse and went to the race. I somehow did okay until mile 20 and then started almost hallucinating at one point. It was a Halloween race and all I wanted was to finish before the guy in the gorilla suit. Well at mile 23, he passed me and I came in dead last. BUT I finished it and completed my goal! In the 6 years since then I’ve done ten marathons and an ultra plus two Dopey challenges and a Goofy challenge plus many other half’s and shorter races.
Since then I was diagnosed with MS and my goals have changed. March 1 is my MS crapiversary and my goal a year ago was to just keep moving—and I have. I ran four miles this morning before my monthly MS medication infusion. Now I need to seriously decide on this next year’s goals!
Age she found running: 43
Sonia Elabd, 44
As a kid, I had to be outside, running, biking, roller skating, it didn’t matter. When we had to run a mile in school, I was always the first girl, behind two boys, Jeff and Lawrence. No matter how hard I ran, I could never beat them, but I loved running fast and short distances.
In my teens, in PE, I realized that I wasn’t coordinated enough for any ball-related sports. I wanted to do a sport, and the track team was the only team in high school that wouldn’t cut you. So, track it was. I sprinted 100m, 200m, 4×100 relay and 4×200 relay, and I enjoyed being part of a team.
In my 20s, I ran to keep in shape, but I was inconsistent. I started to run very early in the morning before work and that quickly became the answer to making sure I ran. Running became part of my routine, and since most of my running was on a treadmill, I didn’t enjoy it, but I got it done. To keep myself motivated, I did some races including the Army 10-miler and my first marathon relay in Baltimore the first year they had the Baltimore Marathon (now the Baltimore Running Festival).
In my 30s, I started having kids and didn’t run when I was pregnant, mostly because I was so doggone tired all the time. I ran with a stroller, then a double jogging stroller, and then, instead of getting a triple stroller after having my third kid in three years, I decided to run alone. I needed that time to myself to do something for me. I would run at 4:30 or 5:00 am and be finished before the first precious eyelashes started to flutter open.
Then, a few months before I turned 40, I was diagnosed with a lymphoma. I caught it early and overall, I felt fine, but it made me think that I needed to make the most of my good health while I have it. A friend of mine signed up for a half and I thought, I should do just one half in my lifetime…Then, when I got my goal time, I thought, I wonder if I could do better with a little more training…I ran three halfs that year.
In my 40s, I moved to Texas, and after taking some time off from running, I decided I was sick of running by myself and I wanted to be a lot more consistent. So, I joined a running club and found some great friends and more structured workouts that helped me be a stronger runner. I started doing much better at races (even placing in my age group) and I haven’t looked back.
I’m 44 now and my husband left me last year when I was sidelined with a stress fracture. When I got the green light to run again, I ran to stay stay healthy and deal with all the emotions of divorce, but more importantly, I used my running time to draw closer to God through prayer and meditation. And nine months to the day after he left, I ran the Chicago Marathon.
Age she round running: 40
Kriss Schatza, 50
My first run? Felt scary, it hurt, it was embarrassing, I hated it. My shins hurt, my feet slapped at the sidewalks, seriously slapped, how could I even make that sound? My journey started when I was a size sixteen. I was 3200 miles from “home” and needed to make some changes. A coworker asked if I wanted to start walking with her. She was a size two. I thought to myself, you can either hate her, or join her. That first walk changed my life, we walked five miles and my face stayed red for about five hours. From there I started to run, well, if you can count an awkward sort of walk/jog. I would run after the sun set, in base housing, where I would run to a telephone pole and walk to the next, through endless cul de sacs. I ran at night so that I wouldn’t be seen. I did this for months until I got a Nike Plus Sensor. With the Sensor you had to RUN a quarter of a mile to calibrate it. I mustered up the courage to head to the base track, in the daylight. I ran the quarter mile and the damn sensor didn’t sync. I ran that track again, in tears, so pissed off. it worked, I was set up with Nike.
I have NEVER looked back. I started racing, I was HOOKED. 4 full marathons, over 50 half marathons, more shorter distances that I have the number for off the top of my head. Present day, I am mentoring a training group for Fleet Feet, my 8th group is currently training for the Tacoma City half/full marathon. Running is my world, and I love it. I have met some amazing people. Some may think it a bit much, WHY would you want to run 4 half marathons in 4 days? Because it is fun…well, why would you want to do that twice? Because it is fun… yep, gonna do that again this year for the 3rd time…oh, and I am 50 now, my journey started the year I turned 40. Along with being a Mentor I am an ambassador for Skirt Sports, Boco Gear, Honey Stinger, Nuun, Zensah and Snohomish Running Co. I am stronger physically and mentally than I have ever been. I believe we all have a fire within us; find what makes your file smolder until it ignites!
