Running Story

I want to be clear but I haven’t always been a runner.  I never ran in middle or high school.  In early college I ran on the swim off season..twice.  Running never came naturally to me and seeing 10 year olds throwing down 6 minute miles blows my mind.

Let’s begin a journey shall we?

In middle school I was overweight, pudgy, awkward and well couldn’t run.

Here is a visual with my best friend

Here is a visual with my best friend

My weight came from eating too many cookies and playing roller coaster tycoon (like a normal middle schooler) while my parents were at work. My family was a bunch of runners-but me?  Yeah…no.  I failed the mile test multiple times in both middle and high school.  Not because I didn’t want to pass I truly did, but because I couldn’t physically pass.  I could not physically do it.  I’ll never forget the day I ran 3 laps around the track in 8:45 and tried to convince my gym teacher I had really improved.

My mile test would always come down to the last lap around the track.  I’d be somewhere between 9-10 minutes going into lap 4 and would be dying.  (breathing like I was going into cardiac arrest) Like oh my god how the hell am I going to make around one more time? My middle school gym teacher (little did I know how big in the running community he is) would constantly poke fun at me.  It didn’t help that I had some of the best middle school runners in my class.   I mean when you have some girl running the mile in 6:30 not really trying  and you have me going into cardiac arrests at 12:15, it’s not really that difficult to notice the difference. When I did pass it was only with 10-15 seconds to spare.  My PR on the mile test was 12:12.

So middle and high school running went something like that until 11th grade when we didn’t have to go to gym class anymore.

To summarize, my running consisted of preying to the high heavens that I’d pass gym class and not have to retake the mile test.  Then I graduated high school in 2008 and that was that.

For the first year of college I ran two times.  One was to impress the (male members) of the swim team because they were hosting an optional practice that consisted of running. Why the hell I thought that was a good idea was beyond me..it’s not like I could run.

The second time was with my roommate around campus all the ellipticals were taken.  We ran exactly 1.46 miles.  New Personal Long Run!

Then the summer between freshman and sophomore year dad asked if I wanted to do the Allen Stone Run Swim Run race. It was a 1k run on the beach followed by a 1k swim in the ocean then 5k on the boardwalk. I did a few 5k training runs solely on the treadmill.  I was too embarrassed to run outdoors and also questioned what would happen if I passed out running. In 2009 I surprised myself and thought the 5k went by really quickly.  I even got second in my age group!

I managed to convinced Anna to run a few races too.

I managed to convinced Anna to run a few races too.

I was overjoyed of my success but didn’t run again for a while.  By a while, I laced up my sneakers maybe once from August to March. My next big running event came when my college hosted an annual 5k on St. Patrick’s day the following March. I ended up surprising myself, my dad and everyone and ran 24 min 5k.  After that I kept it casual and thought well running could be fun when I needed to mix it up from the gym.  I ended up running roughly a 5k loop around campus maybe once or twice a week.

In May of 2010, upon returning home from sophomore year of college, dad asked if I wanted to run a 10k race (The Elizabeth River Run) and I told him I had other things to do.  (That was a lie, I had never run a 10k and was scared to do it so I didn’t).  I did do an 8k the following weekend (CHKD) and finished slightly after dad (who was suffering from plantar fasciitis).

July 4, 2010 at the Independence day 5k at Mount Trashmore was when the stars aligned for me in regards with running.  I ended up running a 22 minute 5k.  I don’t know where it came from but I was on cloud 9.  I was hooked.  I was delusional. Out of runner’s high emailed our college cross country coach saying I wanted to join. About 48 hours after emailing the college coach he sent me a summer schedule back which really freaked me out.  Running 5 miles daily, a 7 mile run here and there?  I had struggled with that 8k earlier. What the hell are striders?  I knew I enjoyed running but I wasn’t sure of these new “technical” terms and if I enjoyed it that much.  I essentially thought of running still as walking quite quickly. The day I did my first 7 mile run on the training cycle was literally one of the most exciting days of my life!

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Dad and I. Yes those are abercombie sweat pants, early 90s headphones and a cotton tshirt. Real runner alert!

 On July 16th 2010, I went on to win the RSR that I had so desperately trained for the previous year I can still say that is my greatest race achievement.  The rest of July and August were full of running (as well as swimming to prepare for college swim team).

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I made it up to my first 30 mile weeks and headed off to preseason camp in late August and was instantly hooked.  My first cross country season served as a lot of things for me.  I learned anything and everything about running.   It was a successful season for me, and I won MVP for our team!  I wanted next season to come the second after I crossed the finish line of our regional race.

