Hi my name is Alli, and I am a runaholic.

It has been 0 days since my last run…well, most likely anyway.

I didn’t used to be this way. Growing up I was never a runner. I played soccer, at least until I was too slow to make the team my sophomore year of high school. After that – I pretty much just quit all physical activity.

In college, I fenced (a little), and hiked (a lot) attending school at Northern Michigan University. But those two activities were pretty much it. Needless to say, after a steady diet of dorm food, pasta, and lots of processed goodies (what College Student doesn’t live off of these things?), and much inactivity – I graduated overweight and out of shape. I didn’t feel good. I didn’t feel like myself.

I wasn’t active. I wasn’t happy. And so I started moving. I decided that I could train for, and run a 5k. Running was, after all, an inexpensive sport that I could get into just by throwing on a pair of shoes and going out the door.

I began using the Couch to 5k program on my own. I’d run/walk up and down the very flat path along Lake Superior. At first I had my doubts. I’d never been a runner before. I’d been the person who stopped running when everyone else did during the mile in gym class – even if I didn’t make it to a mile. Sure I’d run during soccer – but that’d been years ago at this point. The first couple of weeks were rough. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I’d slog through the run/walk intervals, head down in the heat of summer. I didn’t want to look at anyone. I didn’t want to make eye contact. Sure I was out there moving, but I definitely didn’t look like the fabulously fit runners I so often saw out on that lake shore path. And then something happened that changed my outlook on running. I encountered him – this gentleman who was also out running. He appeared to be about my age. He was one of those people who I’m sure I’d seen out running every day during the summer, so I’m sure I’d seen him before, but just not noticed. I’m not sure what made him talk to me, even as brief as our interaction ended up being – but one day he decided to encourage me. As he ran past, he looked me in the eye, smiled, and wholeheartedly shouted “Good job! Keep it up!” That was it. Just four words. It was the first time I’d ever interacted with someone in the running world. Every time I encountered him after that, he’d say something encouraging. To this day, I still don’t know who he is.

I did make it through that 5k program. I ran my first 5k that summer – ran through the fear of not being good enough, of finishing last. Ran through the tough trails and hills, which compared to what I’d trained on – that flat lake shore path – were so very difficult. I finished, upright and smiling to the accolades of my husband, and decided that I could be a runner. Since that first summer, and that first 5k, I haven’t stopped.

This story gets at the heart of why I love being a pacer. That random runner was a big part of the reason I kept going that summer; His encouragement, his positivity – even in just those tiny interactions. Pacing allows me to be that person for whoever needs it. It allows me to give back to the sport that’s given so much to me – health (both mental and physical), a job, and friends who are more like family. The running community is such a huge part of my life, and I am extremely grateful for it.

No matter where you are in your fitness journey – if you’re just beginning, or if you’re running your umptheenth half-marathon – Take this as your encouragement from a random stranger along the path. Keep working toward your goals. Keep moving.