I started running late in life, and never thought I would be a distance runner. In fact, I used to hate running, and I thought people who ran marathons were certifiably crazy!

When my youngest child started preschool, I decided it was time to start going to the gym. I went twice a week, and walked 30 minutes on the treadmill, followed by 15 minutes of weights. I did this that entire school year.

His second year of preschool, I started doing a run/walk combo on the treadmill. I kept increasing my running time, and got to the point where I wondered if I could run a 5K. I literally said to myself, “I don’t think I could ever run 3 miles without stopping.” But I decided to try. So that winter I trained on that treadmill and got myself up to 3 miles running!

Spring hit, and I knew I had to practice running outdoors before the big day. That first run outside was so hard!! But I kept at it, and race day I lined up with a goal of under 30 minutes. I finished in 29:46 and was so proud!

For the next few years I did the Riverbank 5K and even braved the 10K one year, but I never stuck with it year-round. Finally, after several years of this, I decided I needed a bigger goal. I decided to train for the Grand Rapids Half Marathon that fall. I trained completely on my own, and did EVERYTHING wrong! I had no person or group to mentor me. I lined up at the start in October 2009 with the PDiddy Pacers, nervous and excited. I stayed with them and completed my first half marathon that day, and felt so proud!

I decided I wanted to go for the BIG Riverbank Run- the 25K- the next Spring. I heard about the Mentor program and signed up. I ran and trained with that group all winter (Before that I never knew people ran outside in the winter!) I learned so much from that group, and race day I lined up with new friends and finished just under my goal of 2 1/2 hours!

At this point I had definitely caught the running bug, and wanted to try for a full marathon that Fall. I continued training over the summer, hitting new and longer distances than I ever dreamed possible for myself! The marathon was supposed to be a one-and-done for me. I again ran with a pace group at the Grand Rapids Marathon, and it was SO HARD – especially the last 6 miles. But my pace group carried me through, and I again hit my goal! I was hooked.

I ran Bayshore Marathon the following Spring and qualified for Boston at my second marathon! And to think that 6 months earlier I didn’t even know what the Boston Marathon was all about.

Fast forward 10 years, and I have now completed 19 marathons, including 6 Boston Marathons, 9 River Bank Runs, 5 Gazelle Girl Half Marathons, and countless half marathons and other races. I would never have accomplished all of this without the love and support of the running community!

Finding groups to train with and people to mentor me made all the difference in my training. And honestly some of my best friends are my running friends! Runners are just the coolest people, period. After many years of racing and training, I decided I wanted to give back, and help other new runners the way people have helped me.

One of the ways I enjoy doing this is mentoring through pacing at races. One of my favorite races to pace at is the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon. I love that it is a women-only race, and it gives women the opportunity to shine. I love seeing the excitement and pure joy on their faces from completing their first race, whether that be a half marathon or 5K!