Running up mountains with my cross country team

Running up mountains with some of my cross country team

After my first cross country season ended I continued swimming for my college swim team.  I had been swimming all my life I wasn’t going to give that up (yet).  After my last cross country race of the season, I had to give up running and just focus on swimming, as hard as it was I couldn’t swim four hours a day and then run.  Yeah..no.

To put it in simple terms, junior year of swim team was the worst I had ever had.  I was miserable and didn’t do well. I had fun with my friends but that is about all I can say.

Last swim meet ever (but I didn't know it at the time)

Last swim meet ever (but I didn’t know it at the time)

In early February 2011 I was so excited to start running again-so excited that I got injured within a week .  I fractured my heel on the treadmill.  I could walk but running hurt.  My first overzealous and overuse injury.  I didn’t run again for another month and a half with my first run being that same shamrock 5k that set my running off the previous year.

I started smartly running and building my miles up and ran 3 half marathons.  Those races kept me excited and I fell in love with the distance races.  Nothing can ever take away from crossing the line of my first half marathon in Plattsburgh.

I didn’t have any good races in the 2011 summer, but I did have the memorable one.  The RSR the I had won last year is when I got my stress fracture.  I was in first place when it happened and I felt the most intense pain I’ve ever felt in my life.  I watched hundreds of people run past me and it was heartbreaking but it was enough to make me realize that my training needed to change. I cried.

I cried and cried and cried and cried and thought my running was over forever.  I cried more then any boyfriend problems, any family issues…all I did was cry.  (Now I know that stress fractures happen and they heal).

I had two months to think about my injury (and cry some more) and was scared I was going to sit out my entire cross country season.  September was always on my mind since it was when I was allowed to run again.  Although my second cross country season was nowhere where I wanted it to be-it was still fun.  I loved it.  It gave me hope for Spring racing.

That Spring I PRed (1:27.19) and won the Plattsburgh half marathon.  That will always be my favorite race.  Everything about that race went smoothly. 

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The spring and summer of 2012, I continued to train for my final collegiate season of cross country.  I knew what I had to do to get to nationals and worked my ass off.  I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.  I logged between 80-90 mile weeks.  I did everything well.  I took my easy runs easy, hard runs hard.  I made it through spring and summer injury free and moved to Oswego, NY to intern.

The first few weeks of Oswego were great.  The first race for college cross country was great. 

I ended up getting second overall at this race

I ended up getting second overall at this race…yet started out so boxed in.

I got second overall behind an already nationally ranked runner.  The second race I began to feel immense heel pain.  After lots of doctors visits,  it was determined I had an overgrown cyst similar to plantar fasciitis…It was unfortanate it had to occur in my foot.  Why not in my arm..or anywhere else?  Then at least I could run…It got so out of control it led to my muscle ripping off my 5th metatarsal and breaking that bone.  I had to sit out 2 months and watch as my dream of making it to nationals was crushed.

I learned a lot about myself in those two months as I was in a new area, didn’t have running and didn’t have very many friends.  I was beyond lost.   After my bone had healed, the podiatrist decided (out of the blue) to give me a cortisone shot and it healed within a week.  That was it?  After all of that…the cyst shrank and it healed. I decided on a whim (after not running for 2 months) to race our final race.  I ended up PRing from pure cross training and set off my new found love of carefree running.

After PRing, I started to log miles again.  Easy, basebuilding, untimed miles.  I entered the lottery for the Nike Women’s half and got in.  It gave me a half marathon goal 5 months out and somewhat lit a spark back into my running.  I wasn’t really training for anything else and still was devastated with how NCAA running had turned out. After coming home in March and with no sights on a half PR.  I did.  I dropped 2 minutes at Shamrock half marathon.  I didn’t even know I was capable of running a 1:25.14 half marathon.  I let go of PRing at the Nike women’s half a month later because it was impossible for me to think I could bounce back that quickly.

But I did.  I ended up running a 1:24.49 and bettering my time more.  Not only did I PR but I finished 9th overall.  9th out of 15,000 people.  It showed me truly that you never really know what you are capable of.  I said I would enter the lottery system for the New York City Marathon when I broke 1:25.  I personally thought it would be a lot longer then now but I used my qualified time and got in.

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On August 1st, 2013 I was pleased to be accepted into the Oiselle Running Community.  I am excited for my journey with such a great group of women.

The end of the summer and after PRing again this summer in the 5k (18:35) I trained for my first full marathon.  During the last weekend of summer, I was hit by a cyclist.  While cooling down after setting an 8k PR, I was hit by a tourist riding their bike on the VA Beach boardwalk.  They hit me, broke my elbow (a very small break) and kept on riding. 

