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The Transformative Power of Running

by Elle Cheung

The only thing I did in preparation for running the Detroit Women’s Half Marathon was sign up, and that was because I didn’t want to miss out on the MarathonHER “double bling.” The week of the race, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to Detroit. I figured out where I was sleeping two days before the weekend. I picked out my race day outfit the day before and ran in it once. (Yes, the shoes were new!) I’m not a running newbie, but boy, I was sure acting like one. It was almost as if I didn’t want to run the race!

While in the start/finish chute, I started feeling apprehensive – not because I was nervous about the distance, but because as I looked around, I saw so much camaraderie. I’ve always been a “lone wolf” type of runner, mostly because I use my runs as a time to decompress. Just as I was thinking about how great it would be to talk to someone, I was lucky enough to find a friend, and we chatted about (of course) running. This eased my nerves, and before I knew it, it was time to race. It was 8 am, and temperatures were already inching towards 80 degrees. I found out later that the humidity was over 80 percent, which may have explained why I was sweating before the race even started. Once I crossed the start line, I knew there was no turning back. The first eight miles were bearable, and the rest were a blur as I pounded out the remaining distance with a toe blister that kept causing my foot and calf to seize up into a cramp.

However, it’s not so much the race I remember as it is the finish – not my finish, but the finish of others. My finish was pretty anti-climatic. I tried my best to speed up as I crossed the final timing mat and a volunteer placed a medal around my neck. What I will remember most about this race is joining some of our Gazelle Sports Team Leaders in cheering on their run campers. Watching them cross the finish line was simply amazing. There were hugs, laughs, and yes, some tears.

It reminded me of how awesome running is, and how it truly is a transformative activity, not just physically, but emotionally. I’ve let running become this thing to do, another item to check off my list. I tick off the miles in my training program each week while forgetting that it truly is an honor to be able to run. I may not always be happy with my pace or how I look, but I have big, strong legs that can carry me miles upon miles. I’ve met some swell people through running, many of whom have become close friends. I even started working at a run speciality store years ago because of my journey into the running world. And, to top it off, I first realized that I loved my (now) husband while we were running in an adventure race together.

Today, as I add two new medals to my medal rack, I smile because they truly are very beautiful medals. But I also smile because I remember that running has changed my life. I can’t help but think of Dr. Seuss – “Oh, the places you’ll go!”

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