My first attempt at running was extremely short lived. I was a freshman in college at the time, and unfortunately, far more taken with the idea of being a runner than actually running.
My second attempt was a little more successful. By that time, I’d had my first baby and was wanting to shed the last of my extra pregnancy weight. I needed something I could do with my little one in tow. So, I got a jogger stroller and started doing laps around the country roads out where we lived at that time. And it worked! And then I gave it up. Until I had my second baby. And then I ran that extra weight off, too. At that point, it was a means to an end for me and nothing more. When I was done shedding pounds, I was also done with running.
My third attempt, years later, I turned to running as a way of relieving the stress of transitioning from ‘stay-at-home-mom’ to working full time. It definitely helped turn my anxiety dial from ‘overwhelming’ to ‘more manageable.’ Also about that time, I made a new friend who happened to belong to a running group. She kept inviting me to join them on a group run, but as someone who had only ever run alone, I was super intimidated by the idea. It took a while, but once I finally built up the nerve to show up I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly and welcoming everyone was.
Not to mention, helpful! And this is true, not only of that first group I started attending (almost 10 years ago!), but of every other running group I’ve since had the pleasure of being involved with. As runners, it’s so nice to have a place to ask questions and to get the tips and advice we needed to help us improve and meet our goals. We ‘get’ each other. And the sense of appreciation we have for one another, for the effort we put into our training, and for the sport itself, runs deep.
It’s true running’s many things to many people. But perhaps an even more beautiful aspect of that truth is how it can also be many things to the same person. At least that’s been the case for me in my life.
Julie Ford ran for twelve hours last March as a competitor in the Pulse Endurance Runs around Eagle Island State Park. In that time she completed 53 miles and placed fifth overall despite some brutal, wet conditions. Those of us who know Julie were not surprised by her stellar performance. What may surprise many is that Julie took up running relatively recently. More importantly, in that time, she has made running a vibrant, natural part of her life.
In her own words: “I used to do a lot of biking…I rode across the country on my bike back in 1996. I mean I strictly, only did rode biking.” Not a run mixed in there until she moved from Ohio to Boise in 2007. While Ohio had miles of farmland roads that were ideal for bicycling, Julie found Boise’s set up more difficult: “Here it is just harder to get out and get miles.” Plus, with cell phones and texting she didn’t feel safe on a bicycle on the road anymore. Many cyclist friends of Julie were having accidents caused by inattentive drivers. Add in the many other outdoor activities, like the hiking and skiing available in Boise, and “biking kind of fell away.” Julie felt like she needed something. Enter running, but not right away.
Julie’s first race was in May of 2008 when she completed the Race for the Cure 5k. Her words: “I hated it.” It wasn’t until spring of 2010 that at some level she knew she needed that outlet lost from bicycling. Michael, her husband, started getting into running and had signed up for a race. Julie thought she could take on the 10k, then she eyed the half marathon, and then, next thing she knew, she signed up for her first full marathon: the Columbus Marathon. Facing her first big race, Julie put her training plan on a calendar and discovered that as the mileage built up and she checked off training run after training run, she could see very clearly her progress and growth as a runner. She felt a great sense of satisfaction in training for and finishing that first marathon.
Since then Julie has not let up. To date she has completed 17 full marathons, 2 ultra marathons, and 14 half marathons. She is in pursuit of completing the 50 state challenge to run a marathon in all 50 states. “It is just a neat way to see different places. It is typically only the day of a marathon where a major city is going to shut down. Where you can run through a major downtown.” She explains the joy of visiting a place she would normally not think a desirable place to visit only to discover a great city with great food, like a recent marathon trip to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She loved it!
The high points of her running have centered around the varied and diverse running goals she has set for herself. The twelve hour race on Eagle Island was such an experience. “It challenged me. It got me to do more than I thought I could do.” A year ago, she set out and became a Marathon Maniac by running three full marathons within 90 days. Next year, there will be something else. She is not sure what, but maybe she will complete two back to back marathons in two days. Julie believes that running should be a routine but also diverse. “I think that is when people burn out, when they are always doing that same route. Over and over again.”
Julie also strives for a healthy balance in her running social life. Running provides that needed alone time. “I love running with the BAR (Boise Area Runners), but on my long runs, I got to do it by myself. I need that time to completely zone out.” Yet, the BAR and social media have also been very important in keeping running vibrant “because, if it wasn’t for BAR, then no, I don’t think I would be doing this.” She has met so many people that provide inspiration and “everyone in the BAR is so supportive of one another.” Social media also adds to this motivation because she is aware of what others are up to and wishes them well. When someone is competing in a race, she can track them and look up their results. Running is a living part of her community.
Julie’s advice to others: “Anyone can run. Everyone doesn’t have to run a marathon. Everyone doesn’t have to run a half marathon. It’s just about enjoying it.” Words that she lives by as running has become a part of her daily life.
