My Running Story: Finding Myself - NBC Chicago
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My Running Story: Finding Myself

Giving running one more chance led to accomplishing one challenge after another



    Under the Tucson Sun
    Bonnie Abramsky
    Bethany Stripp

    If you had told me Jan. 1, 2011, that I would run two marathons in the next four years, I would have laughed in your face.

    Running and I had a love/hate relationship for most of my formative years. I ran in P.E. class because I didn’t have a choice, and I generally did all right in our annual mile run. I ran cross country in middle school because my homeroom teacher talked me into joining the team so they’d have five girls, thus allowing them to score at meets, and I generally loathed every second of it. I continued to run a two-mile loop in my neighborhood throughout summers in high school because it seemed like an easy enough way to exercise, and I definitively decided I did not have the physical ability to run more than that.

    I have no tales of high school cross country glory (though I could tell you plenty about my mediocrity as a sprinter and long jumper in track). I have no tales of a change of heart upon starting college.

    What I do have, however, is a tale of a suburban mother who inspired me to give running one more chance.

    In 2011, I interned at Chicago Athlete magazine, and one of my responsibilities in that position involved interviewing and writing each issue’s "Everyday Athlete," which is a feature on a regular person who had a story worth printing. During that time, I interviewed a woman who started running with Team in Training after her daughter’s leukemia diagnosis. Her first race ever was the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. There I sat, a college student in my 20s, and I thought, “If she can run a marathon, surely I can run a 5K.”

    I went for a few runs along the Lakefront Trail during my internship, and after that ended, I bookmarked the Couch to 5K program on my computer. I followed its direction religiously from day one, and in August 2011 I proudly completed my first 5K. I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided I wanted to keep going, maybe run a 10K within the next two or three years, a half marathon a few years after that and hopefully make it all the way to a marathon before 2020 -- or maybe 2030.

    On recounting my first 5K experience to a friend a few weeks later, I found myself challenged to a 10K the following May, and soon after completing my first 10K, I agreed to run a half marathon. I finished my first half marathon thinking, “Oh, I could definitely keep running,” and in 2013, seven years ahead of schedule, I finished my first marathon.

    While my first 5K introduced me to running, training for my first 10K made me fall in love with the sport. I felt an incredible sense of pride looking at my Garmin and seeing numbers I had never dreamed I would see: I had run four miles, five miles, six miles, seven miles. I ran seven miles. This, from legs I really, truly thought did not have the ability to go one step beyond two miles.

    I haven’t set a personal distance record since the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 2013 when I ran 26.2 miles for the first time. Despite losing the sense of constant wonder at how far I’ve gone (though I do certainly still have my moments), I have found so much more in running. I have found a community in this enormous city, I have found an ongoing personal challenge, I have found a way to turn off my mind and just be for 30 minutes, 60 minutes, three and a half hours or more. In running, I have found myself.

    Bethany Stripp is a local runner and the editor-in-chief of Chicago Athlete magazine.

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