Running in cold weather

By Keri Mandell

People always ask me, “What do you love about running? Why do you run?” I’ve been thinking about that since I once hated running and now I am unable to live without it.

If you met me 10 years ago and said that I’d one day be a runner, I would have told you that you were crazy and that it would never happen. I wasn’t very active during that time of my life, so running was kind of the last thing I wanted to do and I had every excuse in the book about why I could never run; I don’t have a runner’s body, I was too fat, too slow, poor endurance, poor form, etc.

Fast forward a few years, I decided to give it a try. I was in a fitness rut and looking for a way to get into shape and lose weight.  When I first started running, it was miserable! I had blisters on my heels and toes from shoes. I was tired and sore from run-walking barely three miles. I couldn’t run a mile without feeling like my lungs were on fire, and I felt embarrassed by all the people whose walks were faster than my run. It was terrible.

I wanted to give up and put myself out of my own misery, but I stuck with it and honestly, it got better. When my lungs stopped burning, when I became a little faster, and when I could run three miles without stopping, I actually started enjoying it. It started to feel good, and I became proud of myself for what I was able to accomplish, so I kept going.

I registered for the Providence Half Marathon when I built up enough confidence and stamina to complete my first 13.1-mile race. During the race, around mile 10, my legs burned like they’d never burned before. I had to talk myself out of quitting and calling my husband to pick me up. I vowed that if I finished, I would never run again. But 10 miles became 11, then 12, and then 13, and when I saw that finish line, I couldn’t wait to get over it. I thought my heart was going to explode. It felt so good to step over the line. I grabbed that medal and proudly wore it around my neck.  All I could think about, despite spending 2.5 hours in agonizing pain, was doing it again. In that instant, I was hooked.

In 2012 when I moved to New Jersey from Boston, I joined a running group, Run Around Princeton. Running with the group was humbling. Because even though I had gotten faster, I was nowhere close to running at the level of those people. But I went every Saturday morning and tried to keep up — until one day I actually did. Running with faster people helps you get faster and before I knew it, some were even trying to keep up with me! I started to gain more confidence, so after several more half marathons, in 2013 I signed up for my very first marathon — The Philadelphia Marathon.

During Philly, I had a similar experience as I did during my first half, it was painful and I wanted to quit, but I forced myself to keep going. When I crossed that finish line, I cried. I felt invincible and unstoppable. I didn’t just want to do it again, I needed to do it again. I knew that in that moment, I would never say that I couldn’t do something. I started to believe that anything is truly possible, it’s just a question of how bad you want it, and I wanted it bad.

Since 2013, I have completed countless half marathons, nine marathons (five of the six World Marathon Majors), two ultras (50K), and I am still going strong. Every day, I try to challenge myself and step outside my comfort zone so I can get stronger and faster. There are days when running is tough, but I know that I am tougher.

I love running and can’t imagine myself never being a runner; it’s become part of my identity and who I am. Running has helped me to discover so much about myself and for that, I am grateful. I love running!!!

Here are 10 reasons to love running:

  1. Running teaches you how to persevere and tough it out when things get rough.
  2. You’ll meet the coolest people and make the best friends.
  3. It’s a great form of therapy. Use it to get out all your stress, anger, and frustrations.
  4. It gives you an opportunity to explore some cool places and take a cool vacation.
  5. You get to celebrate every time you get a new personal record (PR).
  6. It’s hard not to see the good in the world when watching a race. Go watch a marathon and marvel at how awesome everyone is.
  7. Running helps you feel strong and amazing in your body.
  8. Running teaches you how strong you truly are.
  9. It’s a great way to support a cause you care about. I have run for the Special Olympics and Autism Speaks — two charities near and dear to my heart. It’s nice to be able to give back.
  10. The post-run endorphins are the best!

Happy Running!