Corum Hughes has explored many aspects of running across his life and has come to the stage where when I asked him what was the most significant peak of his running he said, “I think I am in my high point.” Corum recently completed his second marathon this last May in the Famous Idaho Potato Marathon with a 3:37:09 after training consistently through Boise’s most brutal winter in years. He has learned many lessons and experienced many aspects of running; his story goes all the way back to his childhood.
Running started in the fourth grade in Fredericktown, Missouri. The intermediate school he attended had an old dirt track next to it. For PE class all the kids would run laps around the track and collect a straw for each lap completed. Most kids walked and socialized as they went. Corum collected the most straws out of all his classmates. His PE teacher encouraged him and later told his parents that he had a lot of potential as an athlete in life.
When Corum reached high school he ran the two mile in track. He liked the challenge and that few others were willing to run that event even though he would consistently get lapped in races. Corum was a lineman on the football team in the fall, so it was no surprise when, in Corum’s words: “Coach came up to me and said, ‘I don’t think running long distance is your thing.’” Corum finished out high school track with some successes throwing the shot put and discuss.
It wasn’t very long before Corum was inspired to run again when he became interested in an attractive cross country runner. He ran with her, and he ran outside of running with her, so that he could get in better shape and impress her more. It must have worked since she later married him!
After high school, Corum ran a lot more and lost a lot of weight. “I liked the challenge of running from one town to another.” The idea of competing with himself on runs began to take hold. He enjoyed seeing how far his body could go. The high point at this stage was to run all 16 miles to a neighboring town.
His first inspiration for running a marathon came from an English professor who was in the middle of pursuing a goal to run a marathon in all 50 states. Corum learned from her that a marathon is a technical distance (26.2 miles) and the seed was planted. Later, while attending school in Chicago, Corum signed up for the Chicago Marathon. Woefully underprepared, Corum did complete the entire marathon but everything from mile 16 to the end was agony. He swore he would never run another marathon without adequate preparation.
Eight years later and a move to Boise, Corum joined the Boise Area Runners – The BAR and discovered the power of a community of runners who hold similar goals. Marathon training is much more effective when done with others with similar paces, sharing different phases and stages of a training cycle. “A lot of the lessons I have learned about running have been slowly learning how to do it correctly.” Whether that be the idea that shoes matter or overstriding slows a runner down, Corum has drawn a lot from the runners around him.
Today, Corum still runs for the health benefits and to see if he can do that next marathon faster yet (he is signed up for the California International Marathon in December). But, he is also running more in the now. Instead of focusing on what will happen in the next minute or when his run is over, he takes each moment and struggle in to make the most of it. Running consistently and feeling the improvement his body makes through conscientious training, Corum is pleased to say, “I am a runner.”
You can find Bob Mueller’s warm smile and joyful demeanor at many BAR runs. Bob’s pure enjoyment of running for running’s sake is the secret behind that glow.
“I never was and never have been a competitive runner.” Bob didn’t run or train in high school. “I didn’t get really serious about running until I turned forty.” Now, he has been running well over twenty years, has completed over sixty marathon/ultra marathon races, and is just fourteen marathons away from completing the fifty marathons in fifty states challenge.
It all started when Bob changed jobs, and a guy he was working with was a big distance runner. This coworker claimed that anyone could be a runner through training at long slow distances. So, Bob started adapting those principles on his own. Then, his friend gave Bob a marathon training schedule. “The first time I ever had a bib number on was when I ran a marathon.” After completing that first marathon Bob thought he was done with running.
Months later, Bob started to feel the itch to run another marathon. He had trained all on his own for that first race. He then thought training would be better with a group. He joined up with a marathon focused running group in Wisconsin where he made lifelong friends who paced with him, helped him grow, and got him interested in the fifty states marathon challenge. Running has become his favorite form of exercise. “I really value the benefit of a group more than anything else.”
When Bob moved to Boise, he found the BAR and joined the group. He loves seeing new members and helping new runners. “In every other sport you are competing against other people.” If there are people who don’t feel they are good enough to run with the group, “they just need to look at me. I am happy with where I am at; I don’t mind being at the back of the pack. Everyone is good enough to run.” Bob brings a pure enjoyment in running for all who participate in BAR runs to draw from.
The joy of running is of the utmost importance to Bob. “It was only eight years ago that I ran a 3:40 marathon to qualify for Boston and this year I couldn’t break six hours in Alabama. And, you know what? To me, I am equally satisfied with both ends of the scale…Wanting to improve is always there, so I wouldn’t want to imply that I am complacent. But, I enjoy running too much to get discouraged with where my performance level is at. Because then that ruins the whole thing. The day I can’t go out and say I enjoyed the run I was on and I worry more about the time I had, then I have taken all the joy out of the sport.”
Join Bob at our next BAR run and take part in the joy of running with him.