I haven’t always been a runner. In fact, until 2011, I hated running. Before 2011, the only running I did in gym class to pass the mile.
During the first two years of college, I ran twice. Running never came naturally to me and wasn’t my thing.
Let’s begin a journey, shall we?
In middle school, I was overweight, awkward, and couldn’t run. My weight came from eating too many cookies and not being active while my parents were at work. I swam but ate more calories than I burned.
My father ran marathons, and both my brothers ran track. Me? I failed the mile in gym class about half the time. I didn’t fail because I didn’t try; I failed because I did not have the cardio endurance to pass physically.
I’ll never forget the day I ran 3 laps around the track at 8:45 and tried to convince my gym teacher (who was also the cross country coach) I had really improved.
The mile test would always come down to the last lap around the track. I would be somewhere between 9-10 minutes going into the fourth lap. I flailed around the track preying I would pass, and breathing like I was going into cardiac arrest.
While running the mile test, I thought: Oh my lanta, how the hell am I going to make around one more time?
My PR on the mile test was 12:12.
We weren’t required to take the gym after 10th grade, so I avoided the track and running like the plague.
To summarize: In middle and high school, my running consisted of praying; I would pass gym class and not have to retake the mile test. I graduated high school in 2008 and went on to college at SUNY Potsdam.
So what happened in college?
For the first two years of college, I ran two times. One was to impress male members of my collegiate swim team. Why I thought that was a good idea was beyond me…it’s not like I could run.
The second time was with my roommate. We ran exactly 1.46 miles. It was a new personal long run!
My roommate and I (not running)
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.
As a swimmer, it was a good event for me. As a runner, I had a lot of training to do. The 5k at the end was longer than I had ever run before!
My training consisted of a few treadmill runs. I was too embarrassed to run outdoors. I surprised myself and got second in my age group!
I was overjoyed of my success but didn’t run again for a while. By a while, I mean, I laced up my sneakers once from August to March. I was still swimming competitively in college. Swimming was my thing, and I loved it.
My next big running event came in March of 2010 when my college hosted an annual 5k on St. Patrick’s Day. Out of nowhere, I ran 24 min 5k. After the St. Patricks Day race, I thought running could be fun when I needed to mix it up from the gym. I ran a 5k loop around campus once or twice a week until the end of that semester. I ran when it was nice out and used the elliptical when it wasn’t.
After returning home for the summer, dad asked if I wanted to run a 10k race. I told him I had other things to do. That was a lie; I had never run a 10k and was scared.
On July 4, 2010, I ran a local 5k in 22 minutes. I don’t know where it came from, but I was on cloud 9.
This time I was hooked on running!
But also delusional.
Out of runner’s high, I emailed my college cross country coach and said I wanted to join the team. Many division 3 schools allow you to walk onto whatever team you want as long as you can keep up—whether it’s swimming, running, or whatever else.
About 48 hours later, the coach sent me a summer training schedule, which really freaked me out.
My thoughts were all over the place: Running 5 miles daily, a 7 mile run here and there? What the hell are striders?
I knew I enjoyed running, but I wasn’t sure if these new “technical” terms or I enjoyed running that much. Luckily one of my brothers showed me the ropes.
The day I did my first 7-mile run was one of the most exciting days of my running life!
On July 16th, 2010, I went on to win the Allen Stone Run-Swim-Run, that I had so desperately trained for the previous year. It was one of my proudest race accomplishments. The rest of July and August were full of running and swimming.
After training all summer, I headed to cross country preseason camp. My first cross country season served as a lot of things for me. I learned everything about running. It was a successful season for me, and I even won MVP for our team! I wanted next season to come the second after I crossed the finish line of our last race.
After my first cross country season ended, I continued swimming. I had been swimming all my life. I wasn’t going to give that up (yet). I just focused on swimming. I didn’t run all fall and winter.
To put it in simple terms, I was burnt out from swimming in my junior year of college. I had fun with my friends but didn’t compete well, and mentally I was over it.