Age she found running: 44
Betsy Hartley, 49
I was Type 2 diabetic, insulin dependent. 400(ish) pounds. Started walking because I literally woke up July 2, 2011 and decided I was not going to die an obese 40-something with T2. A switch was flipped. I started to move. Walking for over a year lead to covertly running tiny little steps when no one was watching. That lead to running across driveways and between telephones poles on my daily walks. And then suddenly I could run .25 of a mile. And I needed ‘running’ shoes and a sports bra. I still remember the day I ran a continuous mile. I ran to our farm-country stop sign and SOBBED. It was awesome! I’ve run a 100 miler and I still remember that first MILE more fondly. I was easily still 300 pounds when I ran that mile and I remember thinking I was flying and beautiful and strong… I’ve lost 200 pounds, reversed type 2 diabetes… Running saved my life. Running gave me life. Pre 7/2/11, I’m in the one the black (right photo). 400 or so pounds — household scale didn’t go as high as I weighed. Today I’m a runner.
Age she found running: 41
Amy Kessel, 47
I started running at 41 after my double mastectomy. My surgeries left me broken and grieving…the loss of a sense of normal, the loss of feeling safe in my own body, the loss of power. I needed to do something to lift myself out of sadness so I started walking, then running and with every mile began to heal. My first run was hard, but exhilarating! I was so proud that I could do it. I ran my 1st 5K six months after my surgery and my 1st half a year after my mastectomy. I ran alone for a couple years and I think I needed all that time to process and heal. After my final cancer related surgery, at age 43, I felt I needed to go big and signed up for a marathon. It was overwhelming to imagine running so many miles alone so I gulped down my fear and joined a local running group for their runs. It was here that I met my tribe that has nourished and healed me in ways I didn’t even know I needed. I didn’t know what I was missing in my life until I met my strong, compassionate, encouraging running friends. Since then, I have run one ultra, three marathons, and tons and tons of miles with some of the best people I have ever met. I used to feel angry at my medical issues and sad at what I had given up. But now (age 47), I am able to see that I have gained SO much more than I lost.
Age she found running: 54
Pam Gwillim, 60 – Jumped fire at 54! On top of this game called life!
I started running at 54. Jumping fire at a Rugged Manic event was life transforming! JUMPING FIRE! I completed two Spartan Races and a few other obstacle course races but learned to love running. I am 60, a half marathoner and have just broken a 40 min 5k this year. Slow and steady, getting faster, feeling better. On top of this game called life!
Age she found running: 58
Deb Miller, 64
I started running at 58 because I wanted to be a healthy “senior” and do something together with my husband that would help him with his diabetes and high blood pressure. It totally helped me realize that age is just a number and that we’re not all washed up after 50. I am loving being the age I am! My biggest surprise was the beautiful running family that I was lucky enough to be welcomed into…a giving, loving group of people who don’t judge and are just happy we’re all upright and putting one foot in front of the other. Running/walking/moving has given me a love of myself through self care and a confidence in my abilities that I never had.
Age she found running: 59
Mary Vasil, 63
My daughter signed me up for my first 5K when I turned 59. I didn’t train, just tossed on an old pair of nylon shorts, t- shirt, and old tennis shoes. I walked with my family but all of a sudden my competitive nature took over. I started to pick up the pace and my daughter stuck by my side. Probably to make sure I didn’t hurt myself. When I started to get tired she kept on saying, “just one more step, one more step.” I remember crossing the finish line yelling, “ It’s my first 5K!” I never knew that I was missing that feeling in my life! The next day I looked for upcoming races and sent an email to all my family members inviting them to the next race. I told them that a family that runs together stays together.
Age she found running: 60
Linda Kuhlman, 71
I started in a walk to run group when I was 60. I FLUNKED running and became an avid walker. Being a walker is more accepted nowadays. I have done all lengths of races from mile to 1/2 marathon. I have won my age group only if there is a walker category – few and far between. To me it is not about winning, it is about the fact that I am out there and not on the couch.
Although, sometimes I would rather be in my sewing room! I have designed quilts while on my walks and enjoyed the company of others and nature. I am 71 today and want to continue walking for many years.
Age she found running: 62
Barbara Baratta, 64
I started doing races at 62 with my first race being a half. I walked with the intention of starting to run but found my asthma really started acting up with running so except for brief sprints am still mainly a brisk walker. I have done four half’s and multiple 5-11ks. I will be 65 in August with no plans of slowing down.
Age she found running: 63
Barbara Puckett, 68
I did my first race at age 63. My first 5k was mostly a walk with a little run here and there. I placed and it sparked a fire that hasn’t gone out. Today I am 68 years old and just completed my 2nd marathon and countless half marathons plus to many to count other 5k and 10k races. I love running and hope to continue into my 80’s or longer. I do intervals on my longer races but it gets me from start to finish every time. I have 11 grandchildren from age 3 months to 20 years. I guess this helps me “keep up” with them and I love it!