After moving four times in one training cycle (From Oswego, to VA Beach, to Texas, to NJ) I ran my first marathon (NYC) in 3:17.23. Despite having a strong race I know I am capable of more. After the marathon I needed two months off. That race took a toll on my body more than I will ever be able to explain and I had no desire to run or race for a long time.

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In the Winter of 2014 I focused on raising money and awareness for the Eating Disorders and Ophelia’s Place.  I surprised myself staying injury free through the winter, raising $2500 for Ophelia’s Place and running a 1:25.32 Lake Effect half marathon on less and more casual training.  I can truly say that that has been my favorite race to date.

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Now in the Sprint of 2014, I am ready to obtain a half marathon PR which is where I leave you now.

From failing the mile in 7th grade to running to training for a marathon a little more then a decade later.  I truly cannot express how much joy running has brought me and for more things to come. 

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I can only hope this is the beginning of a life long journey. 

21 replies »

  1. Thank you for sharing this (I’m new to the Oiselle team, too). Your story is so inspiring. I HATE the mile in gym class – I too was always embarrassed by it. Always in the last group of kids to finish. You’ve come a long way since then and its so impressive! Truly awesome.

  2. Love love love this post! You have always been amazing Hollie! I’m so lucky to call you my friend!

  3. It looks like we had the same out of shape starting point! I couldn’t run the 100m sprint, let alone the mile, and I was about the same size (only being 5ft tall at the time it looked immensely worse on me). Except, being older, I ran my first 5K in 2007 and my first ‘real’ race (as in, bothered to train a bit) in 2008.

    Obviously you’re streets ahead of me now, but it’s been great to read this post anyway. I think I’ve been reading since your Run-Swim-Run stress fracture, and your increases in speed and confidence as a runner have been so impressive…I mean, look at you in your Nike Women’s Half photo – you look like a true elite…you’re owning that course :D

    xxx

  4. I’m so proud of you Hollikins, I had no real understanding of what you went through with running, so I’m glad you shared this. You’ve come so far and I’m sure you don’t need me to say it, but I’m proud of you and so happy for you!
    I can honestly say for my sophomore and junior year’s on the team you were my inspiration every year once the season ended to work my ass of to try to get better and I think I can honestly say that you still are.
    Let me know when you get to Texas! We shall Skype.

  5. I love, love, love this! You learn so much during injuries and I am so glad you’ve bounced back and you’re stronger than ever. My favorite picture of you will always and forever be your banner picture from the Nike Half. I just love it!

  6. I loved reading this, you’re beyond awesome, which I’ve said before hehe! I also was not the typical ‘runner’ actually weirdly I got running as punishment from my gymnastics coach, so it’s odd that now it is such a big outlet for me. It’s amazing what we can achieve once we set our minds to something! Hopefully one day you will come here to race and train here! :)

  7. I love your running story! It’s so inspirational how injury after injury you just got right back up and ran again. I, too, have a love for training and running half marathons, although I’m not nearly as fast as you are! Maybe someday! :) Anyway, I’m excited to read more of your posts!! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Wow – I just stumbled upon your blog from something someone posted on Facebook and am totally inspired! I have never been a runner and am currently suffering from a stress reaction from other intense exercise. I literally can not wait to go get fitted for new running sneakers and hit the pavement as soon as it’s healed!

    Keep up the great work!

    • Thank you stopping by. I hope your stress reaction heals rather quickly and that you are able to hit the pavement soon. Good luck in getting your fitted I know it makes all the difference for running! :-)

  9. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to find your blog! You are an inspiration, Hollie! Seriously. Last year I could barely run a mile, but this year I took 4th in the cross country FINALS! Not as good as your time (20:04) but I’m sure I’ll get better. I’m definitely coming back to your blog!

  10. That is seriously such an amazing story! I’m not near as fast as you, but like you, I was not a runner at all in middle school and high school. I started running to lose weight after having three kids and I just completed my second marathon. Just goes to show, if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish so much.

  11. Just getting to read this. You have a really amazing and touching story Hollie!!! What an amazing transformation!!! Running really does change lives for the better, kudos to you chica! :)

  12. This is such a great story! I ran the 2011 Elizabeth River Run and didn’t even know you were there, ha! We were destined to become friends.

  13. I just stumbled on your blog after Googling the Pineland Striders Independence 5k/10k – I won the 5k race and I was really relieved when you kept going on the 10k course! (haha) You’re an amazing runner and your story is really inspiring! I started running in grad school after being super sick/not fit for many years; I think it’s something a lot of us runners have in common – the will not only to become proficient but to really excel where we used to struggle. Thank you for setting such a great example for the rest of us – maybe I’ll see you at a future race!