After swimming was over in February of 2011, I was eager to start running again. I was so excited that I got injured within a week. I got a mild case of plantar fasciitis—my first overzealous and overuse injury. I didn’t run again for another month and a half.
After learning that lesson, I started running smartly. I ran my first half marathon in the Spring of 2011.
That summer, during the same Run Swim Run I won the previous year, I stopped in the middle of the race. I had my first serious running injury. After multiple doctor visits, I was diagnosed with a tibial stress fracture.
I cried and cried and cried and cried and thought my running was over forever.
I cried more than any boyfriend problems…all I did was cry. I thought it was the end of the world. My tibial stress fracture taught me my body is not invincible and I need to train smartly.
I had two months to rest and recover. Since it happened in July, I took off part of my season of fall cross-country. Although my second cross-country season was nowhere where I wanted it to be, it was still fun. It gave me hope for Spring racing.
I stayed healthy in the spring and won the Plattsburgh half marathon. This picture describes how I ran the entire time.
In the summer of 2012, I continued to train for my final collegiate season of cross country. I followed my coach’s advice and schedule (no more, no less). I took my easy runs easy; hard runs hard. I didn’t add extra miles because I feared injury. I made it through the summer injury-free and moved to Oswego, NY, to intern.
The first few weeks of working in Oswego were great. I got second overall at several cross country races behind a nationally ranked runner. All of a sudden, I had immense heel pain. After multiple doctor visits, it was determined I had an overgrown cyst similar to plantar fasciitis…It was unfortunate it occurred in my foot. (But thankfully, it wasn’t somewhere like my brain). It halted my season and left my bitter with cross country.
I learned a lot about myself in those two months. I was in a new area, didn’t have running, and didn’t have many friends. I was lost. I learned never to base your happiness on a sport or a single element of your life.
After two months, the podiatrist decided (out of the blue) to give me a cortisone shot, and the cyst shrunk and healed within a week. That was it?
After all of that…the cyst shrank, and it healed.
After not running at all, I decided on a whim to race our final XC race. I ended up PRing from cross-training and set off my new found love of carefree running.
After my cross country season was over, I just ran easy. I ran when I felt like it. I raced when I wanted. Cross country in college was what helped me grow to love running. There was no pressure. We were a small school who kept a cross country team. We didn’t have the pressure to run fast or win.
I spent the Spring of 2013 PRing in almost everything.
I ran a 1:25.15 half marathon at Shamrock.
A month later, I ran a 1:24.49 at the Nike Women’s half.
Not only did I PR at the Nike Women’s Half, but I finished 9th out of 15,000 people. The Spring showed me that you never really know what you are capable of.
After the Nike Women’s Half, I ran shorter races for a while. During all of that, I was planning to move in with my then-boyfriend. I was moving 2000 miles, training for my first marathon, and looking for my second “real job” after college.
I ran my first marathon (NYC) in November of 2013. After the marathon, I needed two complete months off. That race took a toll on my body, and I had no desire to run for a long time. In fact, after my first marathon, I didn’t enjoy and/or want to run. So I didn’t. Once again, I was left in a new area (New Jersey), without running, no friends, or a job.
In the winter of 2014, I started training again for shorter distances; I focused on raising money and awareness for the Eating Disorders and Ophelia’s Place. I surprised myself by staying injury-free through the winter. I also raised $2500 for Ophelia’s Place and ran a 1:25.32 Lake Effect half marathon on little to no training.
Raising money for something you are passionate about and winning a race is such a rewarding experience.
After the Lake Effect Half Marathon, I ran the April Fools Half Marathon in Atlantic City. I came in second place and PRed with a time of 1:23.23. That served to be my only PR of 2014.
In the early summer of 2014, I began having symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis. I was training for the Wineglass Marathon. I took two weeks off and was proactive in getting it taken care of. My foot pain heightened, and eventually, I ended up with a second metatarsal stress fracture.
I recovered by late October and decided to train for the Phoenix Full marathon in February. I had a smart and safe training cycle. I didn’t do much speed and just ran easy and trained smartly. I ended up running a PR of 3:14.59 but also finished injured with a muscular hip/butt and leg issue (given the nickname Bum butt). It eventually healed.
After my second marathon, I decided marathons still weren’t my favorite.
After recovering from marathon number 2, I decided to train for a short distance and gain the speed I lost for 2 years.
From March 2015 to February 2016, I consistently ran 5ks almost every weekend. My first 5k back was a 20:20, and over the course of the year (and no less than 30 5ks, I worked down to 18:13). My mentality is, run one a weekend, and eventually, you will be PR. The rest of the runs were easy, and it served as my speed work for the week. I didn’t take me a year, but I worked my way down to my current PR of 18:13.
During that time, I also PRed in the half marathon with a time of 1:22.57.
After February of 2017, the rest of my training in 2017 was lackluster. I ran a ran almost every race in torrential downpours in the wind. The only highlight was running Broad Street 10 miler in 62:51.
The summer of 2017 ended up with an ankle fracture. I might have overtrained; I might have rolled it…I don’t know, but it was well-needed rest. I took the rest of the summer off and slowly started building mileage. I ran the Runners World 5k and Runners World half in October. It was the two best races of my fall. I lost the 5k to Ryan Hall’s daughter and then came in second to a close friend of mine at 1:24. I was pleased with my efforts and knew my fitness was back.
Through fall and winter, I ran more, and my fitness improved. Our weather in early January was at an all-time low. Many days were either snowy, icy or under 10 degrees. I logged miles and miles on my treadmill. It ultimately paid off because I ran a 1:22.03 at the Phoenix Half Marathon.
From February until September of 2018, I ran but was not trained. I ran my first trail race in July and was proud of pushing out of my comfort zone. After running in both Colorado and Vermont for 3 hours, I decided another marathon was doable.
From September to November, I trained for the New York City Marathon. I PRed with a time of 3:07.15, which I am pleased with. I know with more time and experience, I can PR in the marathon again.
Now we are here. Since 2018, life has been busy. I’ve still run, but I haven’t trained or put in the hard work that created PRs for me in earlier years. Somehow I ran a 3:27 marathon in NYCM in 2019. While my slowest marathon to date, I was happy with finishing healthy.
In July 2020, I moved to Northern California, where I find myself in a familiar situation. I’m new to the area, with no friends and no job. I’ve finally found myself running faster than the last few years. I’ve come to love both the trails and roads out west. While I have no interest in long races (no ultras), I have enjoyed the trails more than ever thought possible.
- I haven’t always been a runner.
- I swam in middle school, high school, and college.
- I began running in 2011.
- I ran 3 seasons of cross country and was injured two of them.
- I’ve had the most success with half marathons, and my PR is 1:22.04.
- I’ve run 4 marathons: NYC (3:17), Phoenix (3:14.59), and NYC (3:07.15), and NYC (3:27)
- Now I enjoy training for 5ks and half marathons.
- I live in Northern California, where I’m running on both roads and trails.
I can only hope this is the beginning of a lifelong journey.
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.
Kind of sounds similar to my story, started from the bottom now we’re here…LOL
Love love love this post! You have always been amazing Hollie! I’m so lucky to call you my friend!
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 😀
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.
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!
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! 🙂
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!
Awe thanks Lyndsay for stopping by. I am glad you love running and training-especially half marathons! 🙂
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! 🙂
You’re amazing!! Such a great running story. I grew up in Upstate NY (Ithaca to be exact) and went to college at SUNY Oneonta. Small world!!
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!
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.
Wow that is awesome. I always love to hear people talking about overcoming hating running and beginning to love it!
Wow you’re such an inspiration! I’m just in training for my first marathon and loving it too. You’re an amazing runner
Thank you for stopping by! Which marathon are you training for?
I’m training for Amsterdam in October. I loved my first half marathon 3 weeks ago but the thought of doing it all again when I was at mile 12 did scare me a bit. I think I need to find a training plan and stick to it, do you have any recommendations?
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! 🙂
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.
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!
Comments